Bowel Movements
by mcarva, Jan 18, 2004
I have always had a pattern of alternating diarrhea with sometimes going as long as 5-7 days without a bowel movement.  I thought this was normal as I never felt constipated.

The past week or so, I notice my bowel movements are very small (like small balls), however, I do not feel constipated.  I have suffered from hypochondriasis and generalized anxiety disorder since about age 12 (I am now 45).  I am not on medication.  Lately, I have been experiencing an increased amount of stress and anxiety.  I am worried sick that this change in bowel movements means I have colon cancer.  I had a sigmoidoscopy performed about 4 years ago which was normal.

I have started to eat bran cereal (the past few days).  My bowel movements still seem small.  I can't help but obsessing constantly about going to the bathroom, having colon cancer, etc.  The other day I drank so much prune juice I had bad diarrhea.

My question is can stress and anxiety change your bowel habits or does this sound like symptoms of a serious disease?

Thank you.
by Kevin Pho, MDBlank, Jan 21, 2004
Irritable bowel syndrome can be considered.  The change in bowel habits as well as the alternating diarrhea with lack of bowel movements is characteristic.  However, this is a diagnosis that should be made if more serious things are ruled out.

You may want to consider a repeat endoscopy (perhaps a colonoscopy for a more complete test) to make sure that there are no anatomical abnormalities that can be causing your symptoms.  A CT scan can also be helpful if the endoscopy is negative.  

If irritable bowel syndrome is the diagnosis, increasing the amount of fiber in the diet can help.  You may also want to inquire to see if antispasmodic agents should be considered in your case.  

Followup with your personal physician is essential.

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice - the information presented is for patient education only. Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.

Kevin, M.D.
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Member Comments (1)
by d97cards, Jan 18, 2004
I had that problem too. I had a barium enema exam...no probs...so I have, for the last 10 years, been taking Citruscel. I drink a small glass of water...then mix a huge table spoon of Citruscell into a large glass of water...then drink it...then chase it with a large glass of orange juice....every day...BEFORE...and I say again...BEFORE eating breakfast. It gives the bowell movement bulk..helps the size and the urgency. If I eat alot of refined sugar, that will make everything slower, so I dont eat that much refined sugar. It works for me
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