By Alice || Edited by Go Ask Alice Editorial Team || Last edited Mar 15, 2024
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Alice! Health Promotion. "Nervous or excited bowel movements." Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University, 15 Mar. 2024, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/nervous-or-excited-bowel-movements. Accessed 24, May. 2024.

Alice! Health Promotion. (2024, March 15). Nervous or excited bowel movements. Go Ask Alice!, https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/nervous-or-excited-bowel-movements.

Dear Alice,

When I get excited about going to see the boy I love or nervous about hanging out alone with him, I have to poop. Everytime. My stomach gets really upset and it cramps and then I have to poop. In most cases it's diarrhea and I never feel like I'm okay by the time I have to leave. Is there something I can do about it to limit it or just stop it in general? I love knowing that I get to see him but I hate the baggage I get beforehand.

Signed,
Down in the poops

Dear Down in the poops, 

Although awkward, your desire to poop upon seeing your sweetheart is actually a sort of back-handed compliment. Many people experience "butterflies in the stomach” in response to excitement or nervousness before or during a range of situations. When the body gets excited or nervous, it often interprets these emotions as stress. This then creates a domino effect of physiological changes—including digestive issues—through the body’s fight, flight, or freeze response. 

When preparing to run away from a tiger or fight a bear, or any other type of stressor for that matter, it's not in the body's best interest to spend energy on digestion. Because the body needs all your blood and energy to fight or flee, digestion often stops, causing the bowels to empty. The enteric nervous system (ENS) of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is composed of over 100 million neurons that work to break down food. Negative emotions, such as stress and anxiety, can impact the efficacy of the ENS. Stress can change the balance of gut bacteria or impact communication between the brain and stomach which can trigger diarrhea. This reaction can be even worse for people who struggle with chronic bowel disorders. 

That being said, stress can be a response to both good or bad events. Although your darling is not a physical threat to your safety, your body perceives the shot of adrenaline produced in response to seeing him as stress. You might also notice that your heart pounds or that you start sweating more. These are all typical responses to stress, and they help to prepare your body to adjust to new circumstances. 

The good news is that there are some measures you can take to help temper your body’s reactions, before you see your love. Some suggestions include: 

  • Taking slow, deep breaths. While you're doing this, you may try picturing him while staying calm and collected. This may help to train your body to react differently to that excitement. 
  • Practicing yoga and meditation. These techniques can help retrain the body into a pattern of calmness and help to diminish reactivity. 
  • Listening to soothing music. This may help to put you in a mellow state of mind before a date. 
  • Talking it out. Reaching out to those you trust may help you to figure out what you're so nervous or excited about, which may help take the edge off. 
  • Avoiding food that could worsen diarrhea. While potentially delicious, certain foods such as those containing high amounts of sugar; fructose or artificial sweeteners; dairy products; foods that are fried or fatty; gluten, and spicy foods may increase your likelihood of having diarrhea. 
  • Taking a probiotic or prebiotic. These supplements can improve gut bacteria and may reduce the likelihood of digestive problems. You may consider speaking with a health care provider to ensure these supplements won’t negatively interact with any other medications you might be taking. 

While chronic digestive upset could point to an underlying problem like a food allergy, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it sounds like your gastric distress is limited to when you see the one you love. However, if you find this problem coming up (or out) at other times, you might consider speaking with a health care provider to confirm that stress isn’t aggravating any symptoms associated with these conditions. 

Finally, you might also consider sharing with your honey (graphic details or not) that sometimes you feel nervous when you're going to spend time together and see what he says. Chances are you aren't the only one feeling riled-up and you can help to calm each other's frazzled nerves. However you decide to handle it, the beginning of love is exciting, and your body is reacting appropriately, albeit a bit overzealously, to the buzz of a budding romance. Hopefully, some of the relaxation tips are helpful in easing the intensity of your lovestruck jitters. 

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