When you're anxious, can you feel flutters in your stomach? Do you sometimes feel nauseous when you're nervous?

According to studies, you get butterflies and nausea because there is a link between your brain and your stomach -- and when you're stressed, your stomach knows it.

The American Institute of Stress said that stress can cause such issues as stomach pain, nausea, excess belching and flatulence, and constipation or diarrhea. It also said that stress can cause or aggravate diseases of the digestive tract, including ulcers.

Stress And The GI System

Dr. Douglas Drossman, co-director of the University of North Carolina's Center for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders, told the AARP that the brain and gastrointestinal (GI) system are connected -- meaning that an ailing intestine can send messages to the brain, and the brain can send messages to the intestine.

Drossman added, according to AARP, that stress can affect the GI tract, cause inflammation or put you more at-risk for infection.


How do you know if stress is causing your gastrointestinal symptoms? According to AARP, here are some signs to look for: stiff or tense muscles, headaches, trouble sleeping, shakiness or tremors, loss of interest in sex, weight loss or gain, restlessness, behavioral symptoms, procrastination, grinding teeth, difficulty working and changes in the amount of alcohol or food you consume.

Treatment Options

If you are suffering from stress-related GI issues, there are multiple ways to treat your symptoms.

According to AARP, most patients respond to changes in their diet or medications. If your symptoms persist, your doctor might perform more tests to rule out a more serious condition, or your doctor might prescribe symptom-specific medications.

For patients who have severe stress-related symptoms, a doctor might recommend psychological treatments, such as therapy or relaxation techniques. According to AARP, the goal with these types of treatments is to reduce anxiety and help the patient cope.

Does Stress Cause Heartburn?

According to Health.com, stress may increase the symptoms and pain associated with chronic heartburn, but it is not likely to be the cause of it. Instead, the website said that bacterial infections and inflammation are more likely to be the cause.

However, Health.com said that stress can make you feel the pain associated with acid reflux more intensely. According to the website, stressed people are more aware of physical symptoms that unstressed people might not even notice. This doesn't imply that the pain is in your head, rather, according to Health.com, some experts suggest that stress might trigger areas of the brain that make certain pain receptors in your esophagus more active.

To try to curb the pain associated with heartburn, Health.com suggests avoiding chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes and tomato sauces, spicy or fatty foods, whole dairy products and peppermint.