Gut and Brain Connection

Gut and Brain Connection | Is This Affecting Your Digestion?


Gut and Brain Connection | Have you ever been in a situation that causes physical symptoms, such as intense anxiety that causes nausea, or something exciting that causes “butterflies in your stomach?” You may have heard that your gut and brain connection is very unique and strong. Well, these experiences described above, are all examples of this connection. That “gut wrenching” experience wasn’t just coincidence. Your digestive symptoms are sensitive to emotion, which means anger, stress, anxiety, joy, and sadness can all be triggers to your gut problems.

Gut and Brain Connection

The Connection Between The Gut and The Brain

Your brain has a direct link to your gut. The interesting thing is that this connection goes both ways. According to Harvard Health, a problematic gut can send signals to the brain. Similarly an individual going through stress or anxiety will send these signals to your digestive tract. Have you ever experienced an upset gastrointestinal tract without an obvious physical cause? It is worth to consider that your emotions may be the culprit. 


Research has found that psychosocial factors can affect and influence the physiology of the gut as well as symptoms. This means that stress, depression, and anxiety can cause increased inflammation of the gut, affect contractions and movement of the gut, and increase risk of infection. Based on these observations, individuals who suffer from gut issues may benefit from reducing stress and anxiety as therapy. 


Are Your Stomach Problems Related To Stress?

There are many different gastrointestinal symptoms that someone can experience. If you are concerned that your stomach issues are related to stress, the following symptoms are signs that your stomach problems may be related. 


Physical symptoms

  • Stiffness or tense muscles, specifically in the neck and shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Sleep issues
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Recent loss of interest in sex or low libido
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Restlessness

Behavioral symptoms

  • Procrastination that causes problems
  • Grinding of the teeth
  • Difficulty completing work assignments
  • Changes in the amount of alcohol or food you consume
  • Starting up smoking, or smoking more frequently
  • Increased desire to be with or withdraw from others
  • Frequent talking
  • Agonizing about stressful situations

Emotional symptoms

  • Crying
  • Overwhelming sense of tension or pressure
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Nervousness
  • Quick temper
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Loss of sense of humor
  • Difficulty making decisions

Consider all of the stressors

There are many different types of stressors that can affect the gut. Here is a list of common stressors:

Dietary and emotional stressors:

  • Processed foods- foods high in sugar and hydrogenated oils.
  • Food sensitivities- these include but not limited to gluten and lactose.
  • Dehydration
  • Not enough fiber
  • Low self-esteem, or confidence
  • Relationships
  • Trauma

The gut and brain connection is a very strong and important one. If you are constantly experiencing adverse gastrointestinal problems, or you are constantly in a state of stress, don’t let it take over your life. Stress reduction has been shown to help many individuals not only with their gut issues, but also help improve their quality of life.

If you are dealing with gastrointestinal issues and think it may be due to emotional stress, consider consulting with a doctor of functional medicine Overland Park KS, who can assist you. A treatment plan will be created to help establish hormonal balance and improve your overall health.

Dr Corey Priest, DC - Functional medicine practitioner

About the author

Dr. Corey Priest has been practicing functional medicine since 2001. in2GREAT was founded in 2014 by Dr Priest after 13 years of experience with his other practices. Over his career, Dr. Priest has worked with and helped well over 10,000 patients under a functional medicine model.