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Does stress cause constipation and why?

Chronic and sporadic stress disrupt regular bowel movements and contribute to constipation. Adding fiber, fluids, and laxatives to alleviate constipation makes it worse, and perpetuates stress even more. The information on this page will help you break this vicious cycle.


Yes, it does, and very significantly.

First, ongoing low-level stress and anxiety suppress the gastrocolic reflex — an unconscious action by the gastrointestinal tract that precedes a bowel movement;

Cause and effect: This happens for several, biological, evolutionary, and personality-type reasons. According to researchers, personality “accounted for about as much variance in stool output as did dietary fiber.” And from what we already know about fiber‘s profound laxative effective, that‘s saying a lot! As you can see, following the “don‘t worry, be happy” advice stands true for constipation as well.

Second, people in moderate-stress situations, such as weddings, entrance exams, lawsuits, job problems, and endless others tend to suppress the urge to move their bowels;

Cause and effect: If you let the stress to interrupt essential bathroom breaks, you turn yourself into what is known as a “tight ass” personality-type! Tight ass once, tight ass twice, and constipation becomes life‘s permanent companion! It happens because suppressing bowel movements, even once, enlarges and hardens up stools. In turn, larger stools necessitate straining. Straining leads to enlarged internal hemorrhoids and anorectal nerve damage. This causes incomplete emptying, that makes stools even larger, and —… Bingo! You are reading this transcript…

Third, a truly high stress situation often causes diarrhea that, in turn, disrupts bowel movements and results in constipation;

Cause and effect: I explain the reasons behind this phenomenon here. But that is usually not the end of it, because diarrhea causes the disruption of bowel movements, contributes to nerve damage, enlarged hemorrhoids, and may lead to inflammatory bowel disease, that, in turn, sets up an alternating pattern of diarrhea and constipation for the rest of one‘s shortened life.

Fourth, many people under stress seek relief by taking medication for depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, or simply self-medicate themselves with illicit drugs or alcohol;

Cause and effect: All of these lifestyle enhancers not only blunt life‘s stresses, but also the entire GI tract, and that is why constipation is one of the most prominent side effects of mood-enhancing drugs, whether prescription or illicit. Alcohol action is even worse — it dehydrates stools and suppresses intestinal peristalsis all at once.

All of the above equally applies to infants, toddlers, children, adults, and particularly to seniors, who are already affected by many other problems related to constipation.

Sorry, I can‘t help you to reduce stress, but eliminating constipation certainly will take the brunt of it!

To learn more about the connection between stress and constipation, and how to prevent or reverse stress-related constipation, please visit this page for additional information.

Good luck!

Miralax Safety Alert


Stress tends to recede and go away, but not constipation. Once it hits you, it tends to linger for the rest of your life, and to get more severe with each passing year for reasons I explain on The Bulls' S..t In The China Shop page.

Here is what you can do to prevent this from happening to you:

Since moving the bowels is mainly a subconscious process — consciousness can only interrupt the bowel movement already in progress, — it may mean that you are suppressing the 'emerging' urge to move the bowels while under stress. Therefore, be aware of this distinct possibility, and don't do it.

In general, getting constipated while under stress suggests that you are already affected by latent constipation. In this case, you should follow the steps outlined here: No Downsize, Just Upside-down to eliminate latent constipation.

If you don't have time or inclination to study this site, or under too much duress to tackle 'crapology,' start from using all or some of the components of the Colorectal Recovery Kit to eliminate immediate constipation, as well as to begin the process of healing and reconditioning the bowel. The actual choice of components depends on the severity and duration of your constipation, and related factors described on the accompanying pages.

If am not big fun of 'fixing' up stress with neither pharmaceuticals nor nutraceuticals, because these substances either numb your mind, or to mask the side-effects of stress, while the stress itself and your responses to it remains unchanged. On top, almost all of these 'remedies' suppress involuntary muscle control and nerve function — the two functions absolutely critical for having regular and unassisted bowel movements.

It is a well-established fact that some people respond to exact same stressful event less or not at all, while some — a great deal stronger.  This means that it isn't the stress event alone that is the sole culprit behind health-related problems, but the ways your mind processes it.

A good example is your perception of encountering a police cruiser while driving. If you aren't speeding, running the red light, or driving without insurance, you are only happy to see the caps watching out for your safety. If, on the other hand, you are guilty of any of the above infraction, you are likely experiencing a knot in the gut — a common adjunct of stressful events. Same trigger, different circumstances, and a completely opposite mental reaction.

Obviously, it is best to avoid infraction of any kind. Since it isn't always possible — you don't chose a boss who is a jerk, or anticipate a late plane, or a crying child aboard, or a stolen laptop,  — God, these things are endless, — you may as well train your mind to process stress events without destroying yourself in the process. This skill will not only protect your heart and mind from accelerated wear-and-tear, but also your bowels.

How do you do this kind of training? Well, you may try getting yourself enrolled into the CIA or KGB program for spies, and they'll teach you mind conditioning techniques by essentially, exposing you repeatedly to high stress events, and desynthesizing your perceptions and reactions. Their approach is crude, but effective, especially for young recruits. 

If you are too old for that, or fail the admission test, or don't have the appetite for the James Bond's lifestyle, enroll yourself into the yoga class, and learn conscious mind control through breathing, mediation, relaxation, and thought-vectoring techniques.

If you are a good, diligent student, you may discover the nirvana in the bathroom even without my help. And if not, then click here.

Good luck,

Konstantin Monastyrsky