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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ni Li, ND MSc

Can stress cause stomach pain and bloating?

Updated: Feb 25, 2023


Stress cause stomach pain and bloating

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When I was in medical school for my doctorate, the study load had become so overwhelming that my mind was constantly thinking about deadlines and exams. I didn’t usually have any stomach issues. However, I had stomach pain and discomfort almost every day during those exam weeks. That was when I noticed the association between stress and stomach pain. That was also when I learned the most about stress management and self-care.


So can stress cause stomach pain and bloating? The answer is yes! Many people, including myself, have found that during stressful times, they tend to have stomach pain, more gas and bloating associated with meals. Many find changes in their bowel movements too.


How long can stress-caused stomach pain last?


Stomach pain caused by stress can last a few minutes to a few hours. It varies between individuals. Even for the same person, it can vary between times. Because many factors can affect how severe it goes and how long it lasts. For example, your stress level, your constitution, things you eat, etc.


Why does stress cause stomach pain and bloating?


A simplified way to put it is that we have two systems regulating our daily responses and activities. One is “fight or flight”, and the other is “rest and digest”. When one is on, the other is on hold. Under stress, our body and mind sense danger or threats, so the “fight or flight” system is triggered. “Rest and digest” has been inhibited until we feel safe and secure again. That is also why we often find our sleep disturbed when stressed, just like the digestive system.


How to relieve stress-caused stomach pain and bloating?


First, reduce stress!

I know it’s easier said than done. And stress management is a process that takes some time to learn and master. The good news is it doesn’t need to be complicated or take a lot of time. There are a few simple things that you can do to get some relief quickly. I have a guide called “Five quick ways to reduce stress” to get you started. It is freely available to be downloaded on my website here.


Second, go easy on your digestive system.

Are your stomach pain and bloating associated with meals? As we talked about earlier, stress often inhibits our digestive functions. It increases the chance that foods do not sit well with us or take longer to digest. Therefore, it helps if we eat foods that are easier to digest during stressful periods. Eat warm and cooked foods and avoid high-fat and big meals. Having a routine, e.g. eating around the same time every day, also helps.


Third, eat mindfully.

When stressed, we can be unaware of the foods we eat and their tastes. Our body and mind are still stuck in stress mode, not ready for eating and digestion. What we can do is mindful eating, which starts as simple as a few minutes before meals. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, then move your attention to your senses. Ask yourself about the sounds you hear now, the smells, the tastes in your mouth, and the feels on your hands, feet, and body. Switch your body and mind to eating and digestion mode. During meal time, once you find your mind wandering away from the experience of eating, bring it back by asking yourself about the colours, tastes, and smells of food.


When to see a doctor for stomach pain?


Keep in mind that other than stress, many other things may cause symptoms like stomach pain and bloating. You should see a doctor for further investigation if

  • Symptoms do not improve or get worse;

  • You vomit blood;

  • You have bloody or darkened stools;

  • You have a fever; or

  • You lose weight unintentionally.

If you have stress and a range of symptoms, you may also want to see a doctor for whole-person assessment and treatments.


Last, remember you can make a change!


Take action about your stress and stomach pain now! Download the free guide “Five quick ways to reduce stress” here. Try a few things out right now. List out things you want to incorporate into your daily life. Make a plan, and you can do it!

If you need additional guidance and medical services, we are always here to listen and help. Book a discovery call to find out how we can help you further.


Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational/informational purposes only, and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Learn more.


2 Kommentare


glasswingz
23. Jan. 2023

I always get digestive issues when I'm stressed too!

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Dr. Ni Li, ND MSc
Dr. Ni Li, ND MSc
23. Jan. 2023
Antwort an

Thanks for the comment, glasswingz! Hope the tips I shared in the post has brought you some relief! Keep in touch and let us know if we can be of any further help.

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