Stress and Constipation: Understanding the Connection & What You Can Do

Chronic constipation is a common complaint among many patients. While there are several potential causes for this condition, one of them is stress.

Work, financial situation, relationships, and school are just a few of the situations that can lead to stress. All of us go through it! It’s important to understand the connection between stress and constipation so you can manage your symptoms.

Let’s take a look at why stress impacts bowel function and what you can do to reduce its effects.

How Stress Impacts Bowel Function

Stress can have a significant impact on bowel function, and it is a common trigger for digestive disorders such as constipation.

The brain and gut are tightly connected -stress can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which can slow down or disrupt the digestive process. When stress is chronic, the body may produce excess cortisol, a hormone that can cause inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining, leading to further digestive problems.

Additionally, stress can alter the gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms that live inside the digestive tract and play a crucial role in digestion and immune function. This can distrupt the balance of gut bacteria, which may contribute to chronic constipation and other digestive disorders. Learning how to manage stress through relaxation techniques, exercise, and other stress-reducing activities is an important part of treating chronic constipation.

What You Can Do to Manage Stress

The good news is that there are several things you can do to reduce stress and help alleviate constipation symptoms. Here are just a few tips:

  • Exercise regularly – Exercise helps lower cortisol levels and releases endorphins, which can boost your mood (and regular exercise has been linked with increased digestive health). Aim for 30 minutes of activity five days per week or more, if possible.

  • Practice deep breathing– Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for restoring calmness in the body and mind after experiencing stressful situations. Try taking 10 deep breaths each day when you feel stressed out or overwhelmed.
    WebMd gives practical tips on what you can do today – Breathing Techniques for Stress Relief

  • Eat healthy foods – Eating healthy foods helps regulate blood sugar levels and support overall health, both of which can help reduce stress levels over time. Focus on eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds each day.
    Here is a wonderful article by Cleavland – Eat These Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

  • Get plenty of sleep – Getting enough sleep is essential for reducing stress levels and helping your body restore itself after a long day (which includes improving digestion). Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night if possible; create a night time routine that helps relax your mind before bedtime (such as reading or drinking herbal tea).
    The leading hospital Cedars-Sinai has a must read article about the importance of sleep. Good Sleep in Times of Stress

  • Talk to someone – Talking about your worries with a friend or a family member can help put them in perspective and make them seem less overwhelming than when kept inside your head. If needed, seek professional help from a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders or chronic stress; they will be able to offer personalized treatment tailored to your individual needs


Everyone experiences stress from time to time—it’s part of living life! However, it’s important to understand how it impacts various bodily functions including bowel movements so you can effectively manage any negative side effects such as chronic constipation symptoms.

By engaging in activities like exercise, deep breathing, eating healthy foods regularly, getting enough sleep every night, and talking about worries with someone else when needed—you should be able to keep stress levels lower while simultaneously promoting better overall health for yourself!

The blog is for educational purposes only.

Please discuss your condition with your treating physician.

Photos by Elisa Ventur, Jason Briscoe on Unsplash and Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.

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