The Diarrhea and Anxiety Connection

By Dr. Nicole Cain ND, MA

Why Does Anxiety Cause Diarrhea and Vomiting and What Can I Do About It?

Why Does Anxiety Cause Diarrhea and Vomiting?

It’s literally the WORST feeling when panic is high and your gut is all wrapped up in the emotional drama.

You have things to do and not only is your anxiety through the roof, but your digestion has basically made you a prisoner in your own body. You can’t leave the house– because what if you need to get to a bathroom quickly? You don’t want to commit to any gatherings, meetings, or activities because you’re feeling lousy and you don’t know when your stomach is going to attack you next.

If your anxiety goes straight to your gut, if you feel butterflies, nausea, or if you have no appetite, and you’re glued to the toilet or trash bin in your bathroom– overcome with panic and anxiety, you’re not alone.

There is a reason that anxiety is wreaking havoc on your digestive tract, and today you’re going to learn what to do about it.

REASON #1: Changes in Serotonin Levels

There is a link between serotonin, anxiety, and digestion.

Your body is controlled by your nervous system. The nervous system in the brain is called the central nervous system, and the nervous system that controls your gut is called the enteric nervous system.

You may have heard that 95% of your mood-regulating neurotransmitter called serotonin, is actually made in your GUT — not your brain. This is the first reason that you may have noticed that your gut and mood are often intimately intertwined.

But how does this happen?

One of serotonin’s important jobs is to regulate something called peristalsis. This is the rhythmic contraction of the gut muscles so that it can move contents through your digestive tract. Serotonin release promotes gut motility and aids in digestion, and altered levels of serotonin is a common culprit in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or other digestive symptoms related to anxiety.

So when you are under extreme stress whether it be due to anxiety, panic, or just straight up feelings of overwhelm, your serotonin levels are impacted and your gut goes topsy-turvy.

REASON #2: Changes in Motility

Researchers have found that when we are under stress, changes take place in something called your gut motility. Gut motility in simple terms, is the process by which your body takes food from your stomach, all the way through your digestive tract until it removes it via a bowel movement.

When there is anxiety or high stress, your gut motility takes a hit. 

First, there is decreased motility in the upper part of your gut (your upper gastrointestinal or GI tract); this includes your stomach and small intestine. Decreased activity in your upper GI results in nausea, a decreased appetite, and even vomiting.

The second change is that we see increased activity in the large intestines, which results in more frequent and urgent stools, also known as diarrhea.

This is why when you’re stressed you may feel nauseated even to the point of vomiting while at the same time experiencing diarrhea.

As promised, here are some solutions that I have been using with clients for over a decade.

Solution #1: Get your Gut Back on Track

Dr. Nicole’s FAVORITE probiotic for anxiety-induced diarrhea and vomitingProbiophage DF™ by Designs For Health: *

Dr. Nicole’s FAVORITE blend for correcting anxiety-induced gut motility issuesIB Synergy™ by Designs for Health:*

Solution #2: Stop stress in its tracks

Stopping stress in its tracks will be a HUGE WIN against the battle between your gut and brain. In this post, we learned that stress hormones are a huge culprit in diarrhea and vomiting from anxiety.

Getting these stress hormones down will help you get out of the bathroom and back into your life.

One of the biggest issues my clients face is that they have to choose between the lesser of two evils: Sedating drugs that stop anxiety, or being alert and able to focus but always having to be in the proximity of a toilet.

That’s a lose-lose situation, right?

The good news is that there are natural remedies that quickly and effectively stop anxiety, without turning you into a zombie.

You generally want to look for products that contain these top 2 ingredients:

Solution #3: Psychological Approaches to Stopping Stress

A key solution is to stop the emotional experience of stress using wisdom from psychology. Easier said than done right?

But remember, when you’re under stress, your body releases a series of stress-hormones that change motility, digestion, which alters your serotonin production, your gut health and creates a whole cascade of problems.

But getting to the root of this will get you results that actually WORK and aren’t just palliative.

Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

We have a TON more information about this in the Holistic Wellness Collective, but let me leave you with three of my stress stopping favorites:

(1) Identify your top 3 greatest sources of stress

Think about all of your responsibilities, all of the things you are saying “yes,” to, issues you are working on solving, areas of your life where you feel a lack of control. In order to create solutions, we have to first identify the problem. What is causing you the greatest amount of stress? Does this make sense?

(2) Schedule in stress reduction

It’s easy to fall into a rhythm where we’re giving, working, pushing, and doing it all again the next day. Whether this is caring for a loved one, putting in many hours at a job, dealing with a chronic illness, making a deadline, or suffering from a major loss, many of us are simply out of bandwidth. We feel like we’re at the edge of our rope. We’ve burned the candle at both ends and then some. Do you relate to any of this?

If so, then you need to ADD in stress reduction techniques. I know it may feel like your plate is already overflowing, but sneaking these techniques in as little as 5 minute intervals can have a massive impact. Here are two ideas:

Quick Recap:

Dr. Nicole’s FAVORITE stress-stopping solution for anxiety with diarrhea and vomiting:



*The statements made herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a physician or healthcare professional.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Whenever considering changing your protocol whether it includes a change of medications, supplements, diet or lifestyle, always speak with your primary care physician first.

Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational free resources, online courses, and membership group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.