The Connection Between Stress & The Gut

Not all stress is bad. When we perceive a threat, our brain kicks in to protect us by triggering the “fight or flight” response. It is an evolutionary hormonal response of energy and adrenaline hardwired to help us first survive and then restore us back to normal.

Our stress response is meant for short-term conflict resolution. However, in our modern society stress doesn't always let up. Many of us are in a continual state of anxiety and worry about daily events and relationships. Stress hormones continue to surge through the system at high levels, never leaving the blood and tissues.

The Problem with Stress Today

Today, the real danger isn’t being chased by a sabretooth tiger; it is the repeated elevations of stress hormones.

For example, feelings of being overworked or undervalued, could be perceived as a threat and in turn activate the stress response. However, in this example, the survival aspects of the stress response, such as increased heart rate and immune activation, is not effective in resolving this threat.

This real danger is the increased production and high levels of stress chemicals in the body. They bind to target receptors in organs throughout the body, leading to negative effects on physiology and function.

One organ of particular concern is the Gastrointestinal Tract. Chronic stress can manifest as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease.

While one may be diagnosed with a GI issue and receive treatment, it might be worth investigating the source underlying the irritation. Perhaps it is stress?

Elder people happy and without stress

How to Reduce Stress

Reducing stress is an ongoing process. Daily, focus on wat you can control and release what you cannot. Take care of your body by eating real food, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and learning how to calm the heart and mind.

For those plagued with a lifetime of unmanaged stress, Dr. Chrousos, a theorist on stress who provided research and recommendations to the National Institute of Mental Health, concluded chronic stress should not be taken lightly or accepted as a fact of life.

Chronic stress should not be taken lightly or accepted as a fact of life.


"Persistent, unremitting stress leads to a variety of serious health problems," Dr. Chrousos said.

"Anyone who suffers from chronic stress needs to take steps to alleviate it, either by learning simple techniques to relax and calm down, or with the help of qualified therapists.


National Institutes of Health. (2002, September 9). Stress System Malfunction Could Lead to Serious, Life Threatening Disease. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from

Information presented by W(h)ealth should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Consult a doctor and/or medical professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.

Leave a Reply