Did I feel overwhelmingly anxious during lockdown? Not overly; not as much as others I was hearing from. But then I found myself discussing this issue with a friend who said she was dealing with the same thing – and she put her issue down to anxiety.
In that moment I was reminded of when I was a teenager, when I used to get so worried about the trials and tribulations of teenage life that I found myself constantly feeling like my stomach was on a rollercoaster and visiting the toilet frequently.
Poo chat is tricky chat. Not many people like to vocalise and discuss their bowel movements with anyone, be it their partners, friends or relatives.
But that’s exactly what I’m about to do, so brace yourselves. Throughout lockdown I have been suffering from constant and consistent diarrhoea with – cringe alert – loose stools at least two to three times a day. Nothing had changed about my diet, in fact I was probably eating healthier than ever, so I wondered why this was happening to me?
In fact, I got so used to these bowel movements I forgot what a firmer stool was like until in recent weeks, with the lockdown easing (and all the anxieties that come with it), I suddenly have proper poos again. I was shocked and surprised.
Externally, again all these years later, I may have looked like I was in control but internally my body was clearly in panic mode, worrying constantly and that was manifesting in this constant diarrhoea.
Sh*t happens, right? Well, according to the experts, pandemic poo is a very real thing. “It is no surprise that lockdown has seen an increase in people suffering with stomach issues,” says Dr. Daniel Cichi, GP and medical advisor at ‘Doctors 4 U’. “There are many reasons why people may start to develop gut issues such as cramps, constipation, bowel issues and IBS: a change in environment, diet and, yes, increased stress are all contributor’s to changes in our microbiota. In turn, this impacts our gut and its functionality, and people may start to develop symptoms of IBS even if they don’t normally have it.”
While the obvious lockdown culprits – lack of movement and exercise, increased alcohol consumption and lack of fibre – can likely incur changes in gut functionality, digestive system and bowel movements, it’s the effects of anxiety that Dr. Cichi really noticed.
“We noticed that in lockdown people became anxious and much more stressed, and this can really affect the digestive system and gut functions” he explains. “When people are anxious, they may become constipated or suffer with acute diarrhoea because anxiety changes the way we use the muscles that control how we poo. So, an increased need to go is most likely down to nerves, anxiety and stress.”
There you have it, the perils of the pandemic poo. While we hope any feelings of anxiety you were experiencing have started to ease along with the lockdown restrictions, we’ve got some advice on what to do if your anxiety about Coronavirus still feels overwhelming. If you’re experiencing persistent bowel problems, speak to your GP. Don’t suffer with pandemic poo in silence.