How is Depression linked with Constipation?

Repressed emotions and mental health problems sometimes manifest in ways that affect one’s daily life, physical health, and relationships. Constipation is one of the commonly found symptoms among depressive patients or it could take place as a result of taking tricyclic antidepressants like elavil and norpramin since some medications taken for depression, reduce gut mobility and slow down the bowel movements (not in all kinds of constipation) by blocking the neurotransmitter’s action like acetylcholine’s.

Scientists have discovered strong links between psychiatric disorders like stress, anxiety disorders, depression, and an increased risk of constipation, specifically in older adults. It is found to decrease the quality of life of individuals. One-third of people having depression experience constipation. Some scientists believe that a human’s stomach functions as their second brain and contains more neurons than the brain. Even the stomach contains and operates with the same neurotransmitter composition as that of the brain.

Experiment on mice: Similar gastrointestinal changes seen between constipated mice and human beings

People with depression have lower levels of Serotonin in the gut, which leads to decreased bowel movements, deteriorating the gut lining, and lowering the overall number of neurons which results in problems of constipation. The researchers conducted experiments on mice using a mouse model of depression. Mice with a gene mutation linked to severe depression in humans have a 60-80 percent reduction in Serotonin production levels. This induces depression-like behaviour in mice just like human beings.

Also Read: How do I talk to my Child about Depression?

Often when people are nervous, worried, or anxious about something, they feel butterflies in their stomachs. That butterflies fluttering in the stomach are the gut communicating with the rest of the body, answering and making the presence seen through thoughts and feelings. The digestive issues like constipation are the result of the phenomenon of the gut-brain axis.

Interlink of stress and constipation

An individual’s body activates the fight-or-flight response during fearful or stressful situations, leading to stress. This leads to releasing of certain hormones in response. When stress occurs for a prolonged time, it interferes with the normal digestive processes and may lead to conditions like constipation or other digestive issues.

Another reason how stressful conditions and depression lead to constipation is that when a person is depressed or stressed for longer durations, they tend to eat more unhealthy food that gives them comfort, pleasure, and satisfaction, ignoring the diet and healthy living lifestyle. Depressive people work less on their physical health as they exercise less and often forget to drink enough water that the body requires each day. These are causes of constipation in depressive patients.

Biological reasons associated with constipation in stressful individuals

The adrenal gland in the body secretes hormones like cortisol and epinephrine when the body gets in flight and fight mode. It slows down the digestive processes and intestinal movements that cause constipation. Stress can also send signals to the hypothalamus to release corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) directly within the bowel,  making it slow and inflamed.

Also Read: Ileana D’Cruz shares her battle with postpartum Depression

Everyone’s gut is semi-permeable which means that the intestines can effectively pull up water and other important nutrients available in the food into the bloodstream. However, when the lining of the intestines gets more permeable i.e. allows other components as well and not just nutrients and water, it results in the leaking of inflammatory substances into the gut. It is also known as a leaky gut, which causes diarrhea and other conditions such as the feeling of abdominal fullness due to constipation.

Microbial presence in the gut results in constipation

Billions and trillions of microbes reside in the human gut, and these microorganisms, called gut microbes, are unique in each individual’s gut due to constantly changing dietary and environmental factors throughout life. According to some studies, stress reduces the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut, which slows down Digestion in an adult.

Reducing or avoiding stress constipation

Difficult thoughts, emotions, prolonged worries, and stressful situations or events cause stress, and constipation, which the stress is the main cause of irregular bowel movements. Along with some self-care, an individual must look into the following strategies that could help them deal with stress constipation.

1. Take a proper healthy diet:

Drink enough water, preferably Luke warm, to stay hydrated and eat healthy, home-cooked food that is highly unprocessed and contains high fibers like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains to stay fit and healthy, which then helps in the regulation of bowel movements. Take fiber supplements and limit your intake of fatty food like cheese, meat, and eggs.

2. Avoid using substances like alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs to get through with the stress:

People often use substances like alcohol, cigarettes, and harmful drugs that give them temporary relief from stressful situations and help them escape from them for some time. However, what they don’t realize is that such things, including high-sugar and high-fat foods, can increase one’s stress, thereby increasing the risk of constipation.

Also Read: Research: Body Temperatures Linked to Depression

3. Stay fit and work on physical health:

Exercising regularly reduces everyday stress levels and also helps in reasonable intestinal movements. Try doing workouts, yoga, dance, or simple exercises like twisting and twistingto help with the easy digestion process.

4. Don’t force the natural processes

Let the body take whatever time it requires to function well. Don’t pressurize and force the body to have bowel movements as it just adds up to the pre-existing stress and may deteriorate the condition. Make timings for bowel movements in the morning and train the body to have regular bowels.

5. Stress less and practice mindfulness

Now that we understand that stress and depression cause constipation, we can make bowel movements to reduce stress levels and avoid worries. You can do this by practicing mindfulness activities such as focusing on the present and not worrying about the past or future.

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