Poop Stress and Anxiety: Why It Happens & How to Overcome It

25 Mar, 2021

Woman sitting a desk with books, looking stressed

Congrats, guys! We’re all stressed! So so stressed! Yayyy? 

In the good old days, we we scared of snakes and sh*t. Thanks in large part to COVID and technology (we’re looking at you, doomscrolling), American adults are confronting new anxieties that are more existential and harder to escape. When you add to that a personal event, like a work deadline, a family challenge or a move, your stress is monumental. Which means your arse is in trouble. Stress turns your tummy in knots, and can leave you with diarrhea or constipation. 

Today, we’re unpacking the relationship between stress and your gut, and dolling out tips to get your stress-ass diarrhea in check.

Why Do Your Nerves Give You the Shits?

Well, your brain and your butt have a mutual bestie: the stomach. Your gut is home to 100 million neurons (almost as many as you’d find in the brain of a cat). 

The gut is the largest neural center in the body other than the brain; it actually functions as a nervous system organ. So if your nerves are frayed, your gut is going to be affected. Here’s more on the gut-brain relationship, and how that sends your GI regularity to sh*t.

The Gut Brain Connection

Your brain and your gut are way more synched up than most of us realize. “The brain can impact what’s going on in the gastrointestinal tract and vice versa,” said Dr. Kyle Staller

Your gut is a “second brain”, which controls rules over the 9 meters from your esophagus to your bum hole. And your brains are in constant communication. When you get butterflies or a sinking feeling in your stomach? That’s your gut brain talking to the brain in your head. 

So stress in your brain actually creates spasms in the gut. Hello, stress poop. Spasms can speed up your GI activity, causing diarrhea. (If they’re super localized, the spasms can also cause constipation, but that’s another story). 

Honestly, it seems unfair that stress causes diarrhea which causes stress, but there ya have it!

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

If you already have GI problems, stress isn’t helping your sh*t one bit. Especially if you have IBS. 

Stress can exacerbate your existing digestive diseases, like IBS-D (the type of IBS that gives you diarrhea). When your digestive tract is already prone to inflammation, stress can add to that and exacerbate the symptoms. 

Note: just because you’re sh*tting your brains out with stress doesn’t mean you necessarily have a chronic gut condition. IBS and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) generally have other symptoms that occur with and without stress. Honestly? Love this for us :/

Nervousness Triggers Fight-or-Flight

Stress makes your body think you need to run fast! Thanks, evolution!

When you feel panicked, your body thinks you’re in physical danger. When you feel an imminent attack? “Your blood flow shifts from the intestines and non-essential organs to your heart, lungs, and muscles so you can run faster,” according to Vice

You know what else makes you run faster? Having pooped already. Really! Our bodies know that if we were trying to escape a mammoth, we’d want to sh*t, vom and pee on sight. This sheds everything weighing us down so we can run like the wind. Unfortunately, this baked-in “self-help” mechanism isn’t so helpful when you’re running late to a job interview. At least you now know what’s behind the instinct.

Okay, So How Can You Prevent Yourself From Crapping Your Pants?

Ok, to the important question: how can I avoid sh*tting my pants? Well we’re about to drop some knowledge deuces! This section will cover a few ways to manage the urge to poop in stressful situations. The big tricks here are cutting back on stress where you can, and adding stress-reducing rituals to your mix. 

Like trying to prepare ahead of an expected event that may make you nervous, by eating clean foods and using the bathroom beforehand, or in the moment of having an explosion, do some deep breathing and repeat some positive affirmations to help ground yourself and calm nerves. Preparation is key, so here’s our best advice to overcome stress poop and anxiety diarrhea:

Empty Your Bowels Early

If you’ve already pooped, you can’t sh*t your pants. Your body probably has a pooping routine, so try to schedule important pants-shitting events after you’ve had access to a loo.

Eat Right Before Important Engagements

If your tummy is up for it, snack on healthy foods before your public speaking nightmare (or whatever else has you stressed). Nourishing foods help to increase blood flow and send key nutrients to your brain. This helps to create an overall calm, which is exactly what we’re looking for!

Do Some Deep Breathing

Deep belly breathing can help you lower your heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress levels and make you hotter (last one is subjective, but worth a try). When we’re stressed, our breath quickens. When we bring intention to deep breathing, it reconnects us with our body and induces the benefits of a meditative state. It’s easy and it’s a must do to stop the stress poo.  

Sip Some Calming Tea

Ritualized relaxation is a potent component of tea time. The calming warmth of tea, the heat in your body, taking a moment to slow down, can all alleviate stress. And! The tea you pick can also attack anxiety depending on the herbal ingredients. Keep an eye out for chamomile, peppermint, valerian root and lavender (among others) if you want your tea to take down your stress.

Ground Yourself with Some Words of Affirmation

Affirmations are like power poses for your brain. If your normal thoughts are negative or you’re prone to rumination, these mental patterns are exacerbating the stress in your life. Break the chain by taking some time to breathe and literally think happy thoughts. For example if you’re thinking “I can’t do this, I can’t do this” try switching it up to -- “How can I handle this?” Ask better questions, get better answers, keep your drawers clean.

See A Doctor if You Need To

Small bouts of diarrhea aren’t necessarily a health hazard. However, if you hit a 102 degree fever, you’re experiencing unbearable pain in your tum, you have black or puss-y stools, or more than 6 loose stools in 24 hours, these are all signs that you have a serious medical condition. Any of those signals, get yourself to a doctor stat. Maybe poop before you go! 

Own Your Anxiety Diarrhea!

Long story short, stress is a full-body situation! We hope you’re able to find a little digestive ease with your new knowledge and these TUSHY tips. 

If you want to make sure your b-hole is fresh wherever you drop your next stress deuce, make sure to keep your TUSHY Travel handy.

Do you have questions for the TUSHY team? You can check out our FAQs, email us at hello@hellotushy.com or just fill out the form below!