We all know that weird feeling in our stomach before an important event, be it an exam, a visit to the doctor’s, a job interview, or a date. But how can stress and anxiety cause stomach problems? Our emotions communicate with us through physical symptoms, and there is a discipline studying how emotions affect our body. This discipline is called psychosomatic medicine.

What is psychosomatic medicine?  

Psychosomatic medicine is a branch of clinical psychology, and aims at finding out the connection between somatic disorders and their psychological causes.

In a nutshell, psychosomatic medicine explains the connection between organs and emotions.

Somatization is a tendency to experience and communicate psychological distress in the form of somatic symptoms and to seek medical help for them.

Each of us may express psychological disturbances through different physical symptoms: stomach or belly ache, migraine, itching, neuralgia, etc.

Since there is a tight connection between the brain and the bowel (the nerves controlling the brain are also known as “the big brain” and the nerves controlling the bowel are also known as “the little brain”), most of us internalize conflicts in the digestive system.

In this respect, our digestive organ – the stomach – seems to really have to digest everything, not just food, but also such feelings as anger, guilt, humiliation, envy, disappointment, etc.

People who suffer from stomach ache don’t express their negative feelings, but suppress them thus triggering disorders like heart-burn, ulcer, gastritis, nausea, vomit, diarrhea, costiveness etc. Such feelings are often projected onto eating and food as well, triggering further disorders, such as: intoxication, indigestion, allergies, food sensitivity.

Our daily “nourishment” – food, emotions, affections – is either accepted or refused by our stomach.

People who suffer from stomach upsets often fail to accept emotions and situations; and they as well fail to understand what the subconscious mind is trying to communicate through symptoms.

Can stress and anxiety cause stomach problems?

Let’s see now how the digestive organs communicate with us.

#1 – Esophagus


This organ represents our ability to accommodate. Esophagitis shows how difficult it is for us to accept what life is giving us. Or maybe we can’t “digest” or “spit out” a situation, which isn’t going either up or down, and gets in the craw.

The health issues related to this organ may be caused by feelings of worthlessness: we think our efforts are not appreciated and rewarded enough and our self-esteem gets thus negatively affected. We think someone who is close to us, a brother or a friend, is cleverer or more talented than us and we feel jealous of them.

#2 – Stomach


The stomach represents our ability to accept. Stomach disorders may be caused by:

  • the situations we don’t digest (indigestion) or refuse to accept (vomit);
  • the situations we see as unfair and hurtful (pain);
  • the situations that make us angry (gastritis);
  • a major concern or injustice, or also a guilty conscience may be triggering the ulcer.

“If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.” – Satchel Paige

Here are some questions that may help understand whether the stomach problems are being caused by emotions:

Stomach aches – What seems difficult to digest, to accept?

Vomit – What am I refusing?

Heartburn – What situation do I find unfair?

Gastritis – What situation do I find unfair, and bothers me because I don’t feel appreciated as I should?

Gastric ulcer – What situation makes me so powerless that, each time I think about it, resentment erodes me?

#3 – Liver


The liver is an extremely complex and multipurpose organ. It is the ultimate filter. Liver disorders show it is difficult for us to “digest” something in our life, though with a subtler shade than when it comes to the stomach.

The main emotion related to the liver is anger, and its symptoms (hepatitis) show the psychological conflicts we elicit when respond angrily to life difficulties.

“Whenever the brain and heart fight, it’s always the liver that suffers.”

If we react angrily to life, we deprive our liver of the energy it needs to work properly (the same thing happens if we consistently suppress our feelings of anger).

#4 – Gallbladder


This organ works in tight connection with the liver. The formation of gallstones is generally caused by us judging ourselves and people close to us too severely.


  • How do I feel about myself?
  • How do I feel about people close to me?
  • Do I feel angry?

#5 – Pancreas


The Pancreas controls blood sugar levels. Its dysfunctions show we live our life too prudently, not letting ourselves feel joy and pleasure; this is the reason why life falls short of the sweet taste it needs.

Diabetes tells us we have a hard time getting the sweet taste of life. It happens to people who had an excessively severe father, and throw themselves into food (motherly symbol); or it happens after such a severe psychological shock as the loss of a loved person.

Hypoglycemia is often related to growing up with a cold and authoritarian mother, and you end up thinking you don’t have any right to enjoy the sweet taste of life. Being unable to take refuge in the maternal figure may lead to a negative relationship with food or even anorexia.

#6 – Large intestine


This organ works like an evacuator, a waste collector. It promotes proper breathing in our body, and from an energetic perspective, it is complementary to lungs.

Large intestine disorders tell us we are trying to hold back things and people; tell us we are not letting loose, we are afraid to fail; they also tell we are too shy and reserved, we fail to loosen the grip on others. All of these psychological dynamics lead to costiveness, hemorrhoids, flatulence, bloating, etc…   

#7 – Small intestine

The small intestine disorders are: diarrhea, dysentery, enteritis, Crohn disease, infections, etc.

All of these disorders show we fail to accept situations, emotions and experiences in our life; this is the reason why we don’t want them “inside of us”.

If we take into consideration these points of view of psychosomatic medicine, it is necessary that we always elaborate our emotions, so that we don’t turn those things that hurt our psyche into something harmful to our body.

Thank you for reading and if you find this article useful, please share it with your friends and leave me a comment below.

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