Why stress gives you a dodgy tummy

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

There is close relationship between our brain and digestive system, they really buddy up when it comes to keeping us safe. If there is something stressful happening the brain knows it's the right bit of kit to solve the problem, but it needs extra energy to get through the stressful incident (for thinking and for firing up the parts of the body required for the fight/flight/freeze/ appease response). The brain therefore borrows some energy from the gut. The gut is keen to be of assistance and does as the brain asks by reducing the mucus and blood flow required to digest the food. It therefore empties out the system quickly (cue running to the loo and feeling sick) i.e. it saves the energy required for the brain by having less to digest.

Why this causes problems

In the short term this partnership between the brain and digestive system is good - it is designed to get us out of danger. The tricky thing is that it wasn't designed for long-term stress. This ongoing process can put a strain on the digestive process, if your stomach is trying to digest food with reduced mucus on a regular basis it can lead to longer term digestive problems. To avoid this the gut will send unpleasant messages to the brain in an attempt to tell it "I've had enough, I need my mucus back!". It does this with fatigue and tummy discomfort.

Do you listen to your body?!

If you recognise these symptoms of fatigue, butterflies, reflux and fatigue then now is the time to start to schedule in self-care. You are literally running on empty and you will be a better problem-solver for the stressful events that happen in life if your internal system is balanced. Mindfulness, giving away some of your to-do list, resting, taking lunch breaks and turning off your work emails after hours are all ways you can start to bring balance into your life so that your digestive system can start to reset.

This is interesting I want to know more about it!

I recommend reading Gut by Guilia Enders for an easy read of everything to do with the digestive system.


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