What's The Connection Between Stress and Abdominal Bloating?
What is the exact connection between stress and abdominal bloating?
Stress and abdominal bloating have been linked in many studies. Abdominal bloating is a condition where the belly feels full and swollen due to gas accumulation in the intestines. Stress, on the other hand, is a state of mental or emotional tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. While stress can cause different types of health problems, including mental and cardiovascular disorders, it can also affect the digestive system, causing bloating, discomfort, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
This article will explore the connection between stress and abdominal bloating by reviewing the existing literature and examining the possible mechanisms that underlie this association. Specifically, it will examine how stress affects the digestive system and contributes to the development of abdominal bloating.
Stress and the Digestive System
The digestive system is susceptible to stress because it is regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for controlling the involuntary functions of the body, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion.
The ANS consists of two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is responsible for the "fight or flight" response, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which promotes rest and relaxation. Stress triggers the SNS, which stimulates the release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that prepare the body to face a perceived threat.
The SNS inhibits the PNS, which slows down digestion, causing food to stay in the stomach longer, leading to bloating, discomfort, and other digestive symptoms.
Several studies have investigated the relationship between stress and digestive symptoms, including bloating. In a study by Sibelli et al. (2015), 304 patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs), including bloating, completed questionnaires about their stress levels, anxiety, and depression. The results showed that patients with FGIDs had higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than healthy controls, suggesting that psychological factors are associated with the development of digestive symptoms.
Moreover, in another study by Zhou et al. (2019), 144 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a type of FGID characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel habits, were assessed for their stress levels using the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS).
The study found that high levels of stress were associated with a higher severity of IBS symptoms, including bloating.
Furthermore, the study found that the increased severity of symptoms was associated with changes in the gut microbiota composition, suggesting that stress can affect the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication pathway between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system, which regulates gut function.
It's vital to manage your stress levels to eliminate your abdominal bloating!