Listen To Your Gut – What Stress Is Doing To Your Digestive Health

Stress can wreak havoc on your digestive system, with common—and uncommonly uncomfortable—symptoms including stomach-ache, constipation, diarrhea, cramps, nausea and acid indigestion.

Left unchecked, stress can lead to serious gastrointestinal issues. Chronic upset and anxiety may also exacerbate pre-existing ailments like celiac and Crohn’s diseases, stomach ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease.

The State Of The Stomach

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine, insisted “all disease comes from the gut.” More than 2,000 years later, scientists and physicians continue to learn more about gastrointestinal health. As they do, it becomes clear just how strong the correlation is between belly and brain.

It should come as little surprise. After all, this connection can be heard throughout our language.

When you’re feeling nervous, you have “butterflies in your stomach.” When something is wrong, you feel it “in your gut” or “in the pit of your stomach.”  If you encounter something troubling enough, you may not even “be able to stomach it” at all.

There are some interesting mechanics involved in the mind-gut connection. Strong emotions like fear, sadness and even joy can activate the fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline and other stress hormones flood the body. This distress signal is picked up by nerve endings in the stomach, which can prompt a number of possible physiological changes. These include gastrointestinal contractions, esophageal spasms and stomach inflammation. It can also make us more susceptible to infection.

Fat Chance

In the face of ongoing stress, the metabolism can be seriously weakened. One reason is that in fight-or-flight mode, digestion is suppressed as blood is diverted from the stomach to help us deal with the perceived threat. Stress also causes us to produce cortisol and insulin, hormones that direct the body to store fat rather than build muscle.

“Stress can affect every part of the digestive system,” Dr. Kenneth Koch—medical director of the Digestive Health Center at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center—told EverydayHealth.

How Do You Spell Relief?

If you’re overstressed and your stomach is feeling the wrath, there are steps you can take to improve your situation.  

It’s always good to speak with a doctor who can detect if you have any serious stomach ailments. You may also want to go straight to the source and de-stress. If you’re having trouble turning off your anxiety, you may want to see a mental health professional or speak with a therapist.

There are also a number of gentle and mindful activities that can help you unwind. You might practice yoga, meditation and conscious breathing, or spend time in nature. Some people find comfort by journaling or spending time with friends.

Engaging in moderate exercise, both cardio and weight-bearing, is another important way to foster calm. You might schedule regular walks outside or on the treadmill, give water aerobics a try, or commit to something more challenging to burn off mental energy on a regular basis. You can determine which type of physical activity would suit you best, depending on your fitness goals. The Mayo Clinic recommends you exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.

Eating A Balanced Diet Can Do Wonders For Combatting Stress

In times of worry, some people tend to binge-eat, looking for relief in fatty, salty or sugary snacks. This will do nothing but make the symptoms of stress worse, especially in your gut, adding nausea, constipation, and diarrhea to the list. This can also be referred to as “stress-eating,” which will only make matters worse as stress levels continue to rise. There are other foods, though, that offer a mood-stabilizing effect, which is ultimately more salutary than the temporary high—and subsequent crash—derived from junk food.

Stress-busters include:

  • blueberries
  • pistachios
  • dark chocolate
  • milk
  • salmon
  • turkey
  • green, leafy vegetables

It’s news that gives credence to another of Hippocrates favorite sayings:  “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Kevin Jones has mastered a busy lifestyle with work and fitness combined with family life. He writes offering solutions for personal fitness and time management as well as keeping families fit together by utilizing activities and diet.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

9 Responses to Listen To Your Gut – What Stress Is Doing To Your Digestive Health

  1. Awesome blog. It sound’s quite interesting to read this post.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful post.

  2. hole io says:

    stress is a major danger!

  3. I Would like to thank you for sharing a nice blog which is related to piles, piles symptoms, and its treatment. I Think Its a great blog related to piles.These blogs give a lot of knowledge, treatment option for piles and so on

  4. Sam says:

    “There are other foods, though, that offer a mood-stabilizing effect” This is so, so true. I have been on a journey of self healing through nutrition for the last 3 years since going vegan and it’s amazing the effect that food has on our mind and body. I used to be extremely anxious most of the time and have suffered with bouts of depression. Blueberries and dark leafy greens are just wonderful for helping to combat this, and particularly matcha green tea when I drink it every day. The gut/brain connection is so important!

    Thanks for this great post Kevin.

  5. One of the best positive article must read, thanks for sharing.

  6. Website says:

    Regarding stress, it may still depend on the hormonal level, and specifically on estrogen and progesterone. So watch your hormonal level carefully.

  7. Yang says:

    I have been really stressed lately for the past few months and I have noticed that I have constantly been having stomach problems. I never knew stress can affect digestive health. Thank you so much for sharing this information!

  8. Mia Rotton says:

    I think this is the good positive articles must read, thanks for sharing.

  9. temple run 3 says:

    I will have to follow you, the information you bring is very real, reflecting correctly and objectively, it is very useful for society to grow together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.