By Health and Wellbeing Expert Stephanie Taylor of StressNoMore

Going to the toilet is a normal bodily function and despite your best planning, sometimes you need a number two away from home.

But if the thought of pooping in a public toilet fills you with fear, you’re not alone.

‘Pooping anxiety’ is thought to affect up to 32 percent of people and the fear of going in public toilets even has its own term – parcopresis.  

While holding it in until you get home may be an option for some, for sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) this can be difficult and extremely uncomfortable. The feeling of ‘needing to go’ can also be greater and develop more suddenly, feeding public toilet anxiety even more.

For IBS Awareness Month, Health and Wellbeing Expert Stephanie Taylor at StressNoMore shares her helpful advice for tackling your public toilet concerns…

Scout out public toilets

One of the biggest contributors to toilet related anxiety for IBS sufferers can be not knowing where any are, especially if you’ve not been somewhere before.

Get ahead and find out where your nearest public toilets are before you feel the need to go. Large department stores, shopping centres, train stations, cinemas and supermarkets will usually have free-to-use public toilets. And while the number of public toilets is declining, this online resource can help you pinpoint those nearest to you.

If you are suffering from parcopresis, finding somewhere quieter to go will make you feel more at ease, so it’s good to know the best options nearby.

Be mindful of what you eat

Eating so-called ‘trigger’ foods can make your IBS flare up and make it more likely you’ll need to go to the toilet in public.

Common triggers include refined or processed foods, artificial sweeteners, beans and legumes, dairy products, high-protein diets, caffeine, and alcohol.

So, get to know which foods trigger you and avoid eating these where possible before and during long periods away from home.

Carry a portable fragrance

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. However, one of the biggest worries for IBS sufferers is how other people will react to the smell in a public toilet setting.

Rather than worrying about it, consider carrying a portable fragrance that can help mask any unpleasant smells.

Another tip is to be aware of regular toilet cleaning times – usually present in public restrooms – with most getting checked and cleaned regularly.

Keep calm

For IBS sufferers, the stress of having the condition and being public is enough, so when you add extra anxiety into the mix, studies have suggested that this can trigger the overactivity of your gut.

That’s because stress can reduce intestinal blood flow, increase intestinal permeability, cause your immune system to become inflamed and activate your immune system.

To keep calm when needing to go, try and focus on deep breathing techniques, manage your diet to lower the risk of triggers and reduce your stress levels associated with going out in public by making sure you’re well equipped and comfortable with your surroundings.  

Share your concerns

With between one and two in ten people thought to suffer from IBS in the UK, remember that you are not alone with your concerns about going to the toilet in public.

Talk to a family member, friend, colleague, or whoever you’re out with and let them know about your condition and anxieties as they have likely experienced it, or know someone that does, and be able to empathise and assist you if needed.

Alternatively, talk to your doctor or a medical professional, who will be able to offer their expert advice on how to cope in public situations. Your doctor may even arrange for you to get a ‘Can’t Wait Card’ – universally recognised as a way for IBS sufferers to access public toilets in times of urgency.