top of page

How Does Stress Affect Digestive Health

Life in the 21st century is full of stress. There are unavoidable sources of problems that one has to face daily. Where stress levels can affect your mood and mental health, it can also have a striking effect on your gut. In fact, stress has a major impact on your digestive health and it influences your digestive system in a variety of ways. Here we describe the many ways that stress contributes to unbalances in the digestive tract.

Altered Bacterial Flora Of The Gut

Usually, our gut is colonized by a variety of bacteria. These bacteria have many functions some of which are nutritional. Other functions are protective. The gut bacteria actually take up all the places in the lumen of the intestine so there is none left for pathogenic ones. This, in turn, protects your gut. Remember, when you eat antibiotics, you often get stomach upsets and diarrhea. That is basically because the gut bacteria is lost and now new, pathogenic bacteria have taken up their place to produce the symptoms. Something similar also happens in chronic stress. The high levels of stress stimulate the growth of toxic strains of bacteria that in turn disrupt your digestive health.

Leaky Gut

The leaky gut syndrome is a common problem among people that is due to large pores in the digestive tract. Stress is one of the major reasons responsible for the leaky gut syndrome. This causes excessive drainage of substances like gluten and toxins into the bloodstream. This, in turn, leads to the chronic inflammation of the gut. Inflammation then, in turn, causes the gut wall to become more permeable causing fats and carbs to filter through into the bloodstream. These excessive fats are deposited into the body causing excessive weight gain. Plus, it gives rise to digestive problems like flatulence, chronic abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Results in Inflammation

Stress can hamper the normal immunological processes of the body and cause excessive stimulation of white blood vessels. Excessive inflammation due to stress can affect a number of different organs including the gut. The inflammation results in increased permeability of the gut which leads to the transfer of toxins and fatty acids into the system. This also leads to gut symptoms and deranged digestive health which can have long-term consequences. Chronic inflammation can also lead to cancer of the GIT.

Nutrient loss

Where on one hand stress can cause the leaky gut on the other it can decrease the ability of the gut to absorb valuable nutrients. Your body needs its nutrients and stress lead to an inability to do so. Nutrient absorption may be decreased due to stress-induced damage, stress-induced GI disorders and other factors that are related to stress.

Increases Sensitivity to Pain

Initially, stress elicits the fight and flight mechanism that actually decreases the perception of pain. However, chronic stress actually enhances pain perception. Studies suggest pain thresholds for a simple balloon distension procedure decreased in patients with IBS. This signifies the markedly reduced threshold of pain due to stress.

All of these different methods and pathologies show the different ways in which stress is affecting your gut. You need to understand the consequences of chronic stress. This only emphasizes the importance of minimizing stress in life. It may be difficult, but it isn’t impossible!

bottom of page