Life pressure, worries and daily challenges can cause a series of changes in bowel movements, which can lead to constipation.
Dealing with high stress levels for a long period triggers a physical response throughout your body, and the gut often takes the biggest hit.
2014 research confirmed that severe pressure could cause a change in bowel movement. Fortunately, there are various ways to relieve constipation from stress, including dealing with tension, changing your diet, and exercising.
The turning point in my life was finding that my chronic constipation was caused by my stressful life events.
Let’s learn more about why stress can cause constipation and what you can do to relax your bowels.
How does stress cause constipation?
Certain hormones like adrenaline and cortisol released when you are under pressure can slow down digestive processes and lead to constipation if the stress is prolonged.
Your body reacts to stress by releasing adrenaline, a vital part of the body’s natural response to triggering situations.
Adrenaline works by taking blood flow away from the intestines to vital organs like the brain, liver, and lungs.
When blood flow is reduced in the intestines, bowel movement will ultimately slow down as well. This can cause constipation when prolonged and even stomach pain in some severe cases.
When these hormones are released during stress, the amount of serotonin (a chemical that aids digestion) in the gut is considerably raised, leading to stomach spasms (like hiccups in the stomach). If these spasms are focused on just one area of the intestines, constipation will occur.
Prolonged stress can also cause inflammation of your digestive tract, triggering feelings of bloating and increasing constipation.
Stress eating can worsen constipation
Stress eating can make your constipation a lot worse. Many people try to manage their stress by eating meals that taste very sweet. Read:
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It is common to get sugar cravings and reach for a tub of ice cream instead of salad when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. However, indulging in bad eating habits will worsen your stress constipation and make it harder to find relief.
According to a 2015 study, unhealthy diets like processed foods, chips, frozen meals, etc., may worsen your constipation due to the lack of fibre. As we know, fibre is a natural substance that essentially helps stools stay soft, so they can move smoothly through the colon.
The hormones released during stress directly affect gut health and digestion, which can lead to constipation in severe and prolonged cases. Stress eating sugary and low fibre foods also aggravates constipation symptoms and stops you from pooping.
How did I relieve stress-induced constipation?
There are several ways to relieve constipation due to stress. However, you must first deal with the root cause of your constipation, which is stress.
When trying to clear bowels, many people choose over-the-counter remedies like laxatives, stool softeners, etc., as a remedy.
While these quick fixes work temporarily, they do not address the stress, which is the main cause of your constipation. It’s like putting a band-aid over cracked walls. Read:
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- Which Herbal Teas Should I Drink for Stress and Anxiety?
Herbal teas can be an excellent option for you to relieve stress, and as a result, they may help with constipation. Our Stress Relief Tea Anong, packed full of antioxidants and nutrients, will melt away stress and prevent it from returning.
Moreover, some remedies may be more effective when they fit your age and lifestyle. For example, a 40-year-old woman might relieve stress through yoga, while a 30-year-old might prefer relaxing baths. Depending on your age, certain solutions could be effective in managing your stress to avoid constipation.
Let’s have a look at a few.
Relieve stress constipation with dietary changes
You can get relief for stress constipation by changing your diet. Adding a certain amount of fiber to your diet or drinking some herbal teas is proven to help with your bowel movements.
Here are the most popular foods and drinks to help you poop immediately.
- Fresh fruits: Fruits like bananas, apples, raisins, etc., are high in fibre. They taste great and will make your stool softer for easy passage.
- Leafy vegetables: Raw vegetables, legumes and beans, also high in fibre, will ease your stress constipation and prevent it from happening again.
- Dandelion root tea: It can provide a smooth passage through the digestive tract and help you poop more frequently.
- Whole grains: Whole grains like oatmeal and wheat bran cereal are very high in fibre and help you relieve stress constipation.
- Kefir: This is a simple milk beverage that has fermented over time. It is rich in probiotics which are said to boost stool consistency and frequency, according to this 2014 study.
- Chamomile tea: It is an effective way to control bowel movements and help prevent constipation.
- Olive oil: Olive oil acts as a mild laxative and makes it easier for waste to flow through the colon for easy removal. You can add it to your smoothies for easy consumption.
- Aloe Vera juice: For some people, Aloe Vera can act as a laxative, a major ingredient in traditional laxative products.
- Kimchi: The cabbage in Kimchi helps promote healthy gut bacteria and removes waste due to its high fibre content.
- Prune juice: Prune juice is very popular and effective for constipation. It contains sorbitol which softens your stool and makes it easier to pass.
In addition, you have to stay hydrated at all times as fluids will soften your stool and increase bowel movement to ease your constipation. Read:
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- How to Cleanse Your Gut Naturally at Home
- The Best Natural Laxatives for Constipation
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For fast and efficient results, you should try to increase your daily water intake to 8 glasses or more.
Avoid certain foods for a more comfortable bowel movement
A diet low in fibre can worsen your constipation as it causes fewer bowel movements and smaller stools. You should avoid these certain foods below to make your bowels move better.
- Coffee/caffeinated drinks: Even though caffeine can trigger some bowel movement since it is a stimulant, it can also make you dehydrated, which can make your constipation worse. It’s just best to stick to water.
- Dairy: If you are already constipated, it is best to avoid dairy as it can cause gas and increase discomfort.
- Alcohol: Like caffeine, alcohol also causes dehydration and makes it harder to pass stool. If you have stress constipation, swap the drink for water or smoothies.
- Red meat: Red meat is low in fibre and high in fat. This combination slows bowel movement and is also bad for your constipation as fat takes longer to digest.
- Fried foods: Avoiding fried foods when you are constipated is a great idea as they are high in fat and low in fibre, which will worsen your situation.
- Fast foods: You cannot afford to eat fast or processed foods when you are constipated as they are mostly very low in fibre and will not prompt any bowel movement.
- Eggs: Eggs are very high in protein which is good for you, but unfortunately, they won’t ease your constipation due to their low fibre content. Add a high fibre food like spinach to your eggs for better relief.
- Cupcakes: Fatty foods like cupcakes, pastries, and other treats have low fibre and fluid content, which are no good if you are trying to trigger a bowel movement.
- White bread: White bread will give you nothing but very hard and dry stools. The flour used to make this food has a very low fibre content and only worsen your constipation.
- Unripe bananas: Green, unripe bananas are very constipating and make it harder for you to get relief. Instead, opt for bananas that have fully ripened as these have high levels of soluble fibre that aid bowel movement.
What exercises can relieve stress constipation?
We asked 18.031 women "What is your favourite activity to relieve stress*".
|ACTIVITY||AGE 20-29||AGE 30-39||AGE 40-49||AGE 50+|
|Taking Deep Breaths||4%||3%||3%||7%|
|Short Outdoor Walks||12%||15%||29%||28%|
*Newsletter survey conducted in February 2022 by sending an email to 18.031 women aged 20-72 years living in Australia and New Zealand
According to this 2017 study, exercising is a great tool to reduce stress and other stress-related ailments, like constipation. Exercise also keeps the digestive tract in great shape, so everything moves as it’s supposed to.
Certain exercises can relieve stress constipation. Just trying some simple movements every day will go a long way to trigger a bowel movement. Read:
- Super Simple Ways to Relieve Bloating Caused by Constipation
- How Can I Completely Clear My Bowels?
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Here are some key exercises that will ease your stress constipation.
Cardio to improve intestinal movements
Whether by dancing, walking, jogging, or running, frequent movement will increase heart rate and blood flow and stimulate your stomach muscles.
Also, cardio makes you very thirsty, forcing you to drink more water, ultimately improving intestinal movements and easing your constipation.
You can begin by taking short walks at your average pace, then increasing your speed as you get more comfortable. Bike rides are also very effective for constipation relief.
Be careful not to do too much too soon, but take your time with it and spread short walks across your day.
Yoga may help relieve stress-induced constipation
Yoga not only helps you relax when stressed, but this 2016 study also suggests that it may have some positive effect on constipation when combined with some of the other common remedies.
You don’t have to be expert in yoga to get relief from stress constipation; instead, even beginners can get full benefits when done correctly.
Follow these steps below to practice the wind-relieving pose, a great beginner yoga posture for stress constipation.
- Lay flat on your back and keep your spine straight.
- Raise your right leg and lift it towards your chest while keeping your knee bent.
- With your arms, pull the right leg to the right, stay in this pose for about 20 seconds and release.
- Repeat this for the left side of your body as well.
Lunges to ease constipation
Lunges stimulate your lower back and pelvic area which causes movement in that region.
When done repeatedly, this exercise might bring some relief for constipation, and it is elementary to begin.
- With your upper body in a straight position, while looking straight ahead, push one leg forward and bring your hips to a lower position until they are at a 90-degree angle with both knees.
- Keep your front knee not too far away from your ankle but directly above it and ensure the other knee is not too close to the floor.
- Push back to the starting position while your weight is placed on your heels and repeat on each leg about five times.
You can relieve stress constipation by getting rid of your stress through various means like meditation, yoga, etc. Changing your diet to foods high in fibre while avoiding fatty foods will also give you relief from constipation. Certain exercises like light cardio, yoga, and lunges can also help ease constipation and give you lasting relief.
What kind of doctor should I see for constipation?
Suppose your constipation has lasted for about five days to a week despite trying different home remedies, or you are experiencing some abdominal pain. In that case, you should see a general practice doctor.
A doctor with an in-depth knowledge of your medical history would be the better option.
Since consultations are often brief, having your symptoms, history, medications you’re on, or anything you feel the doctor should know written down will help you get help faster.
If your doctor suspects that your constipation is severe or more advanced, you will be referred to a gastroenterologist (digestive disorders specialist).
This expert will assess you more closely to check for any abnormalities and come up with a lasting solution to your constipation.
Remember to ask the doctor certain questions about your stress constipation and what your treatment options are.
The more you know, the better prepared you are if it happens again.
A general practice doctor will be able to assess your constipation and offer remedies. However, in severe cases of constipation, a digestive disorders specialist should be consulted as well.
The bodies’ natural response to stress affects overall gut health, which can lead to various gastrointestinal problems, with constipation being one of the most common ones.
For relief from stress constipation, dealing with the stress is the first step, and there are many ways to do this, depending on your age group and lifestyle.
Certain foods also aggravate your stress constipation, and you must avoid them if you want any relief.
Eating meals high in fibre and probiotics while staying hydrated and doing exercises are other ways to ease constipation.