Trained in dentistry, Sree is currently pursuing lab sciences. She loves researching and sharing information on various health topics.
Bowel habits, including the frequency of passing stools, vary from individual to individual. While it may be normal for some to have a bowel movement three times a day, to others, the definition of normal BM may be three times a week. Furthermore, pooping after every meal is not as abnormal as you may think. Bowel transit time refers to the amount of time it takes for the food to make its journey from your mouth to be digested and eliminated from the body as feces.
The average transit time is somewhere between half a day to two days. So when you poop immediately after eating a meal, this doesn't necessarily mean that you've pooped out the food that you've just eaten. Rather, you're eliminating the waste material from the food that you've taken 12 hours to 48 hours ago. The question now is, how many minutes after eating do you feel the urge to defecate?
The body's normal elimination process is facilitated by nerve reflexes. The latter are stimulated into action by the adjacent parts of your bowel. When the first section of the small intestine expands due to the large amount of digested food, this stimulates the nerve reflexes, which bring about the normal process of elimination when the setting is appropriate. This is referred to as the duodenocolic reflex. Likewise, when your stomach stretches while you're having your meal, this can also initiate what's called the gastrocolic reflex, which in turn, triggers the colon and initiates defecation. For this reason, having a bowel movement as early as half an hour after consuming a heavy meal is quite normal.
But, what if you go just seconds after having your meal? What if the stools are loose and watery and hard to hold in? If you're experiencing diarrhea after every meal, this can be due to several causes. However, whatever the cause may be, pooping after every meal means only one thing: that your bowel and the nerves regulating your bowel functions are irritated.
Acute Causes for Pooping After Every Meal
If you experience single attacks of diarrhea a few minutes after consuming a meal, one possible cause may be the nature or the combination of foods that you've eaten. In such cases, it is necessary to review what you've eaten, its source, and if you've introduced anything new to your diet. While some people's stomachs may react badly to milk and other dairy products, others may be unable to tolerate wheat and foods with high fiber content. One thing you can do to determine the possible root of your unexplainable bouts of diarrhea after eating is to start a food diary. Observe which foods cause you to go pooping after every meal and then gradually remove them from your diet to see if it makes a difference.
There are some foods that tend not to mix well in the small intestines. For instance, cabbage, garlic, broccoli, onion, and cauliflower often go together in stir-fry recipes. However, you should note that all these foods are rich in insoluble fiber and may cause diarrhea to some people when eaten together. The same thing may be said of eating a greasy and spicy meal, and then having some ice cream later.
Another acute cause of eliminating immediately after a meal is consuming high amounts of magnesium. This can be found in sports drinks, food supplements, and even some brands of mineral water. It may also be worth reviewing whether you've started taking any new medications before or with meals.
Don't just recall the foods that you've eaten recently. Instead, try to remember anything that you've had in the past eight hours. Your diarrhea may be the result of food poisoning. In such cases, the symptoms may not occur until 8 hours after you've ingested the contaminated food. Remember this, especially if you've sampled the dishes at a new restaurant or if you're travelling in another country. Food poisoning is brought about by toxins released by bacteria such as the notorious Staphylococcus aureus. On the other hand, your diarrhea may be due to viral causes. In this case, you may be suffering from gastroenteritis.
When you have gastroenteritis, your stomach and your small intestines, as well as your large intestines, are inflamed. Microbes cause irritation to the lining of your gut and disturbs the process of nutrient absorption. This, in turn, activates inflammation processes which may cause ulceration. There are three types of gastroenteritis. One is infectious gastroenteritis. If your gastroenteritis is due to an acute bacterial, viral, or protozoal infection, it may resolve itself naturally without the need for treatment. This is commonly referred to as “catching the bug” or stomach flu. When you catch the gastric flu, you'll experience intense symptoms like explosive diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, and nausea and vomiting. Because there's an infection, you'll also experience fever. This can be managed by typical home treatment for diarrhea such as providing extra fluids and electrolytes. If the infection doesn't resolve on its own, medical care may be given.
If the reason why you're pooping after every meal is due to non-infectious gastroenteritis, the causative factor needs to be eliminated in order for the gastric irritation and the diarrhea to stop. Non-infectious causes include drugs, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, chemical poisoning, and exposure to environmental toxins.
The third and the rarest type of gastroenteritis is called eosinophilic gastroenteritis. This is an allergic condition which is accompanied by the typical symptoms of infectious gastroenteritis. Very little is known about this condition except that a high level of WBCs (eosinophils) are present in the mucosal lining of the affected person's stomach and small bowel.
It is necessary to beware of foods that can cause food infection. Shigella is a common causative organism that can be found in just about any food. Expired or improperly packed canned goods may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum. Raw eggs may contain Salmonella. Meanwhile, unpasteurized cheeses may have Campylobacter, Listeria, and E. coli. Meat or poultry that has not been properly cooked or handled may be infected by Staphylococci, Salmonella, E. coli, and Clostridium perfringens. Listeria is commonly found in undercooked or unhygienically processed hotdogs and Vienna sausages.
Unpasteurized milk may also contain E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococci, and Yersinia enterocolitica, among others. Also, beware of eating raw seafood which may contain Astrovirus, Aeromonas, and Norovirus. Clostridium perfringens and Aeromonas may also be found in raw or unwashed vegetables. Furthermore, though the vegetable, fruit, or meat itself may not be tainted, the water that you use to cook or wash it may be contaminated with these stomach infection-causing microorganisms. If you're rushing off to the toilet after every meal, you may have to reconsider your food sources or your manner of food preparation.
Chronic Causes of Bowel Movement After Every Meal
What if pooping after every meal happens to you more than a few times and in alarming succession? Chronic diarrhea after eating may also be brought about by a number of causes.
The next time you poop immediately after having a meal, determine whether that meal contains dairy. Lactose intolerance refers to the person's inability to digest lactose in milk and dairy due to a deficiency in lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose into its simpler form. This leads to diarrhea and bloating. Though lactose intolerance may be an inborn condition, secondary lactose intolerance may occur as a symptom of a more serious condition such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease.
Fructose malabsorption is another common cause for persistent bowel movement immediately after consuming a meal. The next time you poop a few minutes after eating, determine if the meal consists of fruits, honey, or other edibles which contain xylitol, sorbitol, or fructose.
Another possible reason why you're pooping after every meal is food allergy. This condition is different from food intolerance and malabsorption syndromes because this time, it's the immune system that's causing all the ruckus. Your immune system may be reacting to substances that are otherwise not dangerous to the human body. You can differentiate food allergies from intolerance by checking the symptoms. With allergies, you may experience a tingling sensation around your mouth or in your throat. You may feel your face flush or you may suffer from intense skin itching along with diarrhea that occurs in the first few minutes after consuming a meal.
Rapid gastric emptying, also known as dumping syndrome is another probable reason why you're rushing off to the loo in the middle of dinner. In this case, the stomach contents pass rapidly into your intestines despite the fact that they haven't been properly digested. This commonly occurs in individuals who have had a surgery where part of their stomach has been removed. That said, it could also happen to non-post-surgical individuals when a portion of the stomach is diseased. Signs and symptoms of dumping syndrome include abdominal cramping, lightheadedness and dizziness, an abnormally fast heart rate, facial flushing, nausea and vomiting, and of course, diarrhea immediately after eating. This is usually experienced after consuming a high-fructose meal.
Differentiating Between IBD and IBS
Okay, so what if you haven't eaten any raw or unclean foods and you still have this intense urge to defecate after each meal? What if you poop after every single meal regardless of whether that meal is high in fructose or lactose or not specifically high in anything at all? If so, the reason why you're pooping after every meal may be due to the two most serious culprits: IBS or IBD.
IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is a condition where the individual's bowel activity becomes exaggeratedly rapid for no apparent reason. Meanwhile, IBD or inflammatory bowel diseases is a case where the walls of the bowels are inflamed usually due to either Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Both are chronic conditions. While ulcerative colitis exclusively affects the large intestine, Crohn's disease may affect the entire digestive tract beginning from your mouth all the way down to your rectum. Both conditions are characterized by the same symptoms such as:
- Abdominal cramping
- Pain in the abdomen
- Swelling in the abdominal area
- Recurrent diarrhea
- Bloody stools
- Loss of weight
- Chronic fatigue
A lot of people tend to be confused between IBS and IBD. To understand the difference more clearly, study the table of comparison below.
affects 15% of the population
However, while all patients with IBD may suffer from IBS, not all patients with IBS may suffer from IBD.
exacerbated by stress
may flare up in both high-stress and low-stress conditions
may be successfully managed by lifestyle modifications, especially dietary changes
success of treatment depends greatly on specific diagnosis
cannot be treated by pharmaceuticals due to lack of proof regarding its specific cause
treatment is centered in averting and treating inflammation, and preventing intestinal damage as much as possible
abdominal pain that is relieved after taking a poop
pain or discomfort in the eyes
abdominal cramping that's worsened after consuming a meal
pain in the joints
a nagging urge to defecate even after you've just had a BM
bleeding in the rectum
the presence of mucus in the stools
a feeling of incomplete bowel emptying after elimination
pain in the lower back
a sensation of incomplete emptying of the bladder after peeing
dyspareunia or painful sexual intercourse
Whether the reason why you're pooping after every meal is due to IBS or IBD, you're bound to experience the following symptoms that are common to both conditions:
- Loose stools after a meal
- Stomach cramps
- Abdominal pain
- A general feeling of being ill
So, what causes irritable bowel syndrome?
As previously mentioned, the exact cause of this condition remains unknown. That said, it is triggered by the following:
- Stressful situations
- Food and drinks which contain milk, alcohol, caffeine, wheat, and artificial sweeteners
- A weakened immune system or an existing physiological illness such as nerve damage
- Hormonal shifts particularly during monthly periods in females
Note that symptoms of IBS including pooping after every meal tend to appear and then disappear. For instance, you may experience the symptoms along with loose stools after eating for several times a week. And then, it may stop for no obvious reason. Alternatively, the symptoms may occur once a month. They can even disappear for several years only to show up later. One thing that's been observed is that the symptoms of IBS tend to recur when the person neglects to eat enough healthy meals. It has also been noted that the symptoms associated with IBS are exacerbated after eating large meals.
What do you do when you have IBS?
- To prevent triggering the symptoms, make sure that you include a good variety of healthy foods in your diet. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies and whole grain products. Opt for dairy with low fat content and consume lean meats and wild-caught fish. Using your food diary, determine which foods tend to trigger the symptoms and avoid them.
- Drink enough water and more if you're pooping after each meal. This is to prevent dehydration. Fruit juices are fine too, but note that some fruits may trigger IBS symptoms in some individuals.
- Follow a regular exercise routine. Ask your healthcare provider about the recommended exercise plan for you.
- Learn stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation. Understand that IBS symptoms, including passing loose stools after eating, are aggravated by stress. Pinpoint and eliminate the stressors in your life. If not, at least limit your exposure to them. This may mean having to make big lifestyle changes like switching to a low-stress job or changing the crowd that you hang out with.
- Disclose the contents of your food diary along with a list of the symptoms you experience to your physician during each visit.
What causes IBD?
If you're pooping after every meal because you have IBD, it may not be comforting to know that the specific causes of both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are still unclear. However, it is believed that both genetics and the immune system play a huge part in the occurrence of both conditions. Studies reveal that a person's risk of suffering from IBD goes up if he has a relative who has or has had inflammatory bowel disease. Another possible cause is when the body's immune system ends up attacking the normal tissues within the digestive tract while combating bacteria or virus.
A person diagnosed with Crohn's disease may enjoy prolonged symptom-free periods. Or the the symptoms may manifest mildly. However, when the symptoms do flare up, they can cause a significant decrease in one's quality of life. One thing that can trigger a flare up is when the individual suffers from a previous infection. Smokers are also more likely to experience severe flare ups than those who don't smoke. When left untreated, Crohn's disease may lead to intestinal stricture. Worse, there can be a fistula formation. That is, a channel may form between the distal end of the bowel and the skin proximal to the individual's anus. In such cases, surgical treatment is necessary.
Ulcerative colitis may be accompanied by ulcers in the mouth, redness and irritation in the eyes, arthritis, and pain and swelling around the skin. You'll know that a case of ulcerative colitis is severe if you're pooping after every meal for up to six times a day. Severe conditions may also be accompanied by shortness of breath, a febrile state, abnormally fast heartbeat, and blood in the stools. While the ulcers associated with Crohn's disease are deep and narrow, ulcers brought about by ulcerative colitis tend to be huge and shallow.
What should you do when you have IBD?
- Like in cases of IBS, managing IBD requires lifestyle changes. While there's no strong proof that your diet can cause the signs and symptoms of IBS, it is important to understand that there are certain foods which are observed to trigger the flare up of the symptoms.
- Try minimizing your intake of dairy. If you're unable to tolerate lactose, you may use enzyme products like Lactaid.
- Consume low fat foods. People with Crohn's disease have small intestines that are unable to absorb fat in the normal way. The fat ends up passing through the intestines and thus, pooping after every meal happens more often. Stay away from deep fried dishes, margarine, butter and cream sauces.
- Fiber-rich foods tend to worsen the symptoms in people with IBD. Consume moderate amounts of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Cruciferous vegetables must be taken in minimal amounts if at all. If you're already suffering from bowel stricture as a complication of Crohn's disease, you may be prescribed by your doctor or dietitian to follow a low-residue diet.
- Problem foods include meals which are spicy or contain caffeine and alcohol. Cross them out of your shopping list.
- You are advised to consume small, frequent meals as opposed to two or three big meals.
- Drinking lots of fluids is also advised. Stay away from carbonated beverages.
- Since Crohn's disease limits your ability to absorb nutrients naturally, you may want to consider taking multivitamins and minerals.
- Explore alternative medicines like turmeric, especially if you have ulcerative colitis.
- Stop smoking. As mentioned earlier, smoking can worsen the symptoms and increase the chances of a relapse in cases of Crohn's disease. The goal of treating IBD is to lessen the occurrence of relapses and thus, lessen the need for medications and surgery. This is done to reduce repeated trauma to the GI tissues.
You've just explored the many possible reasons as to why you're eliminating after every meal and now, it's time to answer the following question.