Chronic stress can wreak havoc on a person’s mental and physical health. With a long list of health-related symptoms that includes heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, and diabetes, digestive issues might be easy to ignore. According to health professionals, though, that’s a bad idea.
How Chronic Stress Affects The Digestive System
There is a significant link between the brain and the digestive system. Studies show that being under stress will increase gut motility and the secretion of fluids. That’s why your stomach flutters when you’re feeling anxious or the appetite might be suppressed when depression sets in.
If someone is under chronic stress, however, the digestive issues will be more pronounced. In fact, there are several illnesses that can be triggered or worsened when you’re stressed.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
While chronic stress might not cause inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis, it can certainly make the conditions worse. If you’ve been undergoing treatment to get the IBD under control, being constantly stressed can undo all that work.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
In a recent study, persons who had developed gastroenteritis from the bacteria, Campylobacter were investigated. It was found that those who didn’t handle stress well were more likely to develop IBS over time. The outcome was different for those who were depressed.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
For persons who have GERD, doctors have not noted an increase in their symptoms but the patients themselves report that the pain gets worse during a stressful situation. As might be expected, chronic stress would lead to chronic pain.
Peptic Ulcer Disease
Technically, this digestive disease is caused when the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), weakens the mucous lining that protects the stomach. With the lining compromised, the stomach acid can irritate the exposed lining and cause an ulcer. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that chronic stress can cause inflammation in the lining, which may, in turn, lead to the development of ulcers.
Typical Signs of Chronic Stress
It’s perfectly normal to experience stress during an exam, a presentation, or a high-stakes project.