Gut Health and Mental Health

You should pay attention to your gut-brain connection, it may contribute to your anxiety and digestion problems. The gut-brain connection can link anxiety to stomach problems and vice versa. Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Do certain situations make you “feel nauseous”? Have you felt “butterflies” in your stomach? These expressions are used for a reason. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotions. Anger, anxiety, sadness – all of these feelings and others can trigger symptoms in the gut.

The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.

Gut Health and Anxiety

Given how closely the gut and the brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why you might feel nauseated before giving a presentation or feel intestinal pain during times of stress. That does not mean that functional gastrointestinal conditions are imagined or “all in your head”. Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual psychology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress or depression, or other psychological factors affect movement and contractions of the GI tract. In addition, many people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains are more responsive to pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain seem even worse.

Based on these observations, you might expect that some patients with functional GI conditions might improve with therapy to reduce stress or treat anxiety and depression. Multiple studies have found that psychologically-based approaches lead to greater improvement to digestive symptoms compared with only conventional medical treatment.

Gut-Brain Connection, Anxiety, and Digestion

Is your stomach or intestinal problems, such as heartburn or abdominal cramps, related to stress? Watch for these and other common symptoms of stress and discuss them with Laurian Ward Psychologist. Together we can come up with strategies to help you deal with stressors in your life, and ease your digestive problems.