Did you know that human excrements is a bigger problem on Everest than torn tents, oxygen bottles, and other trash? When you have to go, you have to, but do you poop more at higher altitudes?
Speaking from my own experience, I am one of those that develop what is called traveler’s constipation or vacation constipation. Well, going to the mountains for me is indeed a travel because they are 1000 km away.
This is why I am not able to speak about this topic independently from travel constipation as I am not able to distinguish which is which.
But I suspect that this may be the same with others, so it may be that this is not mountains-related at all. If you poop less, this could be just travel constipation and nothing more.
What science says?
It is important to stress that this is not about situations when you suffer from acute mountain sickness (AMS). Namely, if you are in such a stage, the AMS will have a negative impact on food intake.
In one article I read that in such situations food intake is reduced for 25-50 percent in the first 3 days of AMS. Therefore you will naturally have lees need to poop.
But this text is about normal body reaction to altitude and not about an illness stage.
I did a thorough search and could not find any reliable information. The best I could find was an article where they write the following lines.
“There is a small but growing body of evidence which shows that acute exposures to high altitudes can damage the intestinal barrier. Initial data also suggest that prolonged hypoxic exposures can compromise the intestinal barrier through alterations in immunological function, microbiota, or mucosal layers.
Exertion may worsen high-altitude-related intestinal injury via additional reductions in splanchnic circulation and greater hypoxemia. Collectively these responses can result in increased intestinal permeability and bacterial translocation causing local and systemic inflammation.”
Now, do you understand what they are saying? Frankly speaking, I don’t. I searched for the term intestinal permeability which they mentioned, but I am not more clever after that. Does this all affects how much we defecate? I have no idea.
How about travel constipation?
According to Healtline, travel constipation happens because of several reasons. These may include changes in your normal diet or your normal body exercises, changes in your sleep regime, new types of food, etc.
Just imagine, you spend hours in the same position in the car or on the plane, without much movement. This all can affect your normal body timing.
I can tell you, this is what happens to me when I go to the mountains, so the result later in the mountains should not be surprising.
How about diarrhea? Is diarrhea a part of altitude sickness?
I have seen some statements that you can develop diarrhea at high elevations and that this is a sign of altitude sickness. In this sense, this would be related to the main topic of this text.
However, from what I know, diarrhea is not a symptom of altitude sickness. If this happens to you, this is likely due to problems with water you were using and lack of proper hygiene. I have a separate text about using glacier water and rain water, and about personal water filtration systems in general.
In any case, regardless of if you poop more or less in the mountains, eventually you will do it. If so, then this video may be useful to watch, please have a look:
In conclusion, I could not find any real evidence which would support statements that people poop less at higher altitudes. And I can tell you, I have seen such statements.
It can be that this indeed happens. However, my guess is that in most cases this could be just the usual travel constipation and nothing more. So you may poop less at higher altitudes, but this is not necessarily because of elevation.
What do you think? Please share your experience, there is a comment box below.
This site is all about outdoor questions and answers, so bookmark it and keep as a reference. You will always have new texts added here. Did you hear about reverse altitude sickness? I have described it in my separate text so please follow the link to read more.
Thank you for reading and have a nice day.