Upset Stomach? Might Be Stress. | Carson Tahoe Health

Chronic stress affects gut health and several gastrointestinal conditions.

Every time you feel “butterflies” in your stomach, that’s the brain-gut connection hard at work. This feeling is caused by millions of neurons in your digestive system that communicate with the brain. This brain-gut connection is the reason stress can cause a variety of digestive health conditions.

Stress impacts gut motility, which is how the muscles and intestines move food through the gastrointestinal [GI] tract. Slow gut motility causes bloating and constipation, but stress can increase gut motility and cause diarrhea. Healthy bacteria in your digestive system can help prevent constipation and diarrhea, but chronic stress can alter these bacteria in the intestines.

A state of chronic stress increases the body’s inflammatory response and lowers its ability to fight infections, aggravating GI conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Coping with stress using alcohol, tobacco, or junk food can cause acid reflux and stomach issues. To manage stress, focus on healthy lifestyle habits instead.

  • Eat a balanced diet. Fresh produce and lean protein strengthens gut motility and protects healthy gut bacteria.
  • Exercise regularly. Even gentle exercise such as walking or yoga can improve mood and gut motility.
  • Try probiotics. Ask your gastroenterologist about probiotic supplements to protect healthy bacteria in the gut.

Learn more and connect with a gastroenterologist at