Why Does Anxiety Make You Poop?
Anxiety is something that affects everyone at some point in their lives. Some people experience it frequently, while others rarely or never feel anxious.
Regardless of whether you suffer from anxiety or not, it can affect your daily life in a number of ways.
The word anxiety comes from the Latin term ‘anxietas’, meaning worry or unease. People who suffer from anxiety often experience symptoms such as restlessness, sweating, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and nausea.
But this can go beyond the typical symptoms, and can even affect a person’s toilet habits.
What Is Anxiety Poop?
Anxiety causes changes in the body, especially in the digestive system, and often you may experience anxiety poop: a reaction from your brain to extreme stress.
The reason that anxiety makes you poop so much is that your brain is constantly sending signals to your stomach, telling you when to eat and drink, but also when to hold back on food.
Too much pressure on the stomach can cause problems with digestion and can manifest as constipation, diarrhea, and nausea.
Why Does Anxiety Poop Happen?
As we’ve learned; highly stressful situations can trigger the onset of the digestive system to act in an abnormal way through means of constipation, diarrhea, or nausea. But why does this happen?
It’s all to do with the gut-brain axis; the connection between your mind and the digestive system. When the brain feels a sense of danger, it releases stress hormones, namely control, and noradrenaline.
And the body responds with physical symptoms.
But one important hormone is serotonin. This is a neurotransmitter that has a role to play in helping food move through the gastrointestinal tract.
Hence, when serotonin is released it causes contractions within the colon that stimulates bowel movements.
This process also affects the vagus nerve; which helps to send signals that include the digestive system. Dysfunction causes anxiety, and thus you find an increase in gut motility.
How To Avoid Anxiety Poop
The number one response should be to actively fix your anxiety symptoms, which is easier said than done.
Working with a mental health professional could be a good option for those that need an outlet to voice their stressors and anxieties.
However, here are a few at-home tips and lifestyle interventions you can try to help soothe your excited bowel.
It’s always a good idea to limit or avoid certain foods that are prone to cause inflammation to the body, and gut. If you experience anxiety poop you may want to consider limiting the following foods and drink:
- Refined sugar, i.e. chocolate, cakes, and candy
- Processed foods, canned meats, and processed meats
- Spicy foods
- Gluten-containing products such as white bread, or pasta.
Whilst on the topic of diet, you may also want to consider limiting any drugs that you are using, that could be masking the problem.
For example, too much caffeine in our system can affect the amount of sleep we have, which in turn can drive up anxiety and stress, leading to anxiety poop.
Alcohol is another common anxiety-inducing substance, as it temporarily relieves symptoms in the short term, which ultimately come back once the effect wears off.
It’s also shown to affect the body’s ability to get into a deep sleep where the body is able to relax, and therefore recover.
How many times have you rushed down a plate full of food because you wanted to get back to your long list of items to-do?
Eating quickly doesn’t allow the food to be broken down effectively, which can lead to big chunks of food remaining undigested as it passes through the digestive system.
Allowing yourself to chew food until it is almost liquid will help create a soothing experience when dining, which helps to ease anxiety.
It’s also a good idea to place your knife and fork down in between every mouth full of food to keep yourself as paced as possible.
There are many healthy and helpful activities to commit to when trying to manage anxiety poop. Some of our favorites are meditation, yoga, taking a hot bath with Epsom salts, listening to relaxing music, and reading a novel.
By the same token, you should also avoid stressful triggers that can upset your digestive system. We’ve likely all been upset by something we’ve seen on the news or something we’ve read online.
Knowing what causes our anxiety to start and eliminating these triggers can help calm the digestive system and allow some relief from the stress of anxiety.
Move Your Body
Daily movement for the body can help keep things regular down there and decrease muscle tension, as well as lower stress and anxiety levels.
You won’t need to worry about completing a high-intensity training session (unless you want to, of course). All you’ll need to do is go for a walk as this is one of the best low-intensity exercises you can do.
It’s also worth resistance training at least two times per week, as this can also help reduce anxiety levels and improve our mood.
You won’t need to join a gym (unless you want to) as simple bodyweight exercises can help you achieve your twice per week target.
Anxiety pooping isn’t an uncommon thing for those suffering from anxiety and depression. Whilst it can sometimes be embarrassing, it’s important to remember that it’s not a sign of weakness.
Anxiety poops happen to everyone, but if you’re experiencing them regularly, then it’s time to take action to address the issue.
If you feel that you might be struggling with anxiety pooping, then please don’t hesitate to reach out for support. We hope that this article has helped you understand more about anxiety pooping and how to deal with it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
IBS is a collection of symptoms that affect the digestive system, that includes bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, and skin irritation. If you are having issues with your digestion, seek advice from a doctor or health practitioner.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT (license:115130)
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: December 2, 2022