Thursday, September 21, 2023

Does Stress Make You Constipated

How Does Stress Trigger Occasional Constipation

Does Stress Cause Constipation?

How does stress trigger occasional constipation ? Now this is a layered question. When you begin to feel stressed, there are hormones that are released by your body in response to the stress. These hormones may alter bowel functions which can contribute to occasional constipation. Also, when a person is under stress, they are more likely to change their lifestyle habits by following an unhealthy diet, doing less exercise and getting less sleep. These factors are big contributors in the disturbance of ones typical bowel habits.

Why Do We Experience Stress

Stress is the bodys response to a challenge or demand. A long time ago, stress was important for protecting early humans from their environments. The response is still with us today, although our environments have changed. For early humans, an encounter with a dangerous animal might cause stress. Today, things such as long lines, traffic jams, and public speaking might cause us stress, even if those situations arent life-threatening.

Stress may benefit us from an evolutionary perspective. When we experience stress, our body responds by producing adrenaline and cortisol.1 The result: we grow more alert and prepared, ready to tackle any challenges we face. Youve probably heard of the fight-or-flight mechanism. Stress plays a role in this survival response.

Stress Might Be The Reason You’re Constipated

You know that stress can disrupt your sleep, cause your muscles to feel tense, and even make your heart race but you may be surprised to learn that it can also contribute to constipation. Yes, feeling backed up could be an uncomfortable side effect of your seemingly endless to-do list.

“Constipation is having bowel movements less frequently than once every three days or having difficulty or discomfort in defecating hard stools,” David Clarke, MD, president of the Psychophysiologic Disorders Association and clinical assistant professor of gastroenterology emeritus at Oregon Health & Science University, explains. When you’re constipated, stools are typically dry and lumpy, and it could be pretty painful to pass them and even more common to feel like they haven’t passed at all.

Although gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome can cause chronic constipation, there’s a good chance that high-stress, anxiety-filled situations may be contributing to you feeling backed up. Keep reading to learn why stress-induced constipation occurs and what you can do to treat it.

Also Check: What Is Post Traumatic Stress

How To Prevent Constipation

Suffering from constipation is painful, uncomfortable and embarrassing. Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the prevalence of constipation you experience. Changes in your approach to wellness can help dramatically in reducing constipation caused by stress.

Changes can be made to improve your physical health and reduce constipation. With changes in diet and exercise, you will reduce the rate and severity of all GI issues including constipation. Consider making the following changes to reduce constipation:

The Vicious Cycle Of Stress On The Gut

Stress And Constipation: Stress Can Cause Constipation, Know What Is ...

If youve got a lot going on in your life right now, whether its school, work or something else that can be stressful, the strain can cause you to experience constipation.

In times of stress, the bowel becomes sluggish, but stressful events also cause the gut to produce stress hormones that further slow down the digestive process. This change can set up a vicious cycle in which constipation makes you feel stressed, and then the stress can make it even harder to have regular bowel movements.

Read Also: How To Stop Stress Urinary Incontinence

How Can One Help Avoid Becoming Constipated

It is highly advisable to maintain a regular daily routine that does not alter too much from one day to the other. We should also ensure that we have enough fibre and fluids in our diet and it is important to stay as active as we possibly can. An active lifestyle with a healthy, balanced diet can do wonders when it comes to avoiding constipation.

Mr Aathavan Loganayagam is a highly esteemed and skilled London-based gastroenterologist who specialises in bowel-related medical conditions. If you are currently suffering from constipation and would like to consult with an experienced and trusted medical professional, then make sure you check out Mr Loganayagams Top Doctors profile.

How Can Constipation Affect You

Although people often worry about it, there is no reason to believe that constipation causes a poisoning of the system. It can cause feelings of sluggishness and bloating, but there is no evidence that bugs or toxins leak from the bowel into any other part of the body. Another common idea is that constipation may lead to cancer but there is no evidence that long-term constipation increases the chances of getting bowel cancer.

It is important to remember that the vast majority of cases of constipation are easily resolved with simple diet, lifestyle or medication change. However if constipation does not respond to different treatments there can be medium to long term effects including:

  • Haemorrhoids or fissures: bleeding from haemorrhoids, or more rarely a fissure at the anus, is the commonest complication of constipation.
  • Rectal prolapse: chronic straining can lead to the rectal wall protruding out through the anus.
  • Faecal impaction: elderly or immobile patients may get so badly constipated that they quite literally get bunged up and this will need prompt treatment by either the GP or hospital.
  • Diverticular disease: this is where small hard stools lead to increased intestinal contractions, creating pressure which causes the inner section of the intestine to bulge through the protective outer tube of muscle which surrounds it, creating a little pouch of intestine .

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Speaking With Your Doctor

You should handle these symptoms individually if possible Your doctor will ask you about your medical history Theyll also ask about any other symptoms you may have and any medications that youre taking. When discussing your fatigue, your doctor may also ask you questions related to your mental health.

You should handle these symptoms individually if possible Your doctor will ask you about your medical history Theyll also ask about any other symptoms you may have and any medications that youre taking. When discussing your fatigue, your doctor may also ask you questions related to your mental health.

Its helpful to come prepared. You should jot down a list of any of the other medical and physical problems youve been experiencing. You should take note of:

  • the frequency of your bowel movements
  • the color of your stool
  • the texture of your stool
  • the feel of your stool

Stools that are separate, hard lumps or are lumpy typically indicate constipation.

You should also note any feelings of fatigue that you may be experiencing. You may want to consider:

  • when you began feeling fatigued
  • how often you feel fatigued
  • how long the fatigue lasts

If your doctor suspects you may also have another condition, they may run more tests or refer you to a specialist. If youre a woman of childbearing age, your doctor may also give you a pregnancy test to see if your symptoms are due to early pregnancy.

Follow these tips to help prevent fatigue and constipation:

  • Get regular exercise

Choose Food That Will Make The Ideal Poo

Does Stress Cause Constipation And Why?

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!

Read Also: What Can Stress Cause During Pregnancy

How Is Stress Linked With Constipation

High levels of stress can cause or aggravate gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, stomach pain, and changes in bowel movements, which can include constipation.

Researchers have identified various connections between the brain and stomach that may lead to constipation symptoms. A range of treatments and remedies can help relieve stress-related constipation.

In this article, we cover some of the possible links between stress and constipation, along with potential treatments.

The stress hormone may contribute to constipation.

Constipation means that a person has difficulty passing stool or does not have bowel movements very often. Constipation symptoms vary among individuals and can include:

  • fewer than three bowel movements per week
  • dry, hard, or lumpy stool
  • bowel movements that are difficult or painful to pass
  • feeling unable to empty the bowels

Many factors can cause constipation. Common causes of constipation are dehydration, a lack of physical activity, and a poor diet for example, not eating enough fiber.

Stress can also lead to constipation. When psychological stress leads to physical symptoms, they are known as somatic symptoms.

The effects that stress hormones have on the body can cause constipation. In addition, when a person is stressed, they are more likely to eat an unhealthful diet, get less exercise or sleep, or forget to stay hydrated. These factors can lead to constipation.


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.

Read Also: How To Calm Someone Down Who Is Stressed

What To Do To Stop Anxiety Constipation

It would be great if there were some type of exercise you can do to control constipation caused by anxiety, but unfortunately as long as you still have anxiety, your body is still likely to continue to be constipated. It’s the nature of the effects of anxiety.

There are some strategies that could at least help a little bit. Ideally, try to avoid laxatives unless instructed by your doctor. While they may be useful for stopping constipation, they also have a tendency to cause dehydration which can make your anxiety symptoms worse. What you should do:

  • Eat Well There are two main additions to your diet than can help relieve your constipation. Eat more fiber and drink more fluids. If you know there are foods that make you more constipated, avoid them.
  • Exercise Exercise is both an anxiety cure and a healthy way to move food through the digestive tract. Studies have shown that when you exercise, you process food at a much faster rate. The more intense your exercise, the better it is for both your anxiety and your constipation, so strongly consider introducing healthy exercise into your daily routine.

Take measures to reduce your stress and anxiety This is the most important thing you can do, and it could include taking a mindfulness training, learning to accept your anxiety so that it will dissolve or going into therapy to locate and let go of the causes of your anxiety.

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What Exercises Can Relieve Stress Constipation

Everything you need to know about how stress can cause constipation

We asked 18.031 women “What is your favourite activity to relieve stress*“.


Here are some key exercises that will ease your stress constipation.

Cardio to improve intestinal movements Whether by dancing, walking, jogging, or running, frequent movement will increase heart rate and blood flow and stimulate your stomach muscles.

Also, cardio makes you very thirsty, forcing you to drink more water, ultimately improving intestinal movements and easing your constipation.

You can begin by taking short walks at your average pace, then increasing your speed as you get more comfortable. Bike rides are also very effective for constipation relief.

Be careful not to do too much too soon, but take your time with it and spread short walks across your day.

Yoga may help relieve stress-induced constipation Yoga not only helps you relax when stressed, but this 2016 study also suggests that it may have some positive effect on constipation when combined with some of the other common remedies.

You dont have to be expert in yoga to get relief from stress constipation instead, even beginners can get full benefits when done correctly.

Follow these steps below to practice the wind-relieving pose, a great beginner yoga posture for stress constipation.

  • Lay flat on your back and keep your spine straight.
  • Raise your right leg and lift it towards your chest while keeping your knee bent.
  • With your arms, pull the right leg to the right, stay in this pose for about 20 seconds and release.
  • Read Also: What Can Help Reduce Stress

    Is There A Link Between Constipation And Anxiety

    The reverse is also true. Constipation can cause anxiety. When faced with irregular bowel movements and abdominal pains, its easy to become stressed out.

    The digestive tract and nervous system share a constant communication highway called the gut-brain axis. This means that what happens in your gut can affect your mental health and vice versa. Its no surprise then that people with bowel disorders often experience anxiety.

    Chronic constipation can lead to a vicious cycle. What happens is that people become so conditioned to having a hard time going to the bathroom that they begin developing an anxious response when they have a bowel motion.

    Often, when you get backed up, it can be uncomfortable or painful. Every day becomes a heightened sense of anxiety which impacts your mood.

    Why Does Anxiety Cause Constipation

    Have you ever encountered a gut-wrenching feeling when you are anxious or overly stressed? Well, this is a sign of proof that your brain and your gastrointestinal tract are in sync. Several studies have shown us that our digestive system behaves according to our mental wellbeing.

    This communication between our brain and the digestive system is important for several bodily functions. So, this means that the health of your digestive system depends also upon your mental wellbeing. Constipation is a common digestive problem that occurs as a result of anxiety and stress. This is termed as psychogenic constipation.

    Read Also: How Can I Remove Stress

    Make Time To Move Your Bowels

    Try waking up earlier to eat breakfast and then move yourbowels. Food can stimulate the need to go, and you probably feel most relaxedin your home bathroom.

    But dont get toorelaxed in there the more time you spend on the toilet, the more likely you areto strain for bowel movements. Do not take your cell phone into the bathroomwith you, or work on your computer or read a book, Dr. Zutshi advises.

    And if you feel the urge to go when youre out an about,dont avoid using a public restroom. Delaying a bowel movement can actuallymake constipation worse.

    Treatment Of Functional Constipation

    The link between Stress and Constipation

    The National Institute for Health and CareExcellence guidelines and results of other studies indicate the following treatments are useful for functional constipation:

    • Lifestyle modification. Dietary change to increase fiber in diet through fruits and vegetables, and fluid intake.
    • Laxatives, including osmotic laxatives such as lactulose or stimulant laxatives such as senna and bisacodyl.
    • Probiotics. Those of the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus genera have been shown to increase stool frequency in adults and children and are a safe option.

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    Can I Prevent Constipation

    In many cases, you can. These things can help:

    Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber. Good sources are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain bread and cereal . See how prebiotic supplements can help ease digestion.

    Drink 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of water and other fluids a day . Fiber and water work together to keep you regular.

    Cut back on milk. Dairy products can constipate some people.

    Exercise regularly. Do something active for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.

    Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge.

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    What Treatment Is Available For Constipation

    Most treatment is self-managed and based around dietary and lifestyle changes:

    • Dietary changes: Regular meals and an adequate fluid intake are the mainstays of treating and preventing constipation. Although drinking more than this is unlikely to make a difference.
    • A high fibre diet: this may help some patients with constipation. This should include a mixture of high fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, wholemeal bread and pasta, wholegrain cereals and brown rice. The aim should be to include a high fibre food at each meal along with five portions of fruit or vegetables each day. Some people may find that it helps to eat more fruit and vegetables while others might prefer cereals and grains. Eating more fibre may lead to bloating and can worsen discomfort, so it is important to increase levels slowly. Fibre is most helpful for people with mild symptoms of constipation, however if the condition is severe then continuing to increase fibre may make symptoms worse.

    See our information here on fibre:

    If you are struggling with your diet, ask your GP for a referral to a dietitian.

    Read Also: How To Stop Being Stressed

    A Pediatric Gi Doctor Explains Some Likely And Surprising Culprits That Can Cause Constipation In Kids

    Constipation, or difficulty pooping, affects millions of kids each year. According to a 2018 study, about 18% of toddlers and 14% of children and teens suffer from constipation.

    Fortunately, constipation is usually temporary, and by finding the cause of your child’s constipation, you can help them get back to regular bowel movements. Rinarani Sanghavi, M.D., Director of Neurogastroenterology and GI motility at Children’s Health and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, explains some common reasons why children become constipated.

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