Grace Vaughn, Reporter

Everyone has experienced the feeling of stress. There are several types and indicators of stress, which all carry mental and physical health risks. An indicator of stress, or a stressor might be a one time occurrence or it could recur over time. Some people do not have very effective ways of coping and suffer more from stressful affairs and events than others. Coping with chronic stress can be very difficult. Since long term stress is more persistent than acute stress, the human body never acknowledges a signal to restore back to normal. As a result of chronic stress, many human bodies react by perturbing the digestive, immune, sleep, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. Most people experience headaches, sadness, sleeplessness, irritability, or anger. 


Over time, researchers have discovered that the brain-gut connection is not a joke. It links stomach problems to anxiety and vice versa. People use different expressions that actually have a reason, such as “butterflies.” The gastrointestinal tract is very sensitive to emotion. Sadness, anxiety, elation, anger, and many more can trigger the symptoms of the gut. 


The brain has a very distinct effect on the intestines and stomach. For instance, just the thought of eating can amplify the stomach’s natural juices before the food even gets there. This connection is directly related and goes both ways. The troublesome brain sends a signal to the gut, just like the intestine sends a signal to the brain. Moreover, someone’s intestinal or stomach distress may be the product of stress, anxiety, or depression or could be the cause. This fact shows that the gastrointestinal system and the brain are intimately connected. 


In addition, this is also the case when people experience gastrointestinal discomfort without any obvious physical cause. Given how the brain and gut’s intimate connection, it is easier to perceive why someone might feel nauseous or have intestinal discomfort before giving a public speech or presentation. However, this does not mean that gastrointestinal conditions are all in someone’s head or imagined. Studies have shown that physical factors and psychology combined can cause stomach and bowel pain or symptoms. Emotions influence the structure and physiology of the gut, affecting the movement of the gastrointestinal tract. Some people who have functional gastrointestinal disorders feel pain lighter than most other people do. This is because their brain receives more pain signals from the gastrointestinal tract. Stress may cause the existing pain to seem worse.