Diarrhea from stress
Diarrhea (or medical "Diarrhea") is defined as emptying at least three liquid stools a day. Diarrhea in and of itself is not a disease, but rather a symptom. There are many reasons for these unpleasant intestinal problems, and it may not be possible to give a specific cause for the diarrhea. The question therefore arises as to whether a modern lifestyle or stressful phases in life can also lead to diarrhea. Since the intestine is a very sensitive organ to stress, it is not surprising that the answer to this question is "yes". Why this is so and what can help against stress-related diarrhea is described below.
Causes - why does diarrhea occur during stress
The intestinal tract combines a large number of nerve cells that control the movements of the intestine. These movements ("peristalsis") can become faster or slower as required: In the calm state, the nerve plexus becomes stronger "Parasympathetic nervous system" activated, which ensures reduced intestinal peristalsis. The stool is then transported more slowly through the intestinal tract and the vitamins, minerals and water it contains can be absorbed by the intestinal mucosa. In contrast, when there is activity or stress, its opponent, the "Sympathetic", more on the intestines. This leads to an increase in peristalsis.When stressed, this can lead to a malfunction: the intestine then transports the digested food so quickly that it has less opportunity to modify it. Therefore, among other things, there is less water absorption, i.e. less thickening of the stool. The result is diarrhea, which is an increased volume of watery stool.
It is difficult to clearly attribute the diarrhea to stress, as other causes have to be ruled out in this context. There is no such thing as a test, the consideration and synopsis of the symptoms are useful for making a diagnosis. If you suffer from diarrhea, which could be caused by stress, it can help to keep a kind of diary: Here, the days on which you had diarrhea are noted as well as the frequency and possible stressors that triggered the diarrhea during this time could have. Any phases of constipation should also be noted. On the basis of these notes, it can usually be seen more clearly whether the own intestine is sensitive to stress, and which types of stress are particularly likely to cause diarrhea. A frequent diagnosis in this context is the so-called irritable bowel syndrome: This refers to functional intestinal complaints that lead to a change in the consistency of the stool or the frequency of defecation, and which are alleviated by defecation. Irritable bowel syndrome, however, is a so-called exclusion diagnosis: This means that one must rule out other possible causes of the diarrhea before making this diagnosis.
Read more on this topic at: Irritable bowel syndrome
The accompanying symptoms can be due to both the diarrhea and the stress that the person is experiencing. Common symptoms therefore include abdominal pain and cramps, which are typical of diarrhea, as well as common stress-related symptoms such as headaches, migraines, restlessness and nervousness. These accompanying symptoms are very important to delineate other possible causes of diarrhea: In the case of diarrhea caused by an infection, the accompanying symptoms are, for example, blood in the stool, fever and vomiting. Dizziness can also occur with diarrhea caused by stress - but it can also be an indication of a bacterial infection.
Abdominal pain is arguably one of the most common symptoms associated with any type of diarrhea. This can be diffuse pain distributed across the abdomen or cramp-like pain. In both cases, it is typical that the discomfort is relieved during bowel movements. In addition to abdominal pain, other gastrointestinal complaints such as a feeling of fullness, nausea or vomiting can also occur. However, none of these symptoms are specifically typical of a sensitive intestine and must therefore always be interpreted in connection with the complete symptom picture.
Stress affects the body in many ways: Diarrhea can be a possible consequence as well as anxiety or even nervousness. Difficulty concentrating or sleeping problems can be associated with this nervousness. Furthermore, nervousness can of course also be the trigger for the intestinal complaints: The mechanism for this runs via the nervous system, as already described above, which puts the body in a permanently alert state due to the stressful situation. Whether nervousness is the cause, consequence or a symptom that occurs parallel to the intestinal complaints, it definitely gives an indication that the intestine is influenced by the stress load.
If other causes for the intestinal complaints are definitely excluded, therapeutic measures can be started. In the case of functional intestinal complaints, such as diarrhea caused by stress, changes in lifestyle and eating habits are particularly important. Measures to reduce stress such as regular endurance sports, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation should be included in the schedule anyway; they can help alleviate the symptoms of those affected by reducing stress. Eating a balanced diet can also help alleviate diarrhea. In addition, constipating foods such as rice, potatoes, oat flakes or bananas can be consumed.
If sporting or dietary measures do not improve the symptoms, drug therapy can also be tried. Here, mainly agents against diarrhea are used, for example loperamide or activated charcoal. If these preparations do not alleviate the symptoms either, the prescription of an antidepressant drug can be considered: The proven effect of antidepressants is based on the mood-enhancing and thus stress-reducing effect on the central nervous system, which then also affects the gastrointestinal tract.
Please also read our topic: Medication for diarrhea or How to stop diarrhea quickly
Stress-related diarrhea can in most cases be alleviated by non-drug measures. First and foremost, this includes nutrition: If easily constipating foods are consumed as soon as a stressful phase in life appears, this can already contribute to improving the intestinal complaints. Swelling foods such as psyllium husks or chia seeds not only work against constipation, but also thicken the stool. As a result, taking this "all-rounder" can also be helpful against mild diarrhea or stool irregularities. In addition, diarrhea is always associated with a loss of fluids and electrolytes. This can be counteracted by drinking enough fluids: Water, tea and fruit juice spritzers are particularly suitable for this. To compensate for the electrolyte loss, low-fat, salty or salty foods can be consumed.
Read more on this topic at: Home remedies for diarrhea
Various basic substances can be used for the homeopathic treatment of stress-related gastrointestinal complaints. These include - in addition to many other medicinal products - Antimonium crudum (black spike gloss), coloquinte and Chelidonium majus (celandine), which will be briefly discussed here. The black spit shine is primarily intended to help with intestinal complaints, which alternate with constipation and diarrhea. This remedy should particularly benefit people of older age. Colocinth helps with complaints that are associated with severe colic-like pain. People whose diarrhea and abdominal pain get worse with movement and better with bowel movements can benefit from colocinte. Celandine is said to be best for people whose stomach is hard and tense from the discomfort. Caution is advised here: a hard stomach can also indicate an inflammation, which at this point spreads to other abdominal organs. This symptom should therefore be clarified by a doctor to ensure that it is safe before homeopathic treatment is started. In addition to the substances mentioned, there are many other remedies that can be used for diarrhea caused by stress. However, since the selection of the preparations depends on the individual symptoms and has to be adapted individually, it is advisable to consult a suitably competent person in case of doubt.
Are you interested in this topic? - Read more about it at: Homeopathy for diarrhea
Those who tend to have a sensitive bowel should be prepared for the fact that phases of stress-related diarrhea will occur throughout their lives. The same applies to the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome: This is a chronic, long-term condition that can repeatedly trigger complaints. Affected individuals can, however, find relief by adjusting their lifestyle. Lifestyle habits for relaxation or adjustments to the diet can contribute to an improvement in the symptoms in the short and long term. However, since every body functions differently, no general statement can be made about the prognosis of stress-related gastrointestinal complaints. If the symptoms reappear, worsen significantly, or if new symptoms such as blood in the stool occur, a doctor should definitely be consulted.
Course of disease
If diarrhea is caused by stress, the symptoms usually improve when a less stressful phase of life begins. However, you shouldn't expect diarrhea to stop as soon as the stress ends. Most of the time the body and especially the gastrointestinal tract need some time to calm down as well. The stress-related diarrhea can therefore continue for a few days afterwards. If you have what is known as irritable bowel syndrome, it is also possible to switch between diarrhea and constipation as the disease progresses.