Anxiety is a mental health issue that can wreak havoc in your life. It often ends up with you being scared of harmless things such as deadlines, exam results, and job interviews. In simple terms, anxiety makes your body go into a fight-or-flight mode and makes you believe you’re under attack. This can lead to a full-blown anxiety attack which leaves you gasping for breath, trembling, and sweating while being unable to focus on solving the problem.
Thanks to social media, there’s finally some dialogue about how to cope with it. And quite awkwardly, there’s something else about anxiety that is being talked about: that it makes you poop.
If you’re panicking about something, feeling exceptionally anxious, and thinking how your life is in shambles only to face the added issue of diarrhea, you’re not alone. This was once an embarrassing issue but turns out—it is quite common. In fact, pooping or altered bowel movement is a physical symptom of anxiety.
So, why does it happen?
Turns out, our brain and stomach have a strong bond which means that when one is affected, the other one is quick to react.
You must have noticed that falling in love often ends up giving you butterflies in your tummy? Love has a lot to do with the brain and looking at the person you’ve fallen for makes your brain happy which gives you a fuzzy feeling in your stomach. Similarly, when your brain is feeling anxious, your stomach also feels the panic and makes you want to poop!
We talked to Dr Praveen Gupta, Director & HOD, Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI), Gurugram to gain some clarity on how anxiety affects our bowel movements.
And he says: “The brain is responsible for sending signals to different parts of the body and hence, plays an important role in keeping all the systems of our body running smoothly. Now, the digestive system is no different. So, when you’re feeling anxious, your neuroendocrine system experiences changes, and this in turn causes changes in the enzymes of your digestive systems. This affects the mobility of the intestine. In fact, a lot of people who have anxiety also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).”
Dr Gupta also says that once you’ve taken care of the root cause of your anxiety and feel more at peace mentally, your digestive system will also go back to functioning normally. That is until the next pang of anxiety hits you.
All in all, your bowel movements and anxiety are interrelated
If you are experiencing anxiety, in all likelihood you can also end up suffering from digestion-related troubles such as acidity, stomach cramps, and in some cases, even constipation.
But, how can you deal with it? By managing your anxiety. Try to destress and meditate to bring your anxiety under control. If interventions such as a healthy diet, mindfulness, and exercise don’t help—and you feel that you are suffering at the hands of frequent anxiety attacks, don’t hesitate to consult a mental health professional.