From exams to date nights to taking a flight, a nervy tummy can get the best of all of us from time to time. 

It’s the worst feeling ever – you’re already nervous and a bit clammy, trying to make sure you look nice or are all prepared for a big interview, and next thing you’re darting for the loo.

And apparently, there’s a scientific reason behind your bowels going chaos mode when you’re stressing out.

Why does this happen?

When we’re stressed, it can cause a change in our body’s chemicals – namely the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline – which affects the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut, causing it to get a bit wobbly.

This huge influx of stress can cause your intestines to start cramping – which is sometimes why stressful times can be associated with tummy pain, too – and this triggers the onslaught of diarrhoea. 

Sometimes the stress can work the opposite way and cause constipation or nausea. 

If you regularly experience a nervous stomach, though, you might want to speak to a doctor about potentially having Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which commonly occurs in people with anxiety. 

In fact, about 60% of people living with anxiety or depression have chronic intestinal issues, such as IBS, so if you’re dealing with this, you’re definitely not alone!

Ways to manage a stress belly…

  • The NHS recommends trying breathing techniques to deal with stress, so try downloading an app like Headspace that you can plug into just before a big interview or date. It’s said deep breathing can activate the ‘vagus nerve’, which regulates your parasympathetic system – key in regulating your mood.

  • Cutting down on caffeine is always a good idea, especially if it gives you added anxiety and the jitters.

  • Drinking teas like peppermint and ginger is said to help soothe an anxious tummy.

  • Speak to a doctor if you think that your nerves are taking over all the time. Anxiety is common and often treatable. Keep a note of when you feel anxious so you can bring it along to your appointment.


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