If you find that you frequently get diarrhea before exams, you’re not alone. Test anxiety and stress can often cause uncomfortable symptoms.
However, there are steps you can take to remove diarrhea symptoms in the short term and reduce the likelihood of getting diarrhea before exams in the future.
What Causes Diarrhea Before Exams?
Because this is happening specifically before an exam, it might be due to test anxiety.
In short, test anxiety can cause pre-exam diarrhea. Diarrhea is actually quite a common occurrence before an exam. A survey indicated that random episodes of diarrhea happen to between 16-23% of people and was frequently accompanied by stomach pain/cramping, stomach grumbling, and gas.1
How to Quickly Fix Diarrhea Before Exams
Now that we know what causes pre-exam diarrhea let’s get into how you can actually fix it.
If you can get to a pharmacy you should look for Loperamide. This works by slowing down your gut. It won’t actually alleviate diarrhea. It will only remove the symptoms but it’s a good start, especially if your exam is about to start and you just need to feel better for a short time.2
How to Stop Getting Diarrhea Before Exams
If you can’t use Loperamide there are still plenty of other options before your exam starts.
Try a breathing exercise
First things first, try to work on that pre-test anxiety a bit.
Go on Youtube and look for a free-breathing exercise video. Literally, just choose anything. What is most important is that you reduce your anxiety by at least a bit before your exam starts.
Here are a couple of things to try for your exam anxiety:
- You can also check out some relaxation techniques like diaphragmatic/abdominal breathing specifically for your symptoms.3
- Try headspace or another meditation app
Go on a brisk walk
Going on a walk will help you feel better. In my experience going on a walk usually helps settle things so to speak.
There is also some evidence that vigorous walking can also delay digestion.4 This is because the muscles being exercised pull blood away from your digestive system, slowing it down.5
In my experience, walking is another great way to reduce anxiety because you can focus on the environment around you and distract yourself.
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and it is important that you stay hydrated.
On top of this, being hydrated might also lead to better exam scores because it leads to higher cognitive performance.6 Drink water.
Cut back on Caffeine
If you are drinking coffee, stop. Caffeine has the potential to act as a laxative. So if your exam is coming up soon you should consider reducing the amount that you drink. Don’t cut this off too quickly, however, because you might end up with some mild Caffeine withdrawals (like a headache), depending on how much coffee you drink.7
It may be tempting to try and steady yourself with a drink to calm your anxiety. But this is a bad idea. Not only will alcohol worsen your memory for your exam, but it could also aggravate your digestion and can make diarrhea worse because it has the potential to make things worse.8
None of this article is medical advice. Talk to your doctor.
If you’re prone to getting diarrhoea before exams, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional. They can help you determine if there is an underlying health condition contributing to your symptoms and can provide you with advice and treatment options.
- Hungin, A. P. S., Paxman, L., Koenig, K., Dalrymple, J., Wicks, N., & Walmsley, J. (2016). Prevalence, symptom patterns and management of episodic diarrhea in the community: a population‐based survey in 11 countries. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 43(5), 586–595. https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.13513
- Loperamide Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing – WebMD. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-4789-4025/loperamide-oral/loperamide-oral/details
- Relaxation Techniques to Manage IBS Symptoms—About IBS. (2021, March 8). https://aboutibs.org/treatment/psychological-treatments/relaxation-techniques-for-ibs/
- Neufer, P. D., Young, A. J., & Sawka, M. N. (1989). Gastric emptying during walking and running: effects of varied exercise intensity. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 58(4), 440–445. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00643522
- The Case For Taking a Walk After You Eat. (2018, Sept 26). Time. Retrieved December 11, 2022, from https://time.com/5405778/walking-after-eating-good-for-you/
- Drozdowska, A., Falkenstein, M., Jendrusch, G., Platen, P., Luecke, T., Kersting, M., & Jansen, K. (2020). Water Consumption during a School Day and Children’s Short-Term Cognitive Performance: The CogniDROP Randomized Intervention Trial. Nutrients, 12(5), 1297. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051297
- Common Causes of Chronic Diarrhea—IFFGD. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2022, from https://iffgd.org/gi-disorders/diarrhea/common-causes/
- Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol: Causes and Treatments. (2017, August 4). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/diarrhea-after-drinking-alcohol
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