How Stress Affects Digestion

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Feb 28, 2015

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Quick Bites

  • Stress affects your mood and overall health.
  • It can throw your digestion off track.
  • Make sure you manage your stress on time.
  • Too much of stress can worsen digestive problems.

You don’t need a phD to know how it feels when your stress affects your stomach. If you have ever choked under stress or had made a gut-wrenching decision under pressure you would know how stress can affect your digestion.

stress and digestion

What happens to digestion under stress?

The enteric nervous system, a system which is composed of hundreds of millions of nerves, carries signals to the central nervous system and is known to control the digestion process. When flight or fight response in your central nervous system is activated by stress, digestion shuts down and your central nervous system shuts down the blood flow affecting the contraction of your digestive muscles and reducing the secretions needed for digestion. Stress can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal system, making you more susceptible to infection.

Stress can cause your esophagus to go into spasms and increase the acid in your stomach causing indigestion. When you are stressed, your stomach gets affected, making you nauseous.


Under stress, the mill in your stomach can shut down and make you feel nauseous. Stress can cause your colon to react in a way that gives you diarrhea or constipation. We are all familiar with the athlete or the student who has to rush to the bathroom before the big game or the big exam. Although stress may not cause stomach ulcers, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease, it can make these and other digestive diseases worse.

When you are stressed your body starts acting defensively which leads to excessive generation of some chemicals that can not only affect your mood and cause anxiety and restlessness, but also affect the body’s natural functioning of most of the body’s systems, including the digestive system.


You should manage your stress levels effectively to prevent such negative impact on your digestion. You may try meditation and deep breathing techniques to fight stress. If you are experiencing stress because of something emotional or related to your work, share your problems with someone close to you. It will help you feel better and you may easily prevent your digestion from getting affected.

One of the best things to do under such circumstances is to contact your doctor and share everything that is happening to you. Your doctor will be able to provide you quick medical solution for the problem and if the stress has taken its toll on the digestion, the medication can also help you minimise the damage. However, you also need to get rid of common sources of the stress. Once your stress levels are back to normal, your body will also start functioning normally.


Image Courtesy : Getty

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