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Can Stress Cause Diarrhea?

Stress can upset your gut, but what exactly does that mean? Can stress cause diarrhea?

can stress cause diarrhea

As a stress management coach, I have seen clients and done a ton of research on stress. Below ill provide some resources to show you how stress can upset the natural balance within your gut and some options you can try to support a happy gut.

Keep reading to learn more about this topic.

Table Of Contents

Can Stress Cause Diarrhea?: The Connection of Stress and Diarrhea

Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems are well-known byproducts or symptoms of stress.

can diarrhea be caused from stress

Let's look at how stress can trigger watery stools:

Increased gut motility

Stress makes your gut work faster. It can speed the passage of food through your digestive system.

Plus, it can cause your body to absorb less water and nutrients, leading to loose stools or diarrhea.

Upset gut microbiota

We have trillions of tiny microbes living in our digestive system. They work together to keep us healthy.

Many things including stress can alter our tummy's natural flow. This imbalance can cause a variety of gut symptoms including diarrhea.


When you're under a lot of stress for a long time, it can cause inflammation. This inflammation disrupts the natural functioning of your stomach, causing gastrointestinal symptoms.

Changes in hormones

When you're stressed, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones may affect how your digestive system works, which can then cause changes in your bowel movements.

Nervous System response

When stressed, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, also known as the "fight, flight or flee" response. It can affect your digestive system and possibly trigger diarrhea.

Is Stress-Induced Diarrhea Preventable?

can stress and anxiety cause diarrhea

If stress is the cause, then you can take steps to reduce stress.

  • The first thing to do is to identify your unique stressors. This may take some experimenting.

  • Once you begin to recognize your stressors, then you have to look at the type of stressor it is. Is it temporary or chronic?

  • Temporary stress can have a positive effect (think butterflies before a presentation or big sports game) and usually subsides pretty quickly after the event

  • If you find your stressors are ongoing or chronic, that is where you start to tap into your stress management toolbox

Below, I discuss relaxation techniques that you can use to combat stress.

How Long Can Stress Diarrhea Last?

Acute diarrhea may last 1–2 days, while chronic diarrhea continues for 4 or more weeks, according to Medical News Today. [1]

Diarrhea is not a disease but rather a symptom of an underlying problem.

Tips to Stress Less

These simple tips may help you tame your stress and soothe your gut:

can stress cause chronic diarrhea

Practice relaxation techniques

Take a deep breath and relax. Incorporate calming techniques into your daily routine, like 5-minute morning meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga postures. Your mind will thank you, and your tummy will cheer!

Exercise regularly

Shake off that stress. Move your body and get active with at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

Your stress levels may decrease, which can help enhance your digestion.

Get adequate sleep

Catch those Zzzs. Prioritize sleep quality aiming for 7.5-8.5 hours per night accourding to to the sleep division of Harvard medical.

A well-rested you can support a happier gut!

Identify and address stressors

Identify your stress sources and tackle them like a pro. Set boundaries, seek support, and make lifestyle changes.

Take charge!

Practice mindfulness

Live in the moment. Avoid dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Mindfulness can work wonders for reducing anxiety and boosting your overall well-being.

Maintain a balanced diet

Feed your gut the good stuff. Eat a balanced diet based on your individual needs

You can read more about taking care of your gut on: Better Gut Better Health: Why should you take care of your gut?

Stay hydrated

Keep that water bottle close. Stay hydrated throughout the day; dehydration is no friend to your digestive system.

Limit stimulants

Ease up on the caffeine and nicotine. It can stir up stress and make your gut feel uneasy.

Engage in relaxing activities

Take time for yourself. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether strolling in nature, reading a good book, or jamming to your favorite tunes.

Seek support

Don't keep it all inside. Share your feelings with friends, family, or a mental health professional.

A good chat can be a stress reducer.

Take breaks

Time for a breather.

Give yourself regular breaks from work and stress. Even short ones can help you recharge.

Your body is sending you signals, and it's important to listen.

The information shared on this website should not be seen as medical advice, contact a medical professional for personalized medical advice.

What to do next?

In today's stressful world, stress-induced diarrhea can cause embarrassing social situations.

While stress is a normal part of life, you don't have to grin and bare it.

Managing stress is your trusty shield while seeking support can add to your stress management toolbox.

If you are looking to manage your stress or take the first step towards a healthier you, reach out to me at

I would love to discuss support opportunities!


alexa hanshaw

About the Author

Alexa Hanshaw

Alexa Hanshaw is a health and stress management coach who helps women be the CEO of their stress. She empowers her clients to push past the confusion of the health and wellness industry to create lifestyle habits that bring them energy and work with their bodies instead of against it.

Join her free Facebook group, Be the CEO of Your Stress, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube for quick, easy & healthy tips on stress, health, fitness, nutrition, sleep, and how to stay mindful!

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