Why does it seem that almost every time you have a particular meal such as dinner or lunch, you have to poop immediately after?

Is there really a cause and effect relationship between when you finish a meal and when you have to poop?

“This is caused by the so called ‘gastro-colic reflex’ — that is a reflex originating in the stomach and resulting in stimulation of the colon and the act of defecation,” says Morton Tavel, MD, Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, and author of “Health Tips, Myths and Tricks: A Physician’s Advice.”

Dr. Tavel adds, “It is quite common and should be considered normal.”

So now that you know you don’t have to fear some kind of serious digestive condition that causes this, there’s still something else you need to know about the gastro-colic reflex.

And it’s this: Never try to rely on this phenomenon to “push out” constipated bowel matter!

People have been known to attempt this, and they pay dearly for it. For example, a person hasn’t pooped in four days and can just feel the heaviness sitting in their lower bowels.

He may have tried several times to push it out, but it doesn’t budge. So he decides to eat pancakes and sausage to “push it out.”

Instead, the pancakes and sausage simply add to the problem. Maybe not at the instant he finishes this meal, but the junk food will eventually become included in the bulk of hard stools.

And he will be in misery on the toilet – or possibly in the ER with impacted feces.

So the lesson is even though gastro-colic reflex is common and normal (it’s often observed in dogs and especially puppies right after they gulp down their meal), you should never rely on this to resolve constipation.

Dr. Tavel’s medical research includes over 125 publications, editorials and book reviews in peer-reviewed national medical journals. He was formerly director of the cardiac rehabilitation program at St. Vincent Hospital in Indiana. mortontavel.com
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.