While there are many things that may cause indigestion, stress often plays a role. If a person has symptoms of indigestion, for example, stress may make them worse. In some cases, stress may even cause indigestion by interfering with hormones and nervous system signals that are involved with food digestion. As a result, a person may experience indigestion when he is feeling stressed.
Many people think of stress as only a mental issue, but it can have physical effects on the body as well. As such, stress and indigestion can go hand in hand. Often, a person who is experiencing emotional stress will also state that he feels nauseous or has an upset stomach. This is due to the fact that stress typically sets off changes within the body that cause real symptoms of indigestion.
Stress and indigestion are linked because of the body’s typical response to stress. When an individual is feeling stressed, the nervous system begins a response that may lead to, or at least contribute to, indigestion. For example, adrenaline is often released into the body in response to stress, as is cortisol and other stress-related hormones. This is a normal, protective process within the body, but it can have a negative effect on a person’s digestion. In an effort to prepare the body to deal with a perceived danger, the stress hormones may slow bodily processes that are not critical, such as digestion, resulting in indigestion.
When a person’s stress level leads to indigestion, he may suffer from more than just nausea. A person dealing with the effects of stress and indigestion may also feel bloated, have heartburn, or feel the need to release gas in the form of burping and flatulence; some people may also notice an acidic taste in their mouths. In some cases, a person will develop diarrhea as a symptom of stress-related indigestion. For example, a stressed-out student may develop diarrhea right before an important exam. In some cases, stress-related indigestion is even severe enough to cause vomiting.
While the connection between stress and indigestion is unpleasant, a person with chronic stress may have to worry about more than an upset stomach. An individual who is dealing with chronic stress may have a weakened immune system and be more prone to both short- and long-term conditions. For example, a person who is under a good deal of stress for a long period of time may be at a higher risk of developing colds, the flu, ulcers, anxiety, and depression. In fact, chronic stress may even raise a person’s risk of having a heart attack.