Do Your Gut Pains Cause Your Anxiety Or Vice Versa?
There has become an increasing interest in the connection between our stress/anxiety levels and our gut. Although, you may be wondering, what came first, the chicken or the egg? I mean... did your gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation cause your anxiety or did your anxiety cause it?
Taking a deeper look at our guts and anxiety has brought interesting findings and you are most definitely going to want to read both sides of the story here!
How your stomach issues contribute to your anxiety
Up to 90% of your serotonin your happy hormone is produced in the gut. If your gut is unhappy, you are going to be unhappy and increasing evidence has shown just that.
Studies are showing that imbalance and inflammation of the gut has been linked to causing several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, which are prevalent in society today (1).
Having said that, no study need tell you that the fear of pooping your pants, being glued to the toilet with diarrhea or clothes fitting tight because of the bloating from being constipated, is anxiety provoking. In fact, the embarrassment of farting on a dinner date will likely give you stress that will have you believe that your symptoms are causing your anxiety.
Or is it the other way around?
How your anxiety contributes to your stomach issues
You may have experienced the flares in symptoms that can occur during times of stress but you may not have considered it one of the causers that is keeping your gut unhappy.
Studies show that stress poses as both a short and long term threat to the balance and functionality of the G.I. (gastrointestinal) tract. In fact exposure to stress and anxiety can develop into a variety of gut disorders including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatry bowel disease (IBD) and even functional gut issues such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers and adverse food responses.
You may be wondering how that is possible. Major effects of stress can change the functionality of the gut in the following ways:
motility (think poop!)
changes in enzyme production
increase in leaky gut or intestinal permeability
Decrease in good bacteria
decrease in G.I. mucosa and mucosal blood flow (2).
No matter which came first, the anxiety or your symptoms, the fact is both go hand in hand and there is no fixing your gut without addressing both. It's like saying I'll put some gas in my car but not worry about the oil. They are both a part of the greater operation and the maintenance of both means a happy, healthy, well oiled wheel (I mean... gut!) that will have you living your life once again pain free.