The Role of Stress in Gastrointestinal Illness

The gastrointestinal tract is one of the most sensitive systems in the body.  There is a large array of symptoms that can be attributed to stress, and many illnesses may be due in large part to stress.  Symptoms such as hiccups, belching, flatus (gas), bloating, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and urgency to have a bowel movement or urinate can be stress related.  Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, cyclical vomiting, tension headaches, and fibromyalgia can all be caused in part by stress.  Exacerbations of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease occur in the face of exacerbated stress.

Stress that can cause these symptoms and ailments often come from the common stresses of daily life.  These include stress due to interactions with the family, friends, job related issues, and the myriad of problems and crises that occur in one’s life.  Financial, spousal problems, divorce, single parenthood and illness in the family are major causes of stress that can lead to real (organic) illness.  There are very few among us who do not have significant stress in our lives.  Often, however, this goes unrecognized, and therefore nothing is done to try to resolve it.

Treatments for stress may include relation techniques, stress management, yoga, meditation, exercising, avoiding stressful situations (and people), psychoanalyst therapy or sedative medications.

Since stress may be the root problem for many of the problems listed above, until this is resolved, the problems may be treated, but won’t be fully resolved.