How Stress Can Cause Digestive Problems

Relieve stress to improve your digestive health


Butterflies in your stomach and “gut feelings” are some of the many ways your brain and digestive system are related. Your digestive health may be directly related to your emotions.

According to HealthDay, “in recent years, doctors have uncovered a remarkably complex connection between the brain and the digestive system. The entire system is extremely sensitive to our moods.” They also explain, “a hormone that helps control mood -- is found in the digestive system, not the brain.”

Therefore, when the brain experiences feelings of stress it unleashes hormones that affect the entire digestive system.

According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), “stress can arise from a perceived or actual event that disturbs the balance between mind, brain, and body. Stress can occur with or without conscious feelings of anxiety, distress, or anger.”

The stomach and intestines have more nerve cells then the spinal cord, this has lead experts to call the digestive system a “mini brain” (HealthDay).

Healthy digestive health is crucial to your body’s overall well-being. Work with your healthcare provider to take the necessary steps in managing your digestive issues.


Stress can cause:

Indigestion- stress can cause stomach acid that may cause acid reflux. Eventually indigestion may occur.

Heartburn- Heartburn is commonly caused by stomach acid. According to WebMD, “stress and lack of sleep can increase acid production and cause heartburn.”

Irritable bowel syndrome- Irritable bowel syndrome is commonly defined as an increased gastrointestinal response to stress (IFFGD). They also explain, “stress has been shown to increase mobility and sensation of the colon to a greater degree in IBS patients compared to healthy individuals without IBS.”

Ulcers- “Over 25 million Americans will suffer from an ulcer at some point during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (livescience)” Psychological stress has been shown to aid in the development of stomach ulcers.

Changes in serotonin levels- Anxiety can cause stress which then causes changes in your serotonin levels. According to research, these changes can lead to digestion issues, one of them being nausea.


Some tips to improve your digestive health include:

Drinking plenty of fluids

Eating raw fruits and vegetables

Eating a high-fiber diet

Limiting foods high in fat

Cutting out bad habits- alcohol, smoking, caffeine etc.


More Readings

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6 Things That Make Anxiety Worse

7 Natural Remedies for Stress and Anxiety