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Why Do I Poop Right After I Eat?

Real Talk

June 11, 2024

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Photography by Aurora D'Errico Prat/Stocksy United

Photography by Aurora D'Errico Prat/Stocksy United

by Sarah Bence


Medically Reviewed by:

Michael Schopis, MD


by Sarah Bence


Medically Reviewed by:

Michael Schopis, MD


An urge to have a bowel movement shortly after you eat is a normal reflex. It only becomes problematic if the need becomes urgent or results in diarrhea.

One of the side effects of living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is that sometimes when you’ve gotta go, you’ve really gotta go. For many people, this urgency to have a bowel movement often happens shortly after eating.

If you’ve found yourself frustrated and asking, “Why do I poop right after I eat?” you may feel relieved to know that it’s due to a common physiological response known as the gastrocolic reflex.

This reflex can be overactive in people with IBD and other digestive disorders. Let’s learn why.

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What is the gastrocolic reflex?

Almost everyone has a gastrocolic reflex. This reflex helps create room in your intestines after you eat food.

When you eat food, your body releases hormones that tell the intestines to push waste further down and create more space for what you just ate.

The result is contractions in the intestines. If other waste is already in the colon, this can lead to a bowel movement shortly after eating.

So yes, it is (hypothetically) healthy to poop shortly after eating. This is your gastrocolic reflex — not a sign of an excessively fast metabolism or anything else. In fact, the waste that was already inside your colon may be from a meal you ate a day or two earlier.

However, if your need to go is immediate or intense, or if your bowel movement is watery or diarrhea-like, then this may be a symptom of your IBD (or another digestive condition).

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What causes an overactive gastrocolic reflex in IBD?

Some people with IBD have an exaggerated gastrocolic reflex.

During a flare, the inflammation in your colon will cause you to be hypersensitive to stimuli for bowel movements. Even outside a flare, your bowel may be hypersensitized due to prior inflammation or because of changes in your microbiome.

When the inner lining of your intestines is inflamed, this prevents the fluid in your food from being absorbed. As a consequence, the contents of your bowels will be more watery than usual.

“Loose” stool moves faster through the colon because it doesn’t have as much bulk to slow it down.

This results in the gastrocolic reflex pushing waste through at a faster rate and in larger amounts, which is why you might have to suddenly poop soon after eating if you have IBD.

Other possible causes

Some other underlying digestive disorders may contribute to having to poop right after eating, as well. For instance, people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — which is completely different from IBD — tend to have a stronger gastrocolic reflex.

Other reasons for having to poop right after eating are not related to the gastrocolic reflex. For example, dumping syndrome, which can occur after stomach or esophageal surgery, can cause food to move very quickly in your digestive tract.

Issues with the gut microbiome could play a role. These can occur after antibiotic use, infection, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

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Doing a gut check

It’s important to know the difference between a normal bowel movement and diarrhea or incontinence after a meal.

Chances are, you’ll already know if there’s a problem. But if you’ve been living with IBD for a while, you may feel that you’ve lost touch with what a “normal” gastrointestinal experience is, so this information may help.

A typical, healthy bowel movement should feel easy to pass and look similar to a brown sausage — or in more technical terms, a type 3 or 4 on the Bristol stool scale.

Diarrhea, in contrast, is loose and watery. It looks like a type 6 or 7 on the Bristol stool scale. Incontinence is when the urge to have a bowel movement is so strong that you can’t control it, even if you’re not near a toilet.

All this is to say that having a normal bowel movement 15 minutes to an hour after eating isn’t something to be too worried about. Having diarrhea or incontinence soon after eating, on the other hand, is a sign that something may be up.

When to seek help

Having to poop right after you eat is usually not a cause for concern. However, if these poops are frequently watery or urgent, or you feel you can’t control them, then this can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and have negative consequences on daily life.

Outcomes of this might include:

  • eating less food
  • avoiding socializing if there’s food involved
  • planning your outings in detail (or worse, avoiding leaving home altogether) unless you’re familiar with all the bathroom options
  • not eating on long car rides or plane journeys due to fear of needing the bathroom and not being able to control your urge
  • carrying back up clothes in case of an “accident”

Talk with a healthcare professional if you feel that this symptom is affecting your daily life.

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Treatment and management options are available if IBD causes you to have an overactive gastrocolic reflex.


What you eat can influence your gastrocolic reflex and how intense it is. Some foods that might be a trigger include:

  • caffeine
  • alcohol
  • high fiber fruits and vegetables
  • fatty or greasy foods
  • dairy
  • gluten
  • spicy foods

Ultimately, dietary triggers can be quite individual, so you may have to experiment until you find what works for you. A dietitian can help.


Sometimes, medications can help manage diarrhea or urgency. The type of medication depends on if this is a result of your IBD or something else.

If you have IBD, it’s best to consult a doctor before starting an antidiarrheal medication.

Pelvic floor physical therapy

Seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist can be really helpful if you have urgency or incontinence. You’ll learn a bowel retraining program and practice pelvic floor exercises that are personalized to your needs.

Home management and lifestyle

Some steps you can take at home include:

  • Avoid large meals and opt for more frequent, smaller meals instead.
  • Sip drinks in small amounts.
  • Keep up with your IBD medication schedule and maintenance.
  • Practice stress relief strategies such as mindfulness, meditation, gentle stretching, yoga, or breathing techniques.
  • Ask a healthcare professional if you should drink electrolyte-enriched beverages to help replenish fluids after a bout of diarrhea.

The takeaway

Knowing your personal bathroom habits and patterns is important if you have IBD. It can help you identify when something is different.

If it’s not typical for you to have to poop right after eating, then this could be a sign of a change in your disease.

Medically reviewed on June 11, 2024

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About the author

Sarah Bence

Sarah Bence is a freelance health and travel writer and a registered occupational therapist. As someone who lives with multiple chronic illnesses, including endometriosis, celiac disease, anxiety, and depression, Sarah is passionate about providing relatable and evidence-based health content. She is the founder of gluten free travel blog — Endless Distances. You can connect with her on her blog or Instagram.

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