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Is Stress or Anxiety a Factor in Causing Diarrhea?

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The body is wired to react to stress. When you feel stressed and anxious, your nervous system responds by releasing adrenaline and cortisol (a stress hormone), stimulating your body for action. Your blood pressure increases, you feel more alert, and your senses become sharper.

Doctors and scientists have established a powerful connection between stress and its effects on the body. And one of such effects is diarrhea.

Stress is detrimental enough, but experiencing gastrointestinal upset when you’re frazzled is just terrible. Sadly, it happens! If you get stress-related diarrhea when things get crazy, don’t fret because you’re not the only one. A lot of people experience a change in bowel habits (especially diarrhea) when they’re stressed.

Defining Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a fairly common yet unpleasant experience. It is characterized by loose or watery stool, abdominal cramps, and frequent bowel movements. A mild case of diarrhea could last a few days, while acute cases last for about 3 weeks. In severe cases, chronic diarrhea can last as long as a month or more. 

Barring chronic diarrhea, it is pretty easy to pinpoint why you’re having stomach cramps and an inpatient bowel. It could be the unfamiliar rich or exotic meal you had for dinner. It could also be a stomach virus or a symptom of stress and anxiety. But how does stress relate to a bout of diarrhea? Let’s find out, shall we?

The Connection Between Stress and Diarrhea

Stress and your gut are connected more than you realize. First, stress affects the muscles in the bowels and intestines. This can affect the ability of intestines to filter out harmful gut bacteria. Two out of three times, the immune system runs to the rescue with inflammatory responses. 

However, when you are stressed over a long period, your intestines keep messing up their filtration duties. Your nervous system reacts with more inflammatory responses, which can lead to a mild diarrhea case. 

The most common connection between chronic stress and diarrhea is hormonal changes. In response to stress, a psychological reaction occurs (Fight-or-Flight Response). This response activates the release of hormones that gets the body ready to take action.

At the same time, your brain sends a signal to your bowels to increase bowel movement in the large intestine. This leads to a mild case of diarrhea. 

Treating Diarrhea Caused by Stress

Stress-related diarrhea is simply a symptom of stress and anxiety and not a disease on its own. While considering treatments, don’t treat the symptoms alone. Treat the underlying cause, which is chronic stress in this case.

  • Change Your Diet

Avoid foods that may cause diarrhea. Examples include carbonated drinks, beverages, and dairy products.

  • Manage Stress Properly

 If you’re suffering from diarrhea, think about what might have triggered stress and prevent them. Use your free time to relax, meditate, read a book, or listen to music.

When to See a Doctor

When it comes to the causes of diarrhea, stress may seem like the exception. However, stress has a direct impact on Gastrointestinal (GI) motility, and this research proves it. 

If the home treatments aren’t yielding results and if the condition is affecting your daily activities, contact us at the Beverly hills center for digestive health to make an appointment. Treatments are available, and we can help you prevent this problem.

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