Everybody poops. But not everybody talks about exactly what goes on in the bathroom while you’re pooping.

That’s why you might feel a little anxious if you begin to notice that your eyes water when you have a bowel movement, like you were crying — especially without any obvious pain or emotion causing your eyes to water.

But believe it or not, there are entire communities of people on forums and sites like Reddit who have experienced the same thing.

However, it’s important to note that if you’re truly crying out in pain due to a bowel movement, that’s not OK. We’re discussing involuntary watering of the eyes without pain in this article; talk with your doctor as soon as possible if bowel movements cause severe pain for you.

There’s some science behind why some of us get watery eyes when we poop. Let’s get into why this might happen, whether it’s normal, and what to do about it if you think it indicates that you have an underlying issue.

There’s not necessarily a single cause of your pooping tears. But researchers, doctors, and regular folks sitting and thinking on the toilet all have theories.

Intra-abdominal pressure

One common theory is that intra-abdominal pressure is the culprit. When your abdominal muscles flex and tighten to help push poop out of your colon, they put pressure on the organs and membranes around them.

This pressure, along with your regular breathing, can put strain on the nerves and blood vessels that line the abdomen, resulting in tears being produced.

This can happen even if you don’t feel pain: Abdominal pressure can also increase pressure in your head and push out tears, as the lacrimal (tear) glands are squeezed by the head pressure, too.

This may also be a result of what’s called a primary exertional headache. It can happen when you strain your abdominal muscles. This puts some strain on the upper body muscles in your head and neck, too.

Vagus nerve

Some researchers also believe that the reason your eyes water when you poop may have something to do with your vagus nerve and its position in your body. It runs from your gut to your head, what’s called the “brain-gut axis.”

The vagus nerve is a major cranial nerve that sends signals from the gut to the brain and back. The vagus nerve has two main functions: sensory (feeling) and motor (muscle movement).

The vagus nerve not only controls the feelings of sensation in areas around your head, but it also helps get muscles moving in your throat, heart, and stomach, including your bowel muscles.

So, researchers think that when you strain and apply pressure to the bowel muscles and vagus nerve, you’re sending signals of both strain and relief from passing stool to your brain.

This can have two effects. The first is that the strain of pushing sends a signal to your brain that can stimulate nerve responses like goosebumps and other muscle signals that control your heart rate.

The other is an effect known as “poo-phoria.” This is the name for feelings of almost literal excitement you get when changes in your rectum’s shape push on your vagus nerve and give you a feeling of satisfaction.

This probably has to do with the lowered heart rate and blood pressure that happen when the vagus nerve is stimulated when you poop.

It’s totally normal for your eyes to water when you poop (with some caveats — more on that in a bit).

There are a lot of complex nerve, muscle, and blood vessel interactions happening between your gut and your head while you sit on the toilet. Along with that can come complex reactions.

There are no exact figures as to how many people experience this when they poop. But there’s no evidence that a random tear shed on the toilet poses any problems.

You might have an issue that needs medical attention if your eyes water while you poop and you notice anything else unusual about your poop, including:

  • feeling intense or sharp pain when you poop
  • having black or discolored poops
  • seeing blood in your poop
  • pooping less than once every 2 weeks
  • noticing unusual swelling in your gut
  • feeling of fullness even when you don’t eat
  • having constant gas
  • having unusual episodes of heartburn or acid reflux

Here are some tips for keeping your bowel movements healthy and regular so you don’t have to strain when you poop:

Reduce the amount of stomach irritants you consume

Caffeine, dairy, alcohol, and other irritants can cause diarrhea. This can affect your normal bowel movements and lead to straining when you cycle from diarrhea to constipation.

Drink water throughout the day

Aim for at least 64 ounces of water a day to keep your body hydrated. Include some fluids that contain electrolytes. Increase the amount of water you drink when it’s hot, especially if you’re active, to replenish lost fluids.

Eat plenty of fiber in every meal

Consume about 25 to 38 grams of fiber a day. A healthy amount of fiber in your diet helps your poop get through your colon more easily, and bulks up your poops so they’re easier to pass without straining.

Don’t add too much new fiber all at once, though, as this can actually make you more constipated. Gradually increase your fiber intake by a serving at a time every few days or once a week.

Some good fiber foods to start with include:

  • nuts like pistachios and almonds
  • whole-grain breads
  • fruits like strawberries and blueberries
  • vegetables like broccoli and carrots

Exercise 15 to 20 minutes a day, every day

Regular physical activity can help move stools along and increase your muscle strength so you don’t have to strain so much when you poop.

Go poop as soon as you feel the need to

Holding in your poop for too long can cause it to dry out and get stuck, making it harder to push out.

Poop on a regular schedule

Even if you don’t feel like you have to poop, you may be surprised when you set aside time to sit down and go. Pooping at the same time every day can help get your bowels into a regular rhythm.

Adjust how you sit on the toilet seat

Just sitting in a normal upright position with your feet flat on the ground may not help your poop come out.

Raise your legs up so your knees are higher than usual, or use a Squatty Potty to raise your legs up. This can help ease the movement of poop out of your colon.

Reduce your stress

Stress and anxiety can trigger constipation, so incorporate relaxing, stress-busting activities in your day to day. Try:

If your eyes water while pooping, it isn’t that big a deal — as long as there isn’t pain or other concerning issues associated with your bowel movements.

See your doctor if you feel pain or discomfort when you poop. Any kind of consistent gut pain or frequent trouble pooping can indicate an underlying issue that needs treatment.

If you have trouble pooping without pain, try some lifestyle changes to help get your poop moving more easily. Pooping more often can have unexpectedly positive effects on your mood and your health.