How can emotions affect digestion?

Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
The brain has a direct effect on the stomach: even the thought of eating can release the stomach's juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a patient's distressed gut can be as much the cause as the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected -- so intimately, that they should be viewed as one system, rather than two.

This is especially true in cases when the gut is acting up and there's no obvious physical or infectious cause. For such functional GI disorders, trying to heal a distressed gut without considering the impact of stress and emotion is like trying to improve an employee's poor job performance without considering his manager and work environment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.