"No Poop July" is taking over "For You" pages on TikTok again, and some doctors are hoping users do not take the challenge seriously.
The trend involves young people, often men, pretending they haven't had bowel movements since the beginning of the month. Videos show men sweating profusely while fighting the urge to defecate while crowds cheer them on. The videos often include what day of "No Poop July" the alleged participant is on.
The videos are clearly jokes, and it does not appear the TikTok users are seriously preventing themselves from having bowel movements all month long.
Some doctors warn that the trend should remain a joke, saying those who are successful at holding in their bowel movements could disrupt their gastrointestinal health. That could cause issues like hemorrhoids and a temporary dependence on laxatives for regular bowel movements.
“It’s a funny thing to joke about, but it’s a potentially serious thing to do,” said Dr. Steven Miller, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
Miller discouraged those who might be tempted to avoid going a whole month without using the bathroom.
"No Poop July" likely dates as early as 2020, when a Reddit post said the phrase was trending on TikTok. Some joked about their valiant attempts to complete "No Poop July" again last year, and the trend kicked up again early this month. The hashtag has amassed more than 112 million views on TikTok.
Google Trends shows that the term started to pick up traction in 2020 and that it has become more popular each July since, with "No Poop July" roughly tripling in worldwide popularity this year.
“Obviously, we hope that no one takes it seriously,” said Dr. Austin Chiang, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia.
Chiang, who has amassed about 564,000 followers on TikTok, has been monitoring the trend since last year. He said that when it came across his "For You" page again this year, he was inspired to make a duet.
"Thoughts and prayers," he wrote in the video's caption, responding to someone's alleged attempt at the trend.
The good news, Chiang said, is that if anyone with a normal, healthy gut attempts the challenge, it's likely their bowels won't allow them to complete "No Poop July."
"Honestly, people who have regular, normal functioning GI tracts are not going to have this issue, because their body is going to want to get rid of their waste," he said. "So it's not like they have a choice in holding it in."
Ultimately, Chiang said, people should follow their bodies' natural urges.
"Even though it's a joke, we encourage people to still go to the bathroom regularly," Chiang said, "like their bodies tell them to."