We've all been there: you've got a job interview, or a presentation to give at work, or a million and one things to do in the day and then it hits you. You've got the runs, or you're constipated, and your day just went to shit.
Dealing with anxiety on any given day is tough, but add stress poo on top of that and you just want to give up.
But, as a new report in Self.com notes, getting the runs or constipation is actually pretty normal when one is stressed out.
"Many people have that experience where stress causes irregularity of their bowels," Kyle Staller, M.D., M.P.H., a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the website.
But just because it's common doesn't mean that you can't prevent it from happening on those days when you need everything to go right.
According to Dr. Staller, the reason why you feel stress in your stomach is because your brain and gut talk to each other.
"Your gastrointestinal tract has many nerves and is a nervous system organ much like the brain," he said. "The brain can impact what's going on in the gastrointestinal tract, and vice versa."
So when you're stressed out, it actually causes spasms in your gut, reports Self. "If the spasms are widespread, your whole colon is contracting, everything will move along quickly, and you'll experience diarrhea. However, if the spasms are only happening in one area, it can hold everything up and aggravate constipation."
If the spasms are widespread, your whole colon is contracting, everything will move along quickly, and you'll experience diarrhea.
But although constipation is concerning (and truly sucks for those who know what it's like being stuck on the toilet trying to get anything to come out), diarrhea is actually far more common when you're stressed.
If you're prone to getting diarrhea, the more likely you are to get it when you're tense or upset, reports Self — and the same goes for constipation.
"Stress will push you toward your usual default," Dr. Staller said.
Stress will push you toward your usual default.
Eating greasy food, as well as drinking copious amounts of coffee and tea, also doesn't help your stomach when you're dealing with stress. Certain foods, such as chocolate, can stimulate your gut, and if you're already tense, this can lead to messy poop.
When you are feeling stressed and anxious, try to avoid eating and drinking stuff you know will make your stomach feel even worse. Instead, drink lots of water and eat healthy foods, such as vegetables. Doing this will ease unwanted pressure on your gut, and will make diarrhea and constipation less of a threat.
Self also notes that you can try over-the-counter medication to either curb diarrhea or to relax your bowels. However, if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and stress makes it worse, they recommend low-dose anti-depressants, which can help treat your gut. However, always talk to your doctor about all available options before trying any medication.
Meditation, yoga, and other stress-reducing techniques can also help relieve your gut when you're feeling particularly crummy.
When you know you're going to have a stressful day, Reader's Digest recommends you start your day off with a quick relaxing meditation, as a hectic morning can make you feel more anxious.
"Wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual. Find a quiet place to sit and close your eyes. Tilt your head toward your heart and follow your breathing, feeling each breath open your heart and enliven your brain with oxygen," RD says.
Tilt your head toward your heart and follow your breathing, feeling each breath open your heart and enliven your brain with oxygen.
"Feel gratitude for another day with the people you love. Aim for a rewarding day. Tell yourself you'll be positive and peaceful, no matter what happens."
If you're already feeling anxious, RD says you can get rid of stress in three minutes by sitting on the ground, closing your eyes, and taking deep breaths.
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