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What the Yuck: Stress-triggered diarrhea
November 18th, 2011
11:56 AM ET

What the Yuck: Stress-triggered diarrhea

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: When I get nervous or upset at work, I always get diarrhea. A co-worker says it could be IBS. Really?

It’s possible. What people sometimes call "nervous stomach" can also be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common disorder of the colon that can cause diarrhea, constipation, cramping, and/or bloating.

Stress can trigger it, since some of the same chemicals, such as serotonin, that affect your brain when you’re anxious can change the movement of your intestines, too.

To combat the messy effects of this gut-brain connection, try an over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine, such as Imodium, on the mornings you know you’ve got something stressful ahead of you, like a meeting with the boss. Relaxation techniques (yoga, cardio, or meditation) may also help.

In any case, see your doctor to confirm that you have IBS; she may want to rule out other conditions, or she may suggest therapy and possibly an antidepressant, among other treatments, to ease the problem.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.