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Anxiety as the Cause of Yellow Stool

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated November 25th, 2020

Anxiety as the Cause of Yellow Stool

Those with anxiety are prone to health concerns. So it's no wonder that many people worry when they see that their stool has changed color. It's well-known that human feces can be one of the first indicators of a health disorder, so those that see that their stool has changed color often become immediately concerned.

There's good news and bad news. The bad news is that no one can diagnose the cause of your stool color without looking at it directly and testing your blood for any common health issues. Yellow stool is linked to many common health conditions, such as pancreatic failure, cirrhosis, digestion issues, and a myriad of other conditions. It is important to see a doctor to rule out these issues. 

Yet the color of your stool can also be affected by anxiety. Yellow stool may be due to your mental health. 

Yellow Feces and Related Anxiety

Yellow stool could represent a serious health problem. Or it could have a cause that is generally harmless - something that just accelerated your digestive system temporarily. Some people have different colored stool at random without any indication that something is wrong. Foods and medications can change stool color as well. 

Only a doctor can diagnose the cause of any stool color change. But if they rule out other medical issues, it is possible that your yellow stool may be linked to anxiety.

How Anxiety Causes Yellow Stool

Anxiety may contribute to yellow stool color in a variety of ways. What yellow stool traditionally means is that food passed through your digestive tract too quickly. Yellow is often the color of diarrhea, because diarrhea often (although not always) implies that the digestive system was "too quick" in passing the food through.

The yellow color itself is due to a combination of bilirubin (a chemical inside the body created by the liver) and fat. Undigested fat and bilirubin that hasn't been adequately altered through the natural digestive process both increase the risk of feces becoming a type of yellow or yellowish green. 

Bilirubin colors your urine and your bruises as well, and is responsible for the brown pigment in stool - but only after it is converted to stercoblin - a process that doesn't occur fully if food passes through the digestive system too quickly.

Numerous studies have shown that those with anxiety and stress suffer from faster intestinal transit.

The most likely cause is the distribution of fluids during anxiety, and the activation of the fight or flight response. It's likely that stress also changes metabolism and hormone balance in a way that makes the intensities function erratically. In addition, studies have shown that the part of the brain that controls digestion slows down during anxiety, so that mental resources can be used elsewhere.

Finally, yellow stool has been linked to alcohol use and alcoholism. Some of those with anxiety try to self-medicate with alcohol to relieve the symptoms. Though alcohol is the primary cause of yellow stool in these situations, anxiety still plays a contributory role. 

All of these problems will speed up digestion and possibly lead to yellow stool.

Anxiety and IBS

Anxiety is also a contributing factor - and possibly even a cause - of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. IBS is a bowel disorder that causes diarrhea, pain, and discomfort during times of stress. IBS is also known to cause yellow stool. It is considered a separate issue from anxiety, but the two have been linked in many studies and many of those with IBS appear to have developed some type of anxiety disorder.

How to Treat Yellow Stool From Anxiety

Assuming you've been to the doctor and ruled out any health issues, the reality is that yellow stool that only occurs once, or rarely, may not require any treatment. If you have yellow stool often, it may be a good idea to drink more water and consider healthier foods or supplementation to ensure that you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals. 

Those that find that the color of their stool causes them too much distress can try eating more whole grains and fiber with fewer fats in their diet, as fat may be one of the factors that causes stool to become yellow. Cutting out alcohol and getting a full night's rest also appears to have an effect on stool color as well.

But if your doctor has ruled out most other health issues, you may want to explore treating your anxiety. 

Once you begin to manage anxiety, you should be able to start seeing a difference with your yellow stool. 

To treat anxiety, look into the most common and effective mental health treatments, such as:

  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Medications
  • Self-Help
  • Lifestyle Changes and Exercise

Begin researching anxiety treatments, and find the ones that will work best for you and what you’re struggling with. That is the best way to address anxiety related yellow stool. 

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

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Question:

Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

Ask Doctor a Question

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