Can Stress Cause Constipation?

Does your stomach seem to fill with butterflies whenever you’re nervous or worried? That’s your gut communicating with the rest of your body, responding to your thoughts and feelings. This phenomenon — the gut-brain axis — can trigger digestive issues like constipation when you’re stressed. 

The information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.

What’s Making You Stresstipated?

While stress is typically associated with worrying or feeling overwhelmed by a difficult situation, it isn't just a mental state. Stress can also be physical, triggered by endurance and high-intensity exercise, illness, injury or lack of sleep.

No matter what causes your stress, your body reacts by going into fight, flight or freeze mode, releasing hormones in response. And when stress is prolonged, it can interfere with your digestive process, wreaking havoc on the ecosystem in your gut.

How Stress Can Cause Constipation

Research confirms that both physical and mental stress can contribute to digestive upset, including constipation. Here’s why.

How to Avoid Stress Constipation

Are you experiencing difficult thoughts, emotions or situations that are causing stress constipation? While self-care may seem like the last thing you have time for, these strategies can help you end the uncomfortable cycle of constipation and stress.

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Improve Your Diet

Staying hydrated and eating unprocessed, high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains can nourish your body and help keep you regular.

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Move Your Body

Regular exercise encourages motion in the intestines and helps reduce day-to-day stress levels. Cardiovascular activity, core exercises and yoga poses that involve twisting and bending all help encourage digestion. Remember, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine.

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Limit Unhealthy Indulgences

Alcohol, cigarettes and high-sugar, high-fat foods can all increase the risk of constipation and stress.

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Make Mindfulness a Routine

Daily journaling, meditation, yoga or reading can help relieve stress. So can spending time in nature or another environment you find relaxing.

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Don’t Force It

Sometimes all you need is a little more time. Don’t try to force your body to have a bowel movement — it may just lead to more stress.

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Work with a Therapist

If you are dealing with prolonged or recurrent stress, professional therapy can help you identify its causes and learn methods to manage it.

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Try MiraLAX®

If you need occasional relief from stress constipation, try an osmotic laxative like MiraLAX®, which works with the water in your body to gently get your bowels moving without unpleasant side effects like cramping, bloating, gas and sudden urgency.

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    2. Chang Y, El-Zaatari M, Kao JY. Does stress induce bowel dysfunction? Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014;8(6): 583-585. Accessed March 10, 2023. doi: 10.1586/17474124.2014.911659.

    3. You and Your Hormones. Updated January 2017. Accessed March 10, 2023.

    4. Camilleri M. Leaky gut: Mechanisms, measurement and clinical implications in humans. Gut. 2019;68(8): 1516-1526. Accessed March 10, 2023. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-318427.

    5. Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. Updated July 8, 2021. Accessed March 10, 2023.