When the sun comes up, an occasional bout of the trots is normal. But if morning diarrhea has become a regular thing, something might be up with your gut.
Morning diarrhea can be caused by health conditions and lifestyle habits, including:
- IBS and IBD
- booze and smoking
- late-night snacking
- too much coffee or a big breakfast
Here’s how to pinpoint the cause, and what you can do about those a.m. runs.
Some causes of morning diarrhea are temporary (e.g. pregnancy or food poisoning). But chronic morning poos could be a sign of an underlying condition. Here’s what might be going on.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — a condition that affects the small and large intestines — is a common culprit. In addition to morning diarrhea, other unpleasant side effects can include:
- mucus-y poop
The exact cause of IBS is unknown. But triggers can include your diet, daily routine, and stress levels. Excessive alcohol drinking may also be a factor.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause inflammation in the digestive tract. The two most common types are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Ulcerative colitis causes sores on the lining of the large intestine. With Crohn’s, inflammation can spread from the digestive tract lining to surrounding tissue.
Both disorders can cause:
- weight loss
- abdominal pain
- diarrhea (often in the a.m.)
Infections like salmonella or the rotavirus can cause many bowel issues. This includes morning diarrhea.
To avoid a viral or bacterial infection, be sure to:
- Only drink water from a safe source.
- Wash your hands 10/10 times after pooping.
- Scrub down your produce before you eat it.
Alcohol or smoking
A late-night booze binge before bed can add some drama to your morning toilet sesh. Alcohol can irritate your bowels and loosen stool.
Smoking is also a no-go. Cigs can wreak havoc on your organs and increases your risk of Crohn’s disease.
Certain meds can mess up your bowels — antibiotics being the prime suspect. If you take them before bed, they can brew in your system all night. That means you might wake up to a solo game of battle sh*ts. Taking a probiotic might help, but chat with your doc about your best options.
A squirrelly stomach is a common side effect of anxiety or emotional stress. If you wake up feeling anxious, morning diarrhea might occur.
In the mood for a midnight snack? Same. Sadly, late night noshing can lead to morning diarrhea.
Too much morning coffee
Coffee is a stimulant and can increase bowel movements. Too much of a caffeinated thing can lead to an “uh-oh” moment at your morning meeting.
Eating a huge breakfast
A big breakfast right after you get up can overstimulate the bowels. That means your eggs won’t be the only thing that’s runny 💩. Try to wake up a bit before you hit the brunch buffet.
Chronic morning poo might stem from a food allergy or sensitivity. Common allergies include wheat, egg, dairy, peanuts, and fruit. Some of these foods can irritate your gut and give you the runs.
Keeping a food and symptom journal and speaking with your doctor about a food allergy test can help you figure out which foods to steer clear of.
Similar to travel constipation, dietary changes and the effects of long car or plane rides can mess with your gut and lead to Montezuma’s revenge.
Traveler’s diarrhea specifically can be from eating food in countries where meals are prepped in less sanitary environments or drinking water that isn’t clean (or has microbes your bod just isn’t used to).
Could it be temporary?
If your poo probs are short-lived, you might be dealing with a temporary issue. This includes food poisoning, stomach viruses, menstruation, or even pregnancy.
In addition to morning sickness, morning diarrhea is common when your eggo is preggo (especially in the third trimester).
Morning diarrhea treatment depends on the cause. Here’s the deets.
Change your diet or eating habits
Certain foods can trigger a brown flood. Avoid:
- gluten-loaded foods like pasta, cereal, or bread
- foods containing FODMAPS (carbs like lactose and fructose)
- stuff that can cause gas (e.g. carbonated drinks, raw fruit, beans, and veggies such as cauliflower and broccoli)
PSA: Your doctor can give you a food sensitivity test to see what you’re actually allergic to.
Try to chill out your anxiety
Easier said than done, but trying different ways to calm anxiety before bed and in the morning can reduce your stress levels. This might prevent that motion in your stomach’s ocean.
Light exercise, yoga, and meditation are all great ways to improve anxiety.
There’s no one-size-fits all way to tackle IBS. Anti-diarrheal medication like Imodium may do the trick for a flare-up but isn’t a cure for the root cause. Anticholinergic meds like dicyclomine (Bentyl) can also help reduce bowel spasms. Your doc can help you come up with the best treatment.
IBD treatments work by reducing the inflammation that causes your symptoms. Your doc might give you a corticosteroid or an aminosalicylate.
They also might prescribe immunosuppressant drugs that can prevent the release of inflammatory chemicals in your intestine. Chatting with your doc can help.
Here are the best ways to ditch the morning diarrhea:
- If you smoke, stop.
- Cut back on booze.
- Eat less fatty foods.
- Avoid foods that may trigger IBS and IBD flare-ups.
- Try some relaxation techniques to prevent stress.
- Don’t eat or drink dairy if you’re lactose intolerant.
- Eat fully cooked food and drink bottled water when traveling to certain countries.
The most common side effect of chronic diarrhea is dehydration. This can get risky, especially for kiddos and older adults. It can also be dangerous if you have a weakened immune system.
Here are some dehydration symptoms to look out for:
- dark urine
- little or no pee
- excessive thirst
- dry skin or mouth
Try to stay hydrated throughout the day to prevent any issues.
An occasional episode of morning diarrhea is usually nothing to worry about. But it can become a problem if it happens on the reg.
If it’s not caused by your diet, it might be an underlying condition. If that’s the case then chat with your doctor. They can help you come up with solid poop plan.