How stress triggers constipation

When you’re stressed due to a busy schedule or hectic lifestyle, it can have a strong impact on your bodily functions — including your digestive system.

How stress triggers occasional constipation

When you feel stressed, your body releases certain hormones that trigger a “fight-or-flight” response. These hormones may alter bowel functions, which can contribute to occasional constipation. 

Different types of stressors that can impact our bodies include:

Day-to-day stressors
Problematic situations can happen, even when you try to avoid them. When they do — whether it be stress caused by personal relations, big life changes, or times of uncertainty — your body might react to the stress and become stopped up.

Work-related stress
You job can be stressful at times and have a direct impact on your gut health. When you’re stressed, intestinal movement slows down and constipation can occur.

Mental health
Anxiety and depression can be triggers that cause certain gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation. If you think you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, please talk to your healthcare professional.

Sleep deprivation
Lack of sleep can have an impact on your bowel functions. When the body is lacking rest, you might feel bloated or have a general sense of discomfort. 

How stress affects your body

When you’re stressed, your body reacts internally. Stress can cause changes in your body like:

Second brain disruption (gut-brain axis)
Millions of nerves line the digestive tract. They help control the digestion of food. In periods of stress, disruption to the gut-brain connection (also known as the gut-brain axis) can reduce the speed at which your food is moving through the gastrointestinal tract, leading to constipation.

Abdominal fullness
You may experience bloating caused by intestinal permeability — how easily substances pass through the intestinal wall. This allows inflammatory compounds to come into the intestines, which can cause a bloated feeling.

Body reaction
When experiencing high levels of stress, your body releases adrenaline. The body goes into survival mode and diverts the blood flow toward vital organs such as the heart, lungs, or brain. As a result, less blood flows to your digestive system, causing intestinal movements to slow down.

Tips and tricks to reduce stress

If you find yourself constantly feeling stressed, try to make a few adjustments in your day-to-day life. Take note of your stressors, remove them, and see how your body reacts to the changes. When you reduce stress in your life, you can feel more at ease in your body.

Get some physical activity
Your body needs regular physical activity. You don’t need a big change to your schedule — try taking a half-hour walk a few times a week. Moving on the outside might get things moving on the inside. 

Take care of yourself
Set aside time for you. Try self-care and self-love routines so you — and your body — can relax. Simple actions can make a big difference: try unwinding with a bath, listening to some jazz music, reading your favorite book, or mindfully meditating.

Professional help
Sudden and prolonged stressful periods that trigger occasional constipation and discomfort can be a message from your body telling you to slow down. If you’re having consistent issues with stress, anxiety, or depression, please consult your healthcare professional.

Stay informed

Occasional constipation is a common condition with a wide range of possible causes. We know how unpredictable and frustrating constipation can be, so we are here to help you identify the possible causes and learn how to address them.