The Enteric Nervous System
The enteric nervous system or âsecond brainâ describes the nerves lining the digestive tract. These nerves consist of hundreds of millions of neurons and control the digestion of food. They also send signals from the gut to the brain. It is thought that in states of anxiety, disruption to the ENS-brain connection reduces motility through the gastrointestinal tract, leading to constipation. This represents a malfunctioning of the âgut-brain axisâ, which connects the gut to the brain.
Why Is Stress Constipation Unhealthy How To Get Rid Of Stress Constipation
Stress-related constipation can cause digestive problems such as stomach pain and irritable bowel syndrome. It may also cause a vicious cycle in which people who experience stress constipation do not feel like they have the time or energy to prepare for a bowel movement. In turn, this can cause more mental or physical stress, which may make it even harder to release their bowels. People with stress-related constipation may also become distracted from other important tasks, such as going to class, working, or maintaining a social life.
Can Stress Cause Constipation Conventional Medicine Can Help
Fortunately, you can do some things to alleviate this condition. First and foremost, increasing your fiber intake can be very helpful in alleviating constipation symptoms because it adds bulk to the stool so that its softer and easier to pass.
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Tips And Tricks To Get Relief
No one wants to feel overwhelmed or stressed its no fun. If you find yourself constantly feeling stressed, well, theres no secret: you may want to change a few things in your day-to-day life. Slowly, start noticing how your body reacts to all the changes you make. By reducing the stressors in your life, youll allow yourself to feel more at ease in your body and free your mind for the day !
What Exactly Is The Enteric Nervous System And How Does It Contribute To Constipation
The gut has its own nervous system, which is referred to in medical terms as the ENS . The ENS is made up of millions of neurons that help control various activities in the gut, including movement, blood flow and stomach secretions.
Stress, which can severely affect us emotionally, physically and mentally, begins in the brain. When we are stressed, the brain signals for help and stress hormones are released. These hormones may affect the bowel causing dysfunction.
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Is Constipation A Sign Of Cancer
Constipation alone is not a sign of cancer, but being constipated all the time is still something serious that should be addressed. Chronic long-term constipation increases the risk of bowel cancer, a common cancer that middle-aged and elderly people are particularly susceptible to. If you have suddenly noticed constipation and weight loss, you should speak to your doctor.
Signs of colon cancer and other serious abdominal problems that you need to look out for are permanent changes in your bowel habits , as well as bloody stool, weight loss, and persistent tummy pain, like gas and cramps. If you have several of these symptoms, dont wait contact your doctor for diagnostic testing.
Reasons Your Bowel Movements Are Off
A normal bowel movement and bathroom routine is different for each person. The frequency, consistency, color, and the control you have over your bowel movements can change depending on certain conditions. It is important to note any changes in your regular bowel movements, especially if you are having pain, and to make your Gastroenterologist aware of them. The following situations can all affect your daily habits.
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Diarrheathere May Be Many Causes
In the GI world, there is a stricter definition of diarrhea than one might think.
Its not just watery stool or stool with no consistency, but also increased volume. People often come to me and say they are having diarrhea, but when you get into the fine details and find out they are pooping once or twice a day, thats not it really, Dr. Deutsch says. Still, its maybe not your normal. And I need to know if it holds shape or if its just literally water coming out.
Dr. Deutsch says it is important to find out if there is any blood, which could be an indication of an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohns or ulcerative colitis, both of which involve chronic inflammation in the digestive tract and cause persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stool, weight loss, and fatigue.
She says she also wants to know if someone is having accidents. If its just a sensation that you cant get to the bathroom in time, but you do get there, that is easy to fix, she says. Common factors may be lactose intolerance or things like bacteria that exist in your gut. They do many jobs, but they can also draw too much water into your stool and give you diarrhea.
How Long Will I Need To Take Laxatives For
If you’ve had constipation for a short time, your pharmacist will usually advise you to stop taking the laxative once your stools are soft and easily passed.
However, if your constipation is caused by an underlying medical condition or a medicine you’re taking, your GP may advise you to take laxatives for much longer, possibly many months or even years.
If you’ve been taking laxatives for some time, you may have to gradually reduce your dose, rather than coming off them straight away. If you have been prescribed a combination of laxatives, you’ll normally have to reduce the dosage of each laxative, one at a time, before you can stop taking them. This can take several months.
Your GP will advise you about when it’s best to stop taking long-term laxatives.
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Get Those Muscles Moving
Peristalsis is the name for the muscle movement of the bowel. It’s a wave of contraction,that passes along the bowel and takes the bowel contents along with it. Sometimes this process can get sluggish, or the bowel doesn’t seem to know when to initiate it. You need the muscles to contract and move the food along.
Think of how many muscles you have in your abdomen. If you are a lazy bones and have poor muscle tone, it will affect your digestive transit time . Being physically active will help. Try to do this every day. Go for a walk do some stretches and twists. You can google yoga poses that may help. There’s a wind-relieving pose that may be a good one to start with.
Bile, the green stuff our liver produces, is one of the triggers for peristalsis. If a person has their gall bladder removed, it affects bile flow. This can slow the bowel and cause constipation. You may have a gall bladder and still have sluggish bile flow, because your liver isn’t producing bile to order, or eating on the run is reducing the ‘volume’ of the signal to the liver. Sit down to eat. Relax. Chew…
Other signs that your bile flow is paltry: you may feel too full after meals, and be super-farty.
If you can’t get your hands on exotic lettuce, A.Vogel’s Digestisan will work just as well. It contains the herbal ‘bitters’, dandelion and artichoke. You take it 5-10 minutes before each meal. It’s licensed for the relief of indigestion, bloating and flatulence.
Constipationdefining Normal Is Not So Easy
When it comes to treating patients with constipation , Dr. Deutsch first asks a lot of questions.
I tell people that their normal may not be my normal or the next persons normal. We are all very different when it comes to bowel habits, she says. I need to know what the stool looks like, from the color to the length, and how long it takes you to go. If someone is only going once or twice a week and the stools are looking like little rabbit pellets, I need to tease that out.
To help explain, Dr. Deutsch often shows patients a bell-shaped curve from a study published in Gastroenterology. On the national average, people poop anywhere from three times a week to three times a day, she says. That is a huge range. I stress that if you dont feel good, we need to make you feel good. If you are worried that you are sitting on the toilet for an hour and passing small, hard pellets, we should see if you are getting enough fiber or physical movement every day. Or maybe we need an over-the-counter or even prescription-strength laxative.
Dr. Deutsch also doesnt shy away from sharing her own experiences. It can be TMI, but I let people know that we all deal with these problems once in a while, she says. If I dont go to the gym and I dont eat any fruits and vegetables for a week, my poop looks like something my cat would produce.
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What Can You Do
You do not have to be a passive victim of anxiety-triggered diarrhea. There are a variety of stress management techniques that you can use to help your body to become more resilient in its response to outside stressors.
Two activities that have been associated with reducing your bodys baseline anxiety level are yoga and meditation. Practicing one or both of these on a regular basis will help you to deal more effectively with the stressful situations in your life that arise.
There are also some relaxation techniques that you can use on the spot to help your body to turn off the stress response and thus hopefully quiet down your bowels, sparing you from further diarrhea episodes. These include visualization, deep breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation exercises. Like all skills, these relaxation exercises are more effective when they are practiced on a regular basis.
If you are under a lot of stress a lot of the time, it is also important to take an objective look at your life to see if changes can be made to reduce your overall stress level. Problem-solving and assertiveness skills can be utilized to make your life more comfortable.
It may be helpful to initiate some psychotherapy to help you to better manage the stresses and challenges that are contributing to your stress-induced diarrhea.
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The Constipationweight Gain Link
Constipation and weight gain can actually go hand-in-hand in some cases. In the short-term, you will probably weigh a few hundred grams more if you are constipated because your bowel is full of digested food. Just remember that this is rather insignificant because it hardly impacts your overall body weight.
These foods also lack fiber and can seriously slow down the transit of food through your bowel. To the question: can constipation cause weight gain, the answer is no, constipation does not cause weight gain.
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Why Does Stress Cause Constipation
The belly and bowels are referred to as your second brain because they so readily register stress. The gut is its own ecosystem with a large neural network. There are more neurons in your gut than in your entire spinal cord. They communicate in the gut’s ecosystem with bacteria in a complex mesh-like system. Constipation is one way that your body registers stress. It tells you this ecosystem is out of whack.
There is an evolutionary reason for all this “poop pausing” when you’re stressed. Finding the time to go to the bathroom to do more than pee was not in the cards. So, when you’re stressed, your body presses pause on the poop. Constipation often takes turns with diarrhea in a stressed person. It’s a ping pong effect. This is one reason that it is important to avoid taking medications as a quick fix. Your body will not be able to regulate itself when you’re alternating stool softeners and anti-diarrhea medications.
There are other reasons why stress has this “pause the go” effect. When you are stressed, you may be distracted from taking care of yourself. This may cause dietary and physical lifestyle changes, like:
- Drinking less water
These symptoms affect your body’s ability to produce regular bowel movements.
Can Eating More Fiber Help With Constipation
Yes. Fiber is the part of plant food that is not digested. There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber gives stool bulk. Foods that are good sources of soluble fiber include apples, bananas, barley, oats, and beans. Insoluble fiber helps speed up the transit of food in the digestive tract and helps prevent constipation. Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole grains, most vegetables, wheat bran, and legumes. Foods that have fiber contain both soluble and insoluble fibers. A good goal for dietary fiber is a total of about 20 to 30 grams each day.
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Can Stress And Anxiety Affect Your Bowels
Many people who experience stress-related constipation may not realize that the feelings of discomfort they are experiencing in their gut are caused by mental stress. Moreover, because the digestive system is controlled by two different parts of the nervous system, these individuals might even believe that their bowel troubles are being brought on by something physical. However, stress constipation is very real, and it has more to do with the brain than the bowel.
You may be one of many people who experience stress-related constipation. This condition is defined as chronic, longstanding constipation that needs to be moved but cannot because of lack of bowel movement.
Stress-related constipation occurs when the body undergoes chronic stress due to stressful life events , being a young college student , being diligent students . Often, stress constipation harms your mental health as well as physical health. The problem develops because people in stressful situations may become so overwhelmed with whats going on in their lives that they cannot relax enough to release their bowels, even if they feel the physical need to do so.
Can Poor Food Choices Contribute
It may be a cliché, but when youre stressed you may be more likely to reach for the double-fudge ice cream instead of a kale salad. Stress and bad food choices sometimes go together. If youre experiencing stress-related constipation, this can make matters worse.
Try passing up the foods that you know cause problems. It may help to keep a food diary so you know which ones affect you most. Most often the culprits include:
- very spicy foods
- high-fat foods
Fiber-filled ingredients may be a good choice for some, but for others they may make constipation worse. Thats because they are harder to digest. Try experimenting with healthy foods to see which ones work best for you.
If you have IBS, you may also benefit from eliminating carbonated sodas, caffeine, and alcohol from your diet permanently, or until your symptoms subside.
If stress is causing your chronic constipation, you may benefit most from addressing both issues:
Choose Food That Will Make The Ideal Poo
Foods that are rich in fibre are what makes a happy colon. We are all supposed to eat up to 30g of fibre a day, but in the UK the average person eats only 19g a day! It’s a wonder anyone’s toilet is flushing.
Fibre comes in two types: fermentable and less fermentable. Your wheat bran, wholegrains and brown pasta contain the less fermentable type. They called this ‘roughage’ in the olden days. It bulks out stools and makes them easier for the muscles of the gut to grip onto.
The fermentable type of fibre is found in fruit, vegetables and things like beans. If you eat too much of these too suddenly, it can make you very gassy. The fermenting is done by our friendly bacteria. They love this kind of fibre. A slow introduction to these foods will ensure that you don’t get too bloated. Chew them really well. This will help the whole digestion process, including the bit at the end that’s currently held up!
For Serious Constipation There Are Options
If your constipation is severe and does not improve withchanges to your diet and lifestyle, there may be other options that you candiscuss with your doctor. Surgery is the very last option.
A wide range of laxatives are available, plus there arepro-motility drugs that a doctor can prescribe. Sometimes at-home remedies canbring relief, too, like dietary vegetable or mineral oil to lubricate thebowels.
Heres the bottom line: Try simple fixes first, but if theyfail, dont suffer needlessly. If you think your bowel movements are not whatyou would consider normal, discuss it first with your primary care physician, whocan talk with you about treatments or refer you to a specialist who can helpget your bowels moving again.
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Does Stress Cause Constipation And Why
Chronic and sporadic stress disrupt regular bowel movements and contribute to constipation. Adding fiber, fluids, and laxatives to alleviate constipation makes it worse, and perpetuates stress even more. The information on this page will help you break this vicious cycle.
Yes, it does, and very significantly.
All of the above equally applies to infants, toddlers, children, adults, and particularly to seniors, who are already affected by many other problems related to constipation.
Sorry, I cant help you to reduce stress, but eliminating constipation certainly will take the brunt of it!
To learn more about the connection between stress and constipation, and how to prevent or reverse stress-related constipation, please visit this page for additional information.
Stress tends to recede and go away, but not constipation. Once it hits you, it tends to linger for the rest of your life, and to get more severe with each passing year for reasons I explain on The Bulls’ S..t In The China Shop page.
Here is what you can do to prevent this from happening to you:
It is a well-established fact that some people respond to exact same stressful event less or not at all, while some a great deal stronger. This means that it isn’t the stress event alone that is the sole culprit behind health-related problems, but the ways your mind processes it.