Do you find yourself wanting to visit the loo whenever you come across any bad news or before any stressful event like a big presentation at work or an exam? If your answer is yes, then what you are suffering from is referred as anxiety poop and this pooping when stressed occurs to many of us all the time.
Why Does One Poop When Anxious Or Stressed?
Acute anxiety causes digestive problems, such as nausea, constipation and diarrhea. This happens because your brain and your gut are linked. Anxiety poop is the result of your body’s reaction to acute stress.
What Causes Anxiety Poop?(10)
Studies have shown that high stressful situations cause problems with the digestive system triggering abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation.
These triggers from anxiety differ from one person to another; however, the important thing to remember is that the body’s response is associated with gut-brain axis.(1) Lot of anxiety and stress causes increase in hormones, such as serotonin, adrenaline and cortisol and these hormones trigger the gut to produce physical symptoms, such as constipation, nausea or watery stools.
When it comes to anxiety poop, serotonin is especially important. Serotonin is a hormone and a neurotransmitter, which is linked with peristaltic reflex (passage of food through the GI tract). When a person experiences heightened anxiety resulting in increased serotonin, this leads to produce spasms throughout the colon resulting in unexpected pooping.
Other than the stress hormones, anxiety poop is also thought to be connected to the nervous system; especially the vagus nerve.(10) Vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve present in the body and is responsible for a wide range of signals from the organs and the digestive system to the brain and vice versa.
Vagus nerve problems can cause anxiety from imbalances in the neurotransmitters and this further cause increase in the movement of the gut resulting in pooping.
How to Calm Your Anxious Stomach?
Anxiety-induced poop is not something which someone likes to experience. However, there are some ways where the effects of anxiety and stress on the digestive system resulting in pooping can be reduced.
Foods to Soothe Your Anxious Stomach(2)
It is important to avoid foods that cause irritation to your gut. Instead consume gentler foods, which will calm your stomach as well as anxiety and these foods are:
- Brassica, like kale and broccoli.
- Gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, oats and buckwheat.
- Incorporate olive oil for cooking your food.
- Drink only caffeine-free teas, such as turmeric, peppermint and chamomile teas.
- Consume more of probiotic-rich foods, such as fermented foods, kefir and Greek yogurt.
A review in 2017 showed that probiotics are also beneficial in treating anxiety.(3) Another review in 2019 has shown that olive oil has anti-inflammatory effects for inflammatory bowel disease.(4)
A study done in 2017 showed that consuming a plant-based gluten-free diet along with mindfulness techniques and daily exercise helps improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression and this in turn helps with reduction in anxiety poop.(5) In this study, the participants also had to cut out refined sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
Things to Avoid for Preventing Anxiety Poop(6)
It is important to reduce inflammatory drinks and foods to help counter the effects of anxiety on the digestive tract. Foods and drinks to avoid when suffering from anxiety related pooping are: sugar rich foods, processed foods; refined carbohydrates; spicy foods; alcohol; caffeine; soda and sugary drinks.
All these food items cause increase in the inflammation, which makes your gut more susceptible to digestive problems like bloating and diarrhea.
Drinking water with electrolytes helps in replacing the depleted minerals like potassium and sodium lost in pooping when under high stress. These important minerals can also be replaced by eating water-rich veggies and fruits, such as peaches, tomato, and cucumber along with supplemented beverages.
Mindful Eating For Calming Your Anxious Stomach
A review in 2019 showed that mindful eating helps better the digestive function.(7) The practice of mindful eating helps in decreasing the negative effect of the anxiety and stress on digestion.
Some of the ways for start mindful eating are:
Be Calm; Eat & Chew Slowly
When you chew your food slowly and are more aware of what you are eating, then it easily break downs the food and this makes it easier to digest. Chewing slowly and with more time helps in concentrating on what you are eating and gives a sense of awareness and calmness. It is recommended to chew each mouthful about 30 times along with putting down fork and knife when chewing and taking deep breaths between your bites.
Meditating Before Eating
Meditating before every meal benefits by relaxing the nervous system. You can try guided meditation and also incorporate breathing exercises before eating or whenever you feel stressed or anxious.
Eat in Calm & Soothing Environment
Always consume your meals in a calm environment. Before sitting down for a meal, always remove any sort of electronic gadgets from the table and even try putting your phone in another room. Do not keep anything on your dining table that is not related to eating. Using special utensils and lighting some candles on the dining table can create a soothing eating environment and reduce your anxiety and thus making your mealtime a relaxing ritual.
Be More Aware of your Food & Engage Your Taste Buds
While eating slowly, also observe all the different tastes and textures of every mouthful that you are eating. This is a vital part of mindful eating practice. Dong this stimulates secretion of saliva and thus making it easy to digest your meal.(8) This mindful eating practice also increases your sense of gratitude; makes you appreciate food more and reduces stress levels.
Let a piece of chocolate melt in your mouth or suck on a fresh piece of lemon to appreciate the different flavor and textures such as sweet, sour, bitter etc.
In case of severe digestive problems, it is better to avoid sugary, caffeinated, spicy and sour foods.
Reduce Your Anxiety With These Activities
Try engaging in any activities that relax you to prevent anxiety poop. Different hobbies and activities help in decreasing stress hormones in the body thus relieving your anxiety. One should try to do the following regularly or daily: moderate exercise; yoga; journaling; positive affirmations; music therapy; warm bath with Epsom salts; and creative activities, such as knitting, painting or baking.
Anxiety Poop: When Should You Consult Your Doctor?
If you are suffering from persistent episodes of anxiety poop, then it could indicate chronic irritable bowel syndrome that worsens with anxiety and high stress.
Anxiety poop can also be due to some other underlying condition. Some of the signs to look out for and that need medical attention are:
- Black, tar-colored stool.
- Blood in the stool.
- Very foul-smelling, pale colored, floating stool.
- Unexplained and unintentional weight loss.
When experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is imperative to seek medical advice immediately.
Pooping when under stress and extreme anxiety or anxiety poop is quite a common reaction to extremely stressful situations. However, this can be managed with mindfulness and relaxation techniques, as stress is the cause of anxiety poop. Dietary changes also go a long way in managing the bouts of pooping from anxiety. If your conditions worsens or is accompanied with other symptoms, then it is time to consult your doctor for proper treatment.