How Depression Affects the Gut

The gut-brain connection is a real thing; it can connect anxiety to stomach problems and vice versa. Have you ever had a "gut-wrenching" experience? Do certain situations make you like you’re close to vomiting? Have you ever felt "butterflies or anxiety" in your stomach? These feelings happen for a reason.

When the body is exposed to stress, it goes through a series of changes so that all energy and major resources are directed to the muscles and brain. Stress also causes the body to release cortisol, and all these factors can affect the gut microbiome.

 The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Irritation, anxiety, sadness, joy — all of these feelings (and others) can cause symptoms in the gut. The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach's juices before food gets there.

This connection goes both ways. A troubled gut can send signals to the brain, just as an anxious and worried brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach or gut issues can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and the g (GI) system are intimately connected. This is true in cases where a person experiences an upset stomach with no clear physical cause. For such functional GI disorders, it is difficult to try to heal a distressed gut without considering the role of stress and emotion.


No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute as medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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