Is Stress Making You Constipated?

Stress and anxiety are not isolated to your mental health, they both have a huge impact on your physical health. Especially your gut health. Stress can cause or aggravate gastrointestinal symptoms, often manifesting in chronic constipation.

Additionally, stress doesn’t have to be your conventional ‘head in your hands, mentally overwhelmed’ stress, it can be any stress on your body. Gut Dysbiosis is one of the biggest stressors on the body and declares itself in symptoms spanning your entire body, including chronic constipation.



Constipation is most commonly defined as feeling like you are unable to empty your bowels, dry and hard stools which are painful to pass and/or less than 3 bowel movements per week.

Some health professionals may say that not having a daily bowel movement isn’t cause for concern. I don’t believe this to be true. If you do not pass bowels daily, toxins are left in your body and can filter out, causing all sorts of issues. If you’re eating everyday, you should be passing everyday.


The ‘go-to’ reasons for diagnosing constipation are usually dehydration, not enough fibre, too many processed foods and lack of physical movement. All these do contribute to constipation. To have healthy bowel movements, you must have a healthy diet.

However, you could be hydrated, exercised and have a balanced diet and still be constipated. Why? Psychological stress and anxiety leads to somatic symptoms, which directly affect your bowels. Physical stress reduces intestinal function, again, directly affecting your bowels.

When you are in a state of stress, the body releases an increased amount of corticotrophin-relating factor (CRF) in the bowels. This hormone directly affects the intestines, causing it to become inflamed due to gut function being slowed.



Gut Dysbiosis

Gut Dysbiosis is the term for bacterial imbalance in your gut.

Our gut microbiota is essential for proper bodily function including digestion, immune function and tissue repair.

However, due to the unhealthy lifestyle many people have adopted, it tends to get imbalanced. Bad bacteria in the stomach and intestines start to outgrow the good bacteria. This is called “gut dysbiosis”.

This is a common root cause of many diseases since it triggers inflammation and immune system dysfunction.

Stress can reduce the production of good bacteria in the gut, which leads to imbalance.

This imbalance creates unnecessary stress in the body, which leads to more health issues, such as constipation.


Fight or Flight

When your body is stressed or anxious, your ‘fight or flight’ response is activated. Adrenal glands release epinephrine, a hormone which informs the body that you are in a stressful situation. This hormone tells your body to direct blood flow towards the heart, lungs and brain. This blood flow needs to come from somewhere, right?

The blood is diverted from the intestines towards the aforementioned organs, which slows down digestion and gut function, resulting in constipation. This is why you may feel sick when you’re scared or anxious.

Therefore, if you are suffering from chronic stress or anxiety disorder, you are repeatedly putting your body in fight or flight mode and, in turn, disrupting your intestinal movement.

This ‘fight or flight’ response can also lead to loose stools, but that’s for another post!

Increased Intestinal Permeability

Increased Intestinal Permeability, often referred to as ‘leaky gut’, refers to the ease in which substances pass through your intestinal wall. If you are suffering from leaky gut this means that toxins and bacteria are more able to pass through into your bloodstream.

Additionally, inflammatory compounds can enter the intestines.

This causes an inflammatory response in your gut, making your abdominal feel full, heavy and bloated. This is a common symptom of constipation.

Stress loosens the tight junctions of the intestinal wall, thus increasing intestinal permeability and making you more susceptible to suffering a ‘leaky gut.’


Improper Breathing


The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that separates the thoracic cage. We have the lungs above and the intestines, stomach, and the liver below.

When we breathe, the diaphragm descends and as it does this, it massages the intestines. Our intestines are tubes of long muscles that react like any other muscle.

If you stop breathing properly they can cramp and become spasmodic, just like your muscles in your back and neck.

When people are stressed, their breathing becomes shorter and less deep. They stop breathing with their diaphragm and take breaths with their chest. As a result, they are not massaging the intestines, which disrupts gut function, leading to constipation.




I had a client that was so stressed she began to change the way she was breathing. She was breathing with her chest and doing very little abdominal breathing. This is abnormal, yet extremely common. This can be related to various emotional factors but, with this client specifically, it was related to chronic stress.

Due to this lack of massage, she began to have cramping. The body created a maladaptive response: in order to prevent the cramping, she was breathing even less into the belly. This was making the situation worse.

I gave her breathing exercises in our first session and made this a priority. Consequently, the cramping reduced before becoming completely absent. Only the constipation remained, which dissipated once we addressed the Gut Dysbiosis.



If you struggle from chronic stress, it will be having a negative affect on your gut, if not causing digestive issues directly.

Stress, either mental or physiological, can be a catalyst for Gut Dysbiosis. Similarly, imbalances in the gut inflict stress on your body, causing more damage. This can trap you in a vicious cycle of stress and digestive issues that aggravate each other. Therefore, both the stress and the gut dysbiosis need to be addressed.

In my Private Practice I look at the complete picture in order to address constipation and there are often multiple contributors. It is important to find the root cause so that constipation doesn’t return, rather than using the ‘sticky plaster’ approach of adding more hydration and fibre to your diet to ease the symptoms.

To find the root cause, test don’t guess! I recommend the cortisol test to measure your stress levels and the organic acid test to test for gut imbalances – both can be found on my Shop.

I understand that testing and working one-to-one with me in my private practice is not financially viable for everyone. However, it remains incredibly important to directly address your gut health, which is resulting in painful constipation symptoms. Every day that you are constipated is another day that toxins can be forced to leak into the rest of your body.

As a more affordable solution, I recommend following a gut health protocol will help ease symptoms and reduce the overall stress that is being put on your body. My GI Protocol is the perfect place to start which has been transformative for hundreds of individuals.

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