If You Can Only Poop At Home, Don't Worry -- You're Not Alone

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
Photo of a house
Scary Mommy and Binyamin Mellish/Pexels

I’m probably the biggest homebody you’ll ever meet. There’s pretty much nowhere I’d rather be than in my PJs, wrapped up in my favorite worn-out sweater, on my own turf. It’s the only place where I can truly relax and be myself.

Sure, I have to go out and face the world from time to time, and I love a good adventure out in the city, a trip to the park with my boys, or whatnot. But if given a choice, I would pretty much always choose to stay home. Heck, I even made a conscious life decision to work from home because it suits my personality best.

However, I have a confession to make. Part of the reason I prefer staying home and why I rarely go on a vacation that lasts more than a few days is because whenever I do, I become severely constipated. As in, I will not poop for the entire time I am away from home. The brownies stay right in the oven, overheat and get burnt, never seeing the light of day out of my anus.

I cannot take a shit outside the confines of my own home. The deuces aren’t dropping anywhere. The chocolate hostage is on lockdown. The shit just ain’t happening.

I remember the first time I noticed this. I was on vacation with my husband and his family. We were staying at his grandma’s home in Florida for the week. I didn’t poop for the entire week. Yep, as in seven whole days. I remember thinking it was because I was eating crap, so I tried adding some extra veggies and fruit to my diet. That only made things worse. I became a gassy, bloated and constipated fool.

It was uncomfortable as hell, to say the least. Then, I swear, the minute I got back from vacation and stepped foot in my home, my Hershey kiss was ready—ready AF—to be launched out of my rear.

That was one giant dookie pie.

Now, I will say that I have IBS, which can be severe at times, so it makes sense that my gut is especially sensitive to changes such as being away from my preferred porcelain throne. And thankfully, not all vacations are as bad as that week-long constipation festival I enjoyed in Florida. But however it plays out, I find it very difficult to release the kraken when I’m away from home.

Luckily, it turns out that there is a very scientific explanation for this, beyond the fact that I am a bit of a weirdo. Not only that, I am far from alone when it comes to this butt-clenching phenomenon.

Juan Marin/Unsplash

“Most people feel more comfortable going to the bathroom in familiar—and private—surroundings,” Nick Haslam, professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne and author of Psychology in the Bathroom, tells The Atlantic.

This is partially due to a person’s comfort level and their ability to relax and release in an environment they associate with safety and familiarity. But it also has to do with a Pavlovian-type of response, according to Haslam.

“In my view the experience of ‘unburdening’ upon returning from a trip is largely a Pavlovian response: The home is a safety signal, signifying that this is the right place to go,” Haslam explained. “If there has been any inhibition or retention at all during the trip, the relaxation response is likely to kick in when you come home.”

Jack Gilbert, a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago, goes into a little more of the nitty-gritty scientific details to explain the whole thing.

“When you get back into your home, your glucose tolerance will change,” Gilbert tells The Atlantic. “Your adrenaline pumping will change, and the energy sensors of your muscles will change, altering your actual respiration, how much energy your burn, and how much fat you deposit. When you get back into your home your sleep patterns will change, because the hormones that control sleep will be altered. All of these factors influence how quickly food moves through your gut.”

Well, that’s super interesting. It definitely helps to know I’m not a total and complete anomaly and that there is a good reason behind my dung-withholding tendencies.

Interestingly, there is one exception to my little rule here. I seem to need to rush to the nearest bathroom anytime I’m shopping. A few years ago, I wrote about the fact that shopping (at CVS in particular, who knew?) makes me have to squeeze a steamer like nobody’s business. I still get emails to this day of people telling me that this same exact thing happens to them too.

Bodies are weird. Anuses are even weirder. I guess that’s the conclusion here, right?

Either way, if you can only drop your brown anchor in the comfort of your own home, you are not alone.

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