The Weird Reason You Have The Need To Poop While Shopping

While we all feel at ease using the bathroom in the comfort of our own home, why is it that the urge "to go" seems to always strike at the most inopportune moment when out in public?

When coming home, experts suggest that our internal environment aligns to support comfortable bowel movements. This is thought to include changes in one's breathing, adrenaline, glucose tolerance, and more, all in response to the familiarity of home and its signature smells or sights — including the toilet. "You have a lot of experience defecating and urinating in your preferred toilet ... so just being in its presence triggers the relaxation response that allows you to release the inhibitions that led you to 'hold it in' while in unfamiliar surroundings," Nick Haslam, a professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne, told The Atlantic.

For this reason, some people may struggle to go #2 while out and about. For others, however, there's something unique about the experience of shopping that tends to trigger the need to go.

Why we feel the need to poop in department stores

If you've ever meandered around a department store with shopping basket in hand, only to suddenly feel the urge to poop, you may be surprised to know that you are one of many. So many in fact, that Dr. Supriya Rao, a quadruple board-certified physician in internal medicine, gastroenterology, obesity medicine, and lifestyle medicine, addressed the phenomenon in an interview with BuzzFeed.

While there is no conclusive evidence on the subject, Dr. Rao offered a number of potential causes as to why people may feel the need to relieve themselves while shopping in large department stores. One such reason may be the fact that many of us are getting a lot of steps in while shopping. All that walking can certainly kick the bowels into gear. Alternatively, some larger chains, like Target, tend to come equipped with an in-store Starbucks. While a sweet treat may enhance the shopping experience, the added caffeine can prompt the need to poop

Third, there may also be an emotional element at play. When shopping, some people may feel overwhelmed, while others may find the experience to be more calming and enjoyable. Regardless, whether the body is in a heightened state of emotion or feels more at ease, either could potentially prompt a bowel movement.

How bookstores may prompt the need to poop

It's this same emotional element that some experts suggest may be behind the "Mariko Aoki phenomenon," which describes the need to poop when shopping in a bookstore (via Men's Health). Although there isn't any scientific research to reference, some physicians note that a number of patients have brought up the issue.

Gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Texas Tech University Dr. Sameer Islam tells Men's Health that the answer may lie in the gut-brain axis, or the connection between our emotions and our bowel function. When it comes to shopping at bookstores, specifically, a sense of overwhelm when looking at all the bookshelves or the feeling of anxiety around using a public bathroom (or no bathroom in sight at all) can cause our bowels to ramp up from the nervous energy.

Alternatively, if you're someone who tends to reach for reading material while using the toilet in the comfort of your home, then the smell of a book's pages may evoke that mental association. You may be unintentionally signaling to the body that it may be time for a trip to the restroom while browsing.