Woman lying down on the couch clutching her stomach due to stomach and gut pain

Effects of Stress on the Gut

Stress gets a lot of attention these days, but...



Gut - Brain Axis

The gut is commonly referred to as the second brain, for good reason. The digestive tract ensures proper maintenance and coordination of gastrointestinal functions to support behavioral and physiological health. The gut and brain support, regulate, and go hand in hand with one another. This connection is often times referred to as the gut-brain axis and showcases why stress can affect numerous systems in our body.

Stress & Gut Microbiome

Our gut is home to trillions of microorganisms like bacteria, yeasts, helminth parasites, viruses, and protozoa. These organisms create an environment that helps support, regulate, and protect our digestive tract. Stress, along with other physiological factors, can affect movements and contraction in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In addition, the gut can produce physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms when under stress. In fact, a large majority of the body's happy hormone (serotonin) is stored in the gut. If you think your intestinal dysfunctions may be related to stress, look out for these common symptoms.


  • GI Distress/Issues
  • Sleep Problems
  • Weight Gain/Loss


  • Depression
  • Appetite Changes
  • Anxiety


  • Increased Irritability
  • Compulsive Behavior
  • Overreaction


Tips for De-Stressing

  • Monitor Your Self Talk/Thoughts: How you perceive and "talk" to yourself can be a major stressor that many of us do not even consider to have an impact. The constant worrying of expectations we think we should model after, comparison to others, negatively thinking about ourselves, dwelling on past mistakes, and thinking about scenarios we would do all over again can lead to anxiety. Anxiety is often self-induced and causes our bodies to tap into our sympathetic nervous system, or better known as "fight or flight." This is why our gastrointestinal movement may be altered during times of stressful events.

  • Dietary Supplementation/Food Choices: Several studies have shown that diets that modify the gut microbiome, probiotics, and probiotics can reduce stress-related behavior and HPA activation (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). Diets filled with fatty, sugary, and/or processed foods seem to increase stress/inflammation in individuals when over-consumed; while lean meats, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables helped in reducing stress. The supplements listed below were shown to increase anxiety-like behaviors/responses, restore gut damage from past experiences, and stabilize cortisol levels back to a healthy range. (Rhodiola, Magnesium, EPA/DHA, Vitamin B complex, Ashwaganda, and Valerian Root)

  • Self Care: Making time to focus on yourself is a great tool for managing stress. We live in a society that is constantly on the go. Factoring in time for ourselves is usually the last thing we are thinking about, and this neglect can lead to an accumulation of stress over time. Watching your favorite Netflix series, spending time with friends, going for a walk, or taking a bath are just some of the things you can do to unwind and practice self-care.

How Do You Manage Stress?

Some people can handle major stressful events without batting an eye, while others become distressed at the slightest change in their normal routine. If you identify yourself as the latter, your intestinal health may be suffering. This is why stress management is key! Start by evaluating your stress levels your stress levels and protectively combating your triggers. By practicing and implementing these healthy habits/tips, you can reduce stress and take control over your gut health.


Did you know.. Stress is a result of both 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐰𝐞 𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐀𝐍𝐃 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐨𝐱𝐢𝐜 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐬 that are often prevalent in our everyday life.⁣

Click HERE to read more about what stressors are present in your everyday life and how to REMOVE them!


Source: Foster, Jane A. et al. "Stress & the Gut-Brain Axis: Regulation by the Microbiome." Neurobiology of Stress, vol. 7, 7 Dec. 2017, pp. 124-136.

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