Abdominal pain is something we all experience at some point in our lives. If you’ve been under a lot of stress lately and have been experiencing abdominal pain, you might wonder if they are related.
Stress can cause abdominal pain for a number of reasons related to the elevated levels of certain hormones. You may also experience symptoms of anxiety, bloating, and gassiness due to the effects of stress on the gastrointestinal system.
Below we will further explore how stress can affect your body and cause abdominal pain. Before we get to that, it is important to note that any severe or long-term pain should be checked by a physician – even if only to give you peace of mind and assure you that you aren’t suffering from something potentially life-threatening.
How Can Stress Cause Abdominal Pain?
Stress is a slow and silent killer. If you’ve been under high levels of stress for a long time, you’re likely to experience a wide range of symptoms that are due to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your system.
Stress Isn’t All Bad, But Too Much Can Affect Your Gut
The stress hormone cortisol is secreted by your adrenal glands and is necessary for a healthy functioning body. Like other hormones, it begins to wreak havoc once there is too much or too little.
Elevated stress levels can cause your cortisol levels to become unbalanced, which directly impacts how effectively your immune system operates. This doesn’t usually happen overnight and you may not even realize how stress is affecting your body. You might just feel gassier than usual at first and begin developing pain at a later stage.
In turn, the diminished ability of your immune system to fight infection and inflammation directly affects your gut health by allowing unwanted or harmful bacteria to colonize or reduce levels of beneficial bacteria that help us break down our food effectively.
If your stress has begun to affect your gut health, you are likely to experience gassiness and cramping, especially if you’ve taken to snacking on unhealthy junk food – this can further erode your gut health, leaving you with discomfort and pain.
You Are What You Eat
If you are prone to anxiety, the feeling of butterflies in your stomach may be all too familiar. In some people, it can lead to nausea and loss of appetite. It’s possible that you may also be tenser than you realize.
Anxiety and stress trigger the stomach to produce acid, which may result in acid reflux and heartburn. Couple this with a loss of appetite, a poor diet, and a weakened immune system – you’ve got a recipe for abdominal pain right there.
You can seek symptomatic relief from heartburn by taking antacid medication, but if you don’t resolve the underlying cause and support your body with a healthy diet then you are unlikely to find relief.
Chronic stress and anxiety-related stomach acidity can damage the lining of the stomach and lead to ulcers. These are wounds created by heightened or excessive acidity in the lining of the stomach, esophagus, or small intestine. Ulcers can also be caused by bacteria, but no matter the cause, ulcers can be extremely painful.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Stress
Many people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. This disease is characterized by abdominal discomfort and constipation. Recent studies have linked heightened stress levels in mice to developing IBS-like symptoms (1).
In some cases, probiotics have been shown to improve IBS symptoms and help manage the disease, but they don’t work right away. You have to take probiotics for at least a few weeks before you see any benefits since the beneficial bacteria need time to colonize in your gut.
Choosing a Good Probiotic
A high-quality probiotic will contain a prebiotic – this is essentially indigestible carbohydrates that will be used by the good bacteria in your probiotic in order to help them grow. It should also contain several different strains of bacteria. Take a look at Approved Science® Probiotic for a clinically-backed formula that is manufactured in an FDA-approved laboratory and held up to stringent safety requirements.
While taking a probiotic can help restore balance to your gut and relieve discomfort over time, it is an exercise in futility if you do not back it up with a good diet that includes different fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens.
Your Takeaway For Stress Related Abdominal Pain
Chronic stress and anxiety have been linked to poor gut health and abdominal pain, especially when combined with a poor diet. Probiotics can provide relief by rejuvenating the gastrointestinal microbiome and supporting the immune system.
In closing, a reminder – if you have been experiencing severe abdominal pain, or if you’ve had pain and discomfort for a while it is a good idea to get it checked out by a doctor to rule out any other health issues like ulcers (2).