The Impact of Stress on Gastrointestinal Disorders

There’s a reason we use terms like “gut instinct” and “gut-wrenching” or describe the way we are feeling by having butterflies or feeling nauseous. Your gastrointestinal (GI) system is impacted by your emotions; fear, anger, anxiety, nervousness, sadness – all of these emotions can trigger reactions in your gastrointestinal tract. With the enormous amount of stress people are experiencing right now, your gastrointestinal system is being put to the test, especially if you have any gastrointestinal disorders.

Your Stomach Reacts to Your Brain

Did you know that thinking about food can cause your stomach to release digestive acids? That’s because your brain and GI tract are intimately connected. Have you ever felt sick before performing in a play or giving a presentation? Anxiety can cause existing GI disorders to be exacerbated and can create GI issues for anyone. People with GI disorders are often very sensitive to changes in their systems; a carefully monitored diet can help but managing stress levels can too.

Symptoms of Stress-Induced GI Responses

Stress can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea, nausea, appetite changes, and even ulcers. If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you may experience these symptoms more acutely during times of high stress. Of course, reacting to stress with GI symptoms can induce more anxiety and impact your quality of life.

How to Reduce Anxiety

In today’s environment, so filled with unknowns, there are several key things you can do to help improve your mental and physical health:

  1. Step away from social media. Continued exposure to bad news will increase your anxiety exponentially. It’s ok to turn off, unplug, disconnect, and ignore it.
  2. Breathe. Slow, deep breathing, even for one minute, can radically improve your stress levels and the associated gastrointestinal issues you are experiencing.
  3. Exercise. Whether you go for a 10-mile run or walk slowly around the block, exercise and fresh air will help improve your stress and anxiety levels and can even aid in digestion.
  4. Talk to someone. Whether you access a mental health professional or just have (virtual) coffee with a friend, talking can help you reduce anxiety.
  5. Make an appointment. Our team strives to provide excellence in gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition services for patients in North Houston and the surrounding areas.

We believe quality care begins with a patient-centered approach to diagnosing and treating both minor and chronic GI conditions. Schedule an appointment at our practice today by calling 832.912.4481 or fill out the form on this page.

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