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. The good news is that often you'll find that the color of your stool is due to nothing but stress and anxiety. Yellow stool is a common example.
Yellow Stool = Anxiety?
Yellow stool is common in a variety of gastrointestinal diseases, but often it's simply nothing more than a case of anxiety. Rarely is yellow stool the only symptom, so click here to take my anxiety test and find out if you may be living with an anxiety disorder.
Yellow Feces and Related Anxiety
Yellow stool could represent a serious health problem. Or it could represent absolutely nothing. 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, and they may tell you that it's nothing more than anxiety. If you have any other anxiety symptoms, there's a good chance that your stress is leading to your change in stool color.
Click here to take my anxiety test and learn more.
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.
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 doesn't require any treatment. It's not a health problem and, when cause by anxiety, doesn't indicate any serious illness.
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.
Yet the only true treatment is to simply combat your anxiety. Once you prevent anxiety, your body will no longer have a problem digesting foods, and the incidences of yellow stool should become less frequent.
I've helped many people whose anxiety has caused digestion issues in the past. I start them all off with my free anxiety test. This test is extremely valuable for ensuring that you learn to understand your anxiety symptoms and react accordingly.
Gorard, D. A., et al. "Intestinal transit in anxiety and depression." Gut 39.4 (1996): 551-555.
Lydiard, R. Bruce. "Irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression: what are the links?" Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 62 (2001): 38-47.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.