Why does reading help me have a bowel movement?

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Patricia Raymond, MD
Gastroenterology
Restroom reading reaps results. People commonly read in their powder rooms to assist in "doing the business." A third of all women read on the toilet, with most doing so to relax or to be distracted. African-American females read more (54%), Caucasians less (32%). Additional studies show that relaxation on the commode, as might be brought about by reading, helps to relax the voluntary anal sphincter. Animal studies, on the Mongolian gerbil, reveal "novel" settings will increase the rodent pellet output -- but they don’t mean that kind of novel. So, bookstore bowels?

I discovered a case report of a similarly afflicted fellow, although not in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Allow me to quote from the case:

"Although defecation process is known to be controlled voluntarily by means of anal sphincters, the intentional relaxation of these sphincters per se did not produce any visible effect in the individual under study. Only when the subject was simultaneously presented with sufficient amount of printed text of any kind, written in Russian or English, the defecation process started. The extinguishing of the trigger stimulus from the subject's visual field resulted in almost immediate suppression of the defecation. We found no effect of text relevance, quality or informational content on its stimulation efficiency."

Perhaps book browsing causes your “Biblio BMs.” The fix? Try ordering your books online from either library or bookstore to choose your defecatory setting.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.