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People Have Been Calling Out Stores Like T.J. Maxx And Target For Having A "Laxative Effect," So I Spoke To An Expert To Finally Get Some Answers

If you say this has never happened to you, either you're lying or you're one of the chosen ones.

If you're a self-declared Maxxinista like me, you know that there are sometimes consequences to hunting for amazing deals. Like the sudden push from your bowels while you're just trying to scour the clearance rack.

The clearance rack of a TJ Maxx

For anyone who has no clue what I'm talking about, TikTok user @homewithshelby shared a now-viral video about having the "sudden urge to shit" while shopping at T.J. Maxx, and nearly 10,000 commenters couldn't help but relate.

@homewithshelby / Via

It turns out, the urge to poop in stores like T.J. Maxx is pretty common, once again proving that none of us have ever had a single unique experience in our lives.

Chris Traeger from "Parks and Rec" in a hospital gown saying "Stop pooping"

And when I say "pretty common," I mean VERY common.

Comments on @homewithshelby's TikTok about her experience of pooping in TJ Maxx, including "TJ Maxx is an instant laxative," "The way Macy's does this for me" and "This happens every time I go to a store I like"

One T.J. Maxx employee shared, "[As an] associate without the privilege of an associate bathroom, we are very well aware and you're not alone."

Comments on @homewithshelby's TikTok that all relate to her experience of pooping in TJ Maxx, including "Wait hold up this happens to me also is it a thing?" and "I think it's because I get SO excited"

And it's not just T.J. Maxx — people are sharing all the stores that trigger their digestive system. From Target to Ross Dress for Less to HomeGoods, apparently no visit to a department store is complete without a trip to the bathroom.

TikTok users commenting which stores make them go to the bathroom, including Target, Barnes & Noble, Michael's, and Ross

Over the years, people have had their theories as to why this may be happening. Some say it's the adrenaline rush of being in our favorite stores, while others think it's the venti Starbucks coffee we sip as we're shopping. One TikTok user who goes by @theverymarylife went viral in April while sharing her own experience in Marshalls. In the clip, she guesses that the fluorescent lights in the store are the cause of her digestive issues.

@theverymarylife walking around Marshalls with the caption, "Every time I step foot into a store with fluorescent lights" followed by an overlaid sound of someone's stomach growling

Another theory that has popped up is the Mariko Aoki phenomenon, which specifically addresses the need to poop in bookstores. Experts believe that the act of "slowing down," or even the position of sitting down to read, could possibly be the reason you have to run to the bathroom the second you enter Barnes & Noble. However, this doesn't explain the need to go while roaming department stores.

A person reading a book in a library

Honestly, after digging through all of this, I was left with more questions than answers. So I reached out to Dr. Supriya Rao — who is quadruple board certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology, obesity medicine, and lifestyle medicine — to find out exactly what's going on with our guts when we walk into Target or T.J. Maxx.

While Rao said there is not enough definitive research on the topic to say for sure, she had a few theories: "The gut is called ‘the second brain’ — there’s millions of nerves that innervate our GI tract. For example, some people, before they have to give a big talk or presentation, will have butterflies in their stomach or a little bit of anxiety, perhaps," she told BuzzFeed. "So a lot of people will probably have to use the bathroom before because it excites their GI tract and enhances their motility, making them rush to the bathroom."

She added, "In a similar vein, emotions can definitely cause the feeling of needing to go to the bathroom in certain places too."

A TikTok of @homewithshelby walking through TJ Maxx with the caption "Me walking into a TJ Maxx" and "Sudden urge to shit"

Rao continued, "For some people, it can be the anxiety of going into a store. Maybe for others, going to Target is super relaxing, and if you’re relaxed, then you feel like you’re at home, where you’re more likely to have a bowel movement."

Someone holding a Target shopping basket while spinning around the store

She said, "Another thing is, in a lot of Targets, there’s Starbucks, so maybe people grab a coffee, and caffeine can definitely accelerate your gut motility."

Rosanna Pansino drinks a Starbucks coffee

Rao added, "Another one is just the fact that you’re walking around a lot — movement enhances an easier bowel movement."

Cher from "Clueless" walking with shopping bags

When asked if different external factors, like lighting and scent, can also cause your gut to stir, Rao replied, "Different senses can get overstimulated or relaxed, so it’s definitely possible."

Someone grabbing toilet paper off a roll

And if you do happen to poop every time you enter one of these stores, Rao reassured me that there's no reason to fret. "I don’t think pooping in Target is necessarily a sign of something more serious going on," she said.

"There’s no great black or white to this," Rao said. "I know plenty of people that don’t get that feeling when they go into Target; it just depends on how sensitive your stomach is or how much your emotions affect your GI."

In the end, Rao let me know that there isn't one specific reason that points to why our bowels get so triggered in big department stores, and all of this is yet to be proved. "There’s no scientific argument here; it’s all conjecture and speculation," she said. "But I do get it — I understand why people would have this sensation."

Someone clutching their stomach next to the toilet

Now, for scientific purposes, I need to know: Have you ever experienced the sudden need to "go" in your favorite store? If you're bold enough, let us know in the comments!