By Lucy Gornall
Is it just me, or is one of the big benefits of lockdown, the freedom to poo whenever you like?
Spending more time at home has inevitably meant I’m facing less of the awkward toilet anxiety, less bloating and just a happier digestion all round.
At home my body is so comfortable that whenever there’s a digestive * cough * movement, it’s free to release.
Waiting for the women’s toilets to empty, or if you’re like me, lingering around the isolated disabled loo for 5 minutes, is never ideal. And when you do catch a few minutes of alone time, it’s a rush. You don’t have time to sit and enjoy the moment; instead it’s a frantic race to get the job done before someone notices how long you’ve been gone.
What’s more, if you’re used to squeezing yourself into tight clothes every day, with limited breathing space, then you might appreciate the work from home freedom even more. Jogging bottoms or pyjama bottoms (secret's safe with me) are the order of the day, and my gosh is it nice to just breath out.
Honestly, to just relax your stomach muscles, much like children before they enter the world of ‘sucking in your tummy’, is joyous.
I know I’m not alone, and a quick social media call out confirmed that.
Charlotte is 46 and lives in Yorkshire. She told me that she’s in a ‘poo dream’ right now. (I laughed at this).
"Being at home has put me into a routine; I am in the comfort of my own surroundings, without that terror of needing to go at work! It’s odd as I’ve actually struggled (with going to the toilet at work) for years."
Lizzy, 31, London, says that working from home means she can eat when she wants, exercise when she has energy and of course, go to the toilet in the comfort of her own bathroom whenever nature calls.
But why are we so much more able to ‘go’ when we’re relaxed?
Jo Travers, Love Your Gut Dietitian, explains that our gut is connected to our brain in many ways, including via the Gut-Brain Axis.
"This means that the gut ‘knows’ when we are tense or relaxed. If your day generally starts with a million-miles-an-hour rush out the door to work, your body prioritises what’s important to you: getting to work.
"Whereas if you have all the time in the world then it can prioritise bodily functions like digestion.’
However, for many, this period has lead to heightened stress levels and anxiety, which can often cause bowel movements to go in the opposite direction, AKA constipation.
Jo reveals, "Stress triggers the fight or flight response and the body diverts energy away from the gut to other areas where it might be needed more, like the muscles. This means the gut has less energy for digestion and everything slows down."
She adds that whilst this was a useful tool in the times of sabre-toothed tigers, modern-day stress triggers the same response.
"Incidentally, some people find the opposite where stress causes diarrhoea. Everyone is different," adds Jo.
Of course we (assume) that lockdown won’t go on forever and for many of us, life at the office or on-the-go will resume. In which case, you’ll be hoping the new found sense of toilet freedom continues.
Jenny from Bedford revealed that prior to lockdown she was never a ‘morning toilet person’, and her whole routine has been slightly scuppered.
"Now, I go every morning when I wake up after a chilled coffee in bed so when lockdown is over and I have to go back to the office I’m going to have to try and do it before work!"
So how can we ensure we stay regular when we return to our new normality?
Jo explains that breathing deeply during busy or stressful times (impending deadlines, packed trains and a constant to-do list come to mind…), can help you to relax.
"Breathe in for three seconds and out for four seconds and repeat until you feel calmer - and remind yourself there is no sabre-toothed tiger coming to get you," she says.
What’s more, she adds that our bodies love a predictable routine, so even if you have no external constraints on your time, it’s a good idea to set yourself up with a routine anyway.
"Drink plenty of fluids (2 to 2.5 litres per day) and keep moving. Physical activity helps stimulate the movement of food through the gut so aim to get up and walk about every hour," adds Jo.
So, whilst lockdown isn’t ideal, and we might start to feel a touch claustrophobic, there is at least the positive of a happier tummy. I’ll raise a glass of gut-lovin’ kombucha to that!
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