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The Link Between Stress and Constipation

Does stress cause constipation? When your mind feels stressed, your body may experience the effects. Learn about the connection between stress and constipation when you explore the information below.

Stressed woman sitting at desk in front of laptop with head in her hands

What Causes Stress?

Our daily lives are constantly changing. Each new day brings new challenges and stressors for us to face. Stress can be triggered by a number of factors. Work pressure, financial demands, and the current events we see on the news can all be sources of stress. Sometimes, stress is beneficial by helping us focus and motivating us to accomplish a specific task. However, too much stress can be hard on the mind and body, potentially leading to negative effects like constipation.

Why Do We Experience Stress?

Stress is the body’s 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 aren’t 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. You’ve probably heard of the fight-or-flight mechanism. Stress plays a role in this survival response.

Stressed woman sitting at desk in front of laptop with head in her hands

The Downside of Stress

Stress can help us out sometimes. Even if we don’t face life-or-death experiences on a daily basis, stress can help us tackle other (less dire) challenges, such as helping you meet a big deadline at work. Experiencing stress occasionally is pretty normal. However, stress is only helpful in limited quantities. Too much stress can leave us feeling unhappy, nervous, and overwhelmed.

Research shows that too much stress might have a negative effect on health. Prolonged stress can lead to problems like headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and insomnia.2 The emotional effects of stress can also be problematic. Some research indicates that experiencing high amounts of stress for a long period of time can be a trigger for depression or anxiety.3 However, it’s important to note that not everyone who has stress in their life will experience these exact effects.

Does Stress Cause Constipation?

Stress and constipation: what’s the link? As you read above, excessive stress can be tough on the body. This includes the digestive system. When we feel stressed, our body releases chemicals and hormones.4 These hormones are helpful if we’re in a dangerous situation, as they help us focus on the task at hand. However, if our goal is to stay “regular,” this bodily response may interfere with digestion. Researchers note a potential relationship between stress and a number of digestive issues, including loss of appetite, cramps, nausea, IBS, diarrhea, and—in some cases—constipation.5

On the other side of things, constipation can result from the lifestyle choices we make when we’re stressed out. We might let things like eating a healthy, fiber-rich diet, exercising regularly, and drinking plenty of water fall to the wayside when we’re overwhelmed. In addition, bad habits can kick in when our stress levels are high. You may be more likely to crave unhealthy snacks high in saturated fat and sugar, like potato chips or ice cream. While the occasional treat is usually okay, consuming too many of these unhealthy foods can cause digestive issues. Be conscious of your alcohol intake as well. Drinking too much alcohol causes dehydration, which in turn might lead to constipation.6

A healthy lifestyle can help support regular bowel movements, and when we’re too busy to take care of ourselves properly, constipation is more common. Constipation can lead to problems like straining and hemorrhoids, so it’s important to take steps to prevent constipation if possible.

How can you help relieve stress and constipation?

To help relieve stress-induced constipation, focus on lowering your stress levels. There are a variety of quick, easy ways to help reduce stress—even on the busiest of day. Some ways to reduce stress include:

  • Meditating
  • Writing a journal entry
  • Getting outside for a walk
  • Practicing yoga
  • Calling a friend to chat
  • Lighting a candle
  • Making a cup of tea
  • Or, simply taking a few deep breaths

We hope you learned more about stress and constipation. If you find yourself dealing with constipation on a long-term basis, consult your doctor for advice. For help with hemorrhoids caused by constipation, you can find relief today with Preparation H.

Sources:

1. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037. Accessed 7/8/2020. Referenced text is enclosed in a red box in source PDF.

2. Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress#:~:text=Stress%20is%20the%20body's%20reaction,your%20body%2C%20and%20your%20thoughts. Accessed 6/3/2020. Referenced text is enclosed in a red box in source PDF.

3. Ibid.

4. How to Calm an Anxious Stomach: The Brain-Gut Connection. ADAA. https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/how-calm-anxious-stomach-brain-gut-connection. Accessed 7/8/2020. Referenced text is enclosed in a red box in source PDF.

5. Ibid.

6. Constipation: Causes and Prevention Tips. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/constipation-causes-and-prevention-tips. Accessed 7/8/2020. Referenced text is enclosed in a red box in source PDF.