What goes in your brain doesn’t just stay there. There are neurotransmitters, chemicals, and hormones that travel from the top of your head all the way down through your system, making changes along the way. So if you’re especially stressed about something in your life, you could potentially be facing some troubles in the bathroom as well.
There are more doctors and experts than ever before talking about the connection between our gut and our brain. We’re starting to understand why people with conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome are more prone to stress than someone who doesn’t have it. But what about the other way around? Can the anxiety in our head cause a shift in our digestion below?
In short, yes, but it should do so only temporarily. If you feel like you’re seeing any significant changes in this department, it’s best to talk to your doctor. Any weird differences that last for more than few days might point to a condition that needs to be addressed.
In the meantime, if you’re feeling all the feelings, here’s how your poop might also share that emotional burden.
You might get constipated
Not being able to go when you want to — and probably very much need to — can be a problem for people who struggle with anxiety issues. There are a lot of neurotransmitters in your brain, like serotonin, that are associated with feeling happy and content. Once those are disrupted, messages get sent from your brain to your gut, and it’s suddenly hard to get a bowel movement out.
While there isn’t very much definitive research on the brain-gut connection yet, many experts do say the correlation is very real, and it’s not uncommon for things to get plugged up when you’re not feeling your very best.
You have diarrhea
Stress, or any other intense feelings you’re harboring for that matter, can affect your trips to the bathroom by messing with your body’s natural digestion process. It may speed everything up, resulting in your body processing water and food too fast. Next thing you know, you’re hit with an unpleasant case of diarrhea.
Diarrhea that lasts for more than a couple days is probably indicative of something more serious, so don’t wait to schedule an appointment with your doctor. If it just lasts a day, though, and you know you’ve been stressed lately, you can likely just chalk it up to that.
Your stool turns yellow
There are some times that yellow stool is the result of a gastrointestinal disease, but usually it’s just because you’ve got too much stress in your life. Check with your doctor just to be sure, though.
When you’re anxious, your body sends a bunch of fluids coursing through your body. This is due to your sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. Stress also causes slight hormonal changes that make the intestines temporarily do strange things they’ve never done before.
While these changes are temporary in nature, the combination of them causes a buildup of bilirubin, a chemical from the liver, and fat, resulting in a yellow or yellowish-green color to stare up at you from the toilet bowl.
You have sudden urges to go that you never had before
If you’re going through a particularly difficult time in your life, and stress has been your constant friend, you may wrestle with the “I gotta go now!” monster. Even if you’ve already moved your bowels that morning, or it’s at a time of day in which you never go the bathroom, you could be presented with the sudden urge.
This is a very common symptom of anxiety. Remember how your “fight or flight” response has sent all those fluids running free in your body? Well, they’re building up pressure, which makes it feel urgent. If you’re really stressed, the anal sphincter may have trouble holding itself in place, and you really do need to get yourself to a toilet.
If your symptoms are present for more than a few days, it’s definitely a good idea to talk to a professional (aka, your doctor) about them!