stress and bowel habits

PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ pointsk 500+ pointsl 100+ pointsm 1+ points - Newb

Bill asks:

OK, Motherload, I am a brand new member of PoopReport. My question is: how much can extreme mental stress change a person's bowel habits?

Dear Bill,

First off, welcome to PoopReport!

Now, for the answer to your question. Extreme stress can have a major effect on one's bowel habits. Here's why.

The brain and the intestine are strongly related and mediated by many of the same hormones and nervous system. Some research even suggests that the gut itself has features of a primitive brain. (IBS sufferers have known for a long time that their digestive system seems to have a mind of its own.)

Prolonged stress can disrupt the digestive system, irritating the large intestine and causing diarrhea, constipation, cramping, and bloating. Excessive production of digestive acids in the stomach can cause all sorts of problems including ulcers.

Stress can be caused by a number of things. A few examples are fear, anxiety, and excessive worrying. One of the best relievers of stress is laughter.

Some of the physical and emotional benefits and stress-relieving qualities of laughter include:

Internal Workout: A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.

Distraction: Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions.

Perspective: Sudies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a 'threat' or a 'challenge'. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as 'challenges', thereby making them less threatening and more positive.

Social Benefits of Laughter: Laughter connects us with others. Also, laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, and realize these benefits as well. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels, and perhaps improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more.

Sometimes laughter is, as they say, the best medicine. And here at PoopReport you will find plenty of things to laugh about, and maybe even have stories of your own to share so that we can laugh with you.

Thanks for asking Motherload!

Motherload is a Certified Nurse Assistant as well as an IBS sufferer, which means she knows a lot about poop. Got a question for her? Ask it here.

22 Comments on "stress and bowel habits"

healthy 1's picture
j 1000+ points

Yeah, 1st post. Stress effects the body in many ways. I am learning to not dwell on negative things as much. This is helping my IBS symptoms.
Jammin' lo'flo's since 1977.

"Two percent of the population think; three percent of the population think they think, and 95 percent of the population would rather die than think."

The Big Wiper's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Quality Moderatori 2000+ points

Traveling as frequently as I do over the years, I've noted that racing around trying to meet deadlines and keep appointments--sometimes in other states--can produce irregular symptons in my habits. Sometimes, things don't move as fast; and at other times, it's like drilling for oil. (None of this happens when I'm at home in my regular routine.)

I try to keep the hurry to a minimum, though. It's just that you can't control traffic delays sometimes, and your body interprets the mental stress you're feeling as an alert. Whatever is in the pipeline is going to be affected one way or another.

Pulling My Pants Down For Peace, Plop and Posterity!

Double Flush's picture
k 500+ points

I have noticed that stress does make pooping worse--it's either more urgent or I don't poop. Either way, something's wrong when I get stressed.

I'm so good at clogging up toilets, I can make mine back up when there's nothing in it.

[Insert witty banter here]

daphne's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardSite AdminComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatore 6000+ points

I've noticed that everything is also funnier after I've had several belts of bourbon. Therefore booze is good for my poop.

OK, so it's a reach, but I tried.

.....hugging bunnies since 1969

.....hugging bunnies since 1969

the log of hazzard's picture
l 100+ points

Stress affects bowels huh? After doing that quest on runescape, I now expect some diarheaa.

Some are born crappy, some achieve crappiness, and some have crapiness thrusted upon them. (Do NOT be the last one)

Fart Poopie's picture
j 1000+ points

Thank you, Motherload, for another great answer. I wholeheartedly agree that one should look for a reason to have a good laugh when they're feeling stressed. Laughter helps put worries and fears aside, even if for a short while, and sometimes helps to remind us of the good things we still have going for us. Life is never too bad if you can find reasons to laugh.
It's healthy. It feels good.

SamDamnit's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points

If some one "laughs their ass off", do they lose the ability to shit without a colostomy bag?
Sir SamDamnit!
The Emir of Crapistan
Join The Poop Reporter's Lounge

The Emir of Crapistan

Poonanza's picture
l 100+ points

Word up, when I went to basic, noone pood for about 2 weeks. We would all be exited, and tell each other about it in the common room after it finally happened. I still remember mine. Much to short to make a story though. I was escorting someone to the hospital, and we were sitting in the waiting room. I felt the urge like a Ding(for serious. Like a lightbulb turning on.), grinned at my comrade, and scooted to the can. It was very small, and very dark.

poophacker's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

Another spin on nerves and poop... I get nervous doing public speaking / small presentations at work and that "worry" stops the bowels until right at ground zero for the speaking event....then it's ahhhhh, I got to gooo! To boot, I'm a shaaaameful shitter at the home office. My solution is to get up extra early that day and move around alot.. not as good as laughter, I'm sure, but moving that body gets the morning constitution a'rolling so I don't have the freak-out at work w/ my gut a'boil. Stress is horrible for us shameful shitters!

Conquering the world, one poop at a time....

Conquering the world, one poop at a time....

Anonymous Coward's picture

I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and when I am under any kind of stress, I go at least 8 times a day. Usually more.

MSG's picture
Comment Quality Moderatori 2000+ points

I teach. I was very stressed today about a class, to which two extremely disruptive students were returning after a week's [blessed] absence. I must have worked myself up into a state. During the class, I exerted the most extreme control over the students that I have all year--and the class went very well. However, as it neared its end, I felt the familiar gut rumbles that forecast a mandatory evacuation. I made it through the class; then a boy came up and asked a question, as I felt my sphincter threatening to loosen. I finally made it to the men's room and had an excessively urgent movement, not quite diarrhea [definitely a 6 on the stool scale], but with cramps and weakness. About 40 minutes later I had to do it again--diarrhea that time, but not much volume. I hoped I wasn't getting sick--but then, since the offending class was over, my insides slowly settled down, and now I feel fine, even hungry. I attribute my two unexpected b.m.'s to nerves and stress. I have that class again tomorrow and Thursday, so I must address it with less stress.

MSG's picture
Comment Quality Moderatori 2000+ points

About ten days ago, on a Friday, two events occurred--one to me and one to my wife--that struck me as both stupid and dangerous, to the extent that I became really angry, and I stayed that way all afternoon because I had to make long and frustrating phone calls about my own issue. I had trouble going to sleep that night because I was still gnawing away mentally at the problems, and even in the morning I was still very concerned. My bowels did not move on schedule that Saturday morning in spite of my having eaten lots of fibrous stuff on Friday. Finally late Saturday afternoon I had a small, hard movement in two short lumpy pieces--a classic #2 on the Bristol Stool Scale. It took a couple of days to get back to more normal rhythm and b.m.'s. No question, this was the effect of stress.

stretched thin's picture

I am a married mother of two boys. One is 2 and the other is 3 months. On top of that I volunteer for 2 different organizations, work respite care and have recently started my own business. For the past couple of days I have been doubling over in pain because my gut feels like it's churning, or cramping. My poop looks like bile and I have been going a lot more than usual. Am I stressed out?? And if so, how long will being like this start to wear down my health?

ChiefThunderbutt's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatorf 5000+ points

stretched thin.....Don't bite off more than you can chew. Life is here to be enjoyed and believe me it doesn't take a lot of money to do that. Slow down and smell the flowers although you can occassionally expect a fart or, in your case, a soiled diaper.

Eat chilies and feel the burn!!

If I had two faces do you think I'd be wearing this one?

Anonymous Coward's picture

I have been known to go through bouts of abnormal bms. It crops up every few months with cramping and gas and I go more often than normal 2-3 times a day but not rhea. I attribute it to stress. I work a demanding job, have a demanding commute, and do alot on the side for my own interests and hobbies. Diet makes a difference when I go through these bouts. I am unfortunately in the midst of one now.

Does this thing have a plug?!'s picture

It's definitely stress. I'm in college, and it's currently finals week. Of course, during these times, Pepto and a bunch of bananas are my only friends. Always happens the day before a huge exam... so much so that I've begun keeping some study materials in the bathroom. The best thing to do is just take it easy- don't take it all too seriously. I know, it's easier said than done, but when your roommate begins questioning exactly why the hell you've been in the bathroom for a total of 4 hours today, it's time to change some things.

nervous pooper's picture

if everytime you have something major coming up, or even not so major, you get horrible butterflies and diarrhea, do you have anxiety problems?

Anonymous Coward's picture

I can count how many normal bowel movements I have had in the last 3-4 years, but recently I had an accident while hiking, I fell 10 feet on rocks and broke my pelvis, ribs and tore my spleen and was in a hospital for 21 days... what surprised me was that after the first week, my bowels were normal, my poop was nice and solid, it felt soooooo good. But now that I am home, still sitting and still unable to walk, my bowels have slowly returned (over the last 4 days) to a mess. I thought maybe it is my water so I bought reverse osmosis water, but no. I thought it was my marriage, so I told my husband that for health reasons we have to separate... he started trying alot, but for my bowels it is too late. I lost the nice solid poops I had in the hospital. In the hospital I was on morphine. I am wondering if the relaxed state morphine put me in made the difference. I wonder if there is some natural herb I could take that would relax me without harming my body so I could be normal in the poop department again.

underURbed's picture

everytime i go to school i get nervous and will have to go to the bathroom to poop i hate going to school its so embarrising and im afraid to go anywhere cause of this problem, i have to wake up super early like at 4am to poop as much as i can before school and it starts at 7:40am this sucks ._.

MSG's picture
Comment Quality Moderatori 2000+ points

Hello under: You don't give your age, but from your writing I estimate that you have a number of years of school left. Rather than spending that time in misery, make yourself learn to have your bowel movements at school. Get a restroom pass during a class so as to miss the rush at class change time. Even if someone else is there, go ahead and poop. Once you learn to do that, your anxieties will abate.

Anonymous's picture

God help me, I put aside a whole afternoon to fgiure this out.

Anonymous's picture

Enjoy the go! My bowels and bladder act up when I am nervous and menstruation makes it worse! I wonder if Kegel exercises would help to strengthen everything? In a behind-the-scenes of "The Wickerman" the late Edward Woodward said the goat in the structure got so nervous, it peed on him. I pee worse than a scared goat when I am nervous!

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