Why You Get an Upset Stomach When You’re Stressed

October 2, 2019 TJ DeSalvo

All my life, I’ve struggled with stress -- similarly, all my life I’ve had a sensitive stomach. Occasionally, in what seems like the most random times, my stomach becomes upset for what seems like no reason at all. I had never really given it much thought until now, instead just accepting it as a random quirk of my body.

But then, the other day, I thought to myself – is there a connection between my stomach and my stress? Crazy how I never took the time to make that connection until just now. Well, it only took a few seconds of Internet searching to discover, yes, if you’re stressed out, your stomach is probably going to be more upset.

Stress’ Influence on Your Stomach

Even if you don’t have, for instance, irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis, stress can actually cause a person to have symptoms that essentially mirrors those diseases.

How does this happen? It’s due to the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is connected to your gastrointestinal system. When stress-related neurotransmitters and hormones are released by the brain and/or your endocrine system, your ENS responds in turn. An increased amount of blood is relocated to your heart and lungs as part of the fight-or-flight reaction – because of that, your stomach is not able to function as quickly or effectively as it normally would.1

How to Live with a Stressed Out Stomach

If you’re like me and live with chronic anxiety, then you’re going to have to accept the fact that you’re going to live with a permanently upset stomach as well. It’s annoying, sure, but that’s the way it is.

If this is you, the most important thing to remember is to always be on your guard. Just because you’re stressed doesn’t always mean your stomach is going to respond the same way every time – for me, I can never predict when my stomach is going to be upset, even if I recognize I’m more stressed than usual. It just sort of happens.

Even though food may not be the root cause of your upset stomach, when it happens, it is helpful to always have some things that are easier to keep down when your stomach does start to act up. Bland carbohydrates like toast and crackers are perhaps the easiest things to keep down during these times. With that, perhaps try making some ginger or chamomile tea, both of which are traditional remedies for an upset stomach.2

Of course, if you ever think your upset stomach is more serious than just a side effect of your stress, see a doctor right away. But for the most part, an upset stomach is similar to anxiety itself – sometimes it gets bad, but it only lasts a little while before it goes away and everything goes back to normal. Always have that truism close to you when times are bad.


  1. Nall, R., "Causes and Treatments for a Nervous Stomach." Medical News Today, April 25, 2018.
  2. Julson, E., "The 12 Best Foods for an Upset Stomach." Healthline, May 16, 2018.

APA Reference
DeSalvo, T. (2019, October 2). Why You Get an Upset Stomach When You’re Stressed, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: TJ DeSalvo

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November, 3 2020 at 2:20 pm

You don't have to accept or live with these symptoms forever. Take care of yourself by going to a naturopathic doctor, getting tests done, and getting to the root cause of your anxiety to resolve the chronic stomach upset and chronic anxiety. There are cures for this.

Valerie mccann
February, 17 2020 at 2:24 pm

Oh my god that's me bother with my nervous stomach

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