Why Do I Have to Poop When Browsing, Redux

Sep 18th, 2008 | By | Category: Response to Critique

This just in to the Dear Science mailbag:

Dear Science,

I recently read your response to Bothered Bowels’ inquiry from 2/13/2008. Sadly, BB is not alone. I actually know several people who experience this same issue, most with #2, but others with #1. Indeed, it particularly occurs at Value Village, libraries, bookstores, and also when shopping to CD’s. I find your Pavlovian theory rather interesting and plausible, but I would like to be so bold as to add a comment.

The common theme for BB and others like him/her seems to be situations that involve the act of browsing. Is there something relaxing about the process of roaming through large spaces while searching for non-specific items of marginal necessity that activates the parasympathetic nervous symptom and its associated “urges”?

Or, could it be that people are more likely to have downed a cup of coffee shortly before entering one of these establishments?

Thanks for your excellent column,
Laurie

Laurie,

I like your theories as well. I almost always have to pee after public speaking–I figure from the loss of sympathetic tone from the relief of it finally being over allows my bladder to reassert itself.

Coffee is a sympathomimetic, forcing the activation of the wrong side of the autonomic nervous system. But it’s also a diuretic, causing you to have to pee. More research is warranted.

Thanks for reading and writing!

– Jonathan (aka Science)

(Don’t forget to check out the podcast for this column, one of my all-time favorites!)

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