Dear Sandra

Dear Sandra,

Since starting studies at AU, I’ve been experiencing severe constipation. Is constipation related to stress? Can you suggest anything for constipation?

Worried in Ontario

Dear Worried,

Well it’s not everyday that people write in to ask about poop. I remember in an introductory cultural anthropology course textbook it stated that the ONE thing all cultures agreed not to eat was human excrement. Whether its difficulties with diarrhea or constipation, pooping is a taboo topic that people don’t often like to discuss with each other, or even their family doctor.

Our bodies need to cleanse themselves. Defecating excrement is a natural part of life, however just as we get a fever to warn us that we are ill our bowel movements can also signal malnutrition, illness, disease, stress, allergies, or a diet low in fiber or too high in refined, industrialized foods, etc:

Often people refer to constipation as not being “regular”, but what is defined as regular? According to an article on laxatives in Alive, a healthy lifestyles magazine, it takes about 12-18 hours for food to move through the digestive system. So logically, one should be having a bowel movement 12-18 hours after they eat. So if you eat twice a day, you should be pooping twice a day.

Many experts believe that our modern day diets, consisting primarily of highly refined industrialized foods like white bread, pasta, and sugar (you know, all the good-tasting white stuff), along with too much cheese and other animal products, are to blame for the estimated half of the population of Canada that suffers from constipation. There is hardly any fiber in these refined foods, so there is hardly any bulk, and by the time this food reaches the a large intestine, it’s hard and lacks moisture. To answer your question though, yes stress can contribute to constipation. As your body adjusts to a new schedule, a hectic lifestyle, or stress, it can confuse the bowels causing constipation.

I’m not a medical professional, but I would suggest relaxation or stress management techniques to help your body adjust to the stress of studying. Also, increase the fiber in your diet through natural sources like whole wheat, beans or fruits and vegetables (we all know prunes are associated with good bowel movements), or by using over the counter products like Metamucil. If the constipation persists please contact your doctor.

Alive Magazine (October 2003). Laxatives. p. 162. Visit for more information on leading a healthy life.


This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of

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