Stress and Constipation
by Dr. Edward F. Group III
In the busy world of today, almost
no one can escape the effects of stress on the body. Many health
conditions are caused or exacerbated by stress. Constipation is
There are two major ways in which stress can affect
constipation. First, stress causes us to make lifestyle choices
that are unhealthy for the intestinal tract. Secondly, stress
can directly cause patterns of digestion.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stress and Constipation
So many of the choices we make each day will impact our health.
When we’re busy and stressed, we tend not to take care of our
Being busy can cause many to wait to go to the bathroom.
Delaying a bowel movement is one of the most common reasons that
people become constipated.
A stressful schedule can also lead many people to eat on the
run. Most “fast-food” diets include large portions of meat, fat,
and soda and very few portions of vegetables, whole grains, and
water. This type of diet can often lead to stress and
People often skip meals and eat hurriedly, not taking the time
to chew their food. Because a regular schedule of eating leads
to regular bowel movements, irregular eating can lead to
problems with stress and constipation.
Direct Effects of Stress and Constipation
The nervous system is very sensitive to stress. Constipation may
be a direct result of changes in the nervous system during
Normal bowel movements are a result of complicated nervous
system signals. Too much stress can cause an interruption of
these signals that will affect many parts of the digestive
tract. It can slow the intestinal movements that result in bowel
Preventing Stress-Related Constipation
If you have constipation as a result of stress, there are many
options that you can choose to help prevent this problem.
Exercise can be a great stress-reliever and has the added
benefit of promoting healthy digestion. It may seem like just
one more thing to add to your schedule, but it will be worth it.
Planning meals ahead of time can help with some constipation
problems. Instead of skipping meals, keep healthy snacks on hand
for busy days.
If you have to eat on the run, choose options with healthier
meals. Many fast food restaurants are offering healthy options
that include lean meat and vegetables.
Keep water with you at all times. If you have a bottle of water
on your desk or in the car, you’ll be more likely to stay
If you’re suffering from severe symptoms of constipation as a
result of stress, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare
provider. Together you can come up with a solution to improve
both your physical health and your mental health.