How does stress affect your bowel movement?

I for one no I am stressed, because when this happens I am in the toilet pretty regularly.


This is the purview of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, your esophagus, stomach, small intestines and large intestines (also known as the colon or the bowel).


When it comes to your GI tract, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.


You’ve just finished some feast, eaten a great roast turkey, somebody’s grandma’s famous mashed potatoes and gravy, a bare minimum of vegetables to give a semblance of healthiness, and oh, why not another drumstick and some corn on the cob, a slice or two of pie for dessert, ad nauseam.

You expect your gut to magically convert all that into a filtrate of nutrients in your bloodstream? It takes energy, huge amounts of it. Muscular work.


Your stomach not only breaks down food chemically, it does so mechanically as well. It undergoes systolic contractions: the muscle walls contract violently on one side of your stomach, and hunks of food are flung against the far wall, breaking them down in a cauldron of acids and enzymes.


Your small intestines do a snake dance of peristalsis (directional contraction), contracting the muscular walls at the top end in order to squeeze the food downstream in time for the next stretch of muscle to contract.


After that, your bowels do the same, and you’re destined for the bathroom soon. Circular muscles called sphincters located at the beginning and end of each organ open and close, serving as locks to make sure that things don’t move to the next level in the system until the previous stage of digestion is complete, a process no less complicated than shuttling ships through the locks of the Panama Canal.


At your mouth, stomach, and small intestines, water has to be poured into the system to keep everything in solution, to make sure that the sweet potato pie, or what’s left of it, doesn’t turn into a dry plug. By this time, the action has moved to your large intestines, which have to extract the water and return it to your bloodstream so that you don’t inadvertently excrete all that fluid and desiccate like a prune.


All this takes energy, and we haven’t even considered jaw fatigue. All told, your run-of- the-mill mammals, including us, expend 10 to 20 percent of their energy on digestion.


So back to our by-now-familiar day to day stress: You can’t waste energy on your stomach walls doing a rumba.

There isn’t time to get any nutritional benefits from digestion.