Study links stomach aches in childhood to anxiety in adulthood

Study links anxiety as adults to stomach aches in youth

By Liz Lockhart

A new study carried out at Stanford University of California – San Francisco and the University of Kansas has found that the mind and the gut are tightly connected and that anyone who has had a stomach ache accompanying  a bout of nervousness can testify to the phenomenon. 

Previous studies have shown that people who have chronic stomach ache are more likely than other people to be anxious or depressed.

In a new study researchers looked at whether the stomach ailments could cause mood disorders instead of what is presumed – that emotions cause stomach problems.

Researchers caused mild stomach irritation in 10-day-old rats for six days.  When the behaviour of the rats was assessed when they were 8-20weeks old, researchers found the rats with early stomach problems were much more likely to exhibit anxious and depressed behaviour.  They consumed less sugar water, swan less and preferred dark areas rather than light areas.  They also had higher levels of several stress hormones.

The senior author of the study, Pankaj Pasricha, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology  at Stanford University School of Medicine said that the early stomach woes ‘might also be affecting the development of the central nervous system and driving the animals to anxiety and depression.’  He went on to say ‘It seems that when the rats are exposed to gastric irritation at the appropriate time there is signalling across the gut to the brain that permanently alters its function.

It is thought that the occasional ‘passing’ stomach upset would be unlikely to permanently affect most people it could have a significant effect on those genetically predisposed to develop long-lasting changes.

What comes first?  The stomach ache followed by anxiety and depression or the anxiety and depression followed by digestive problems?

Further reading

For more information on Anxiety, please visit:

Fight or Flight Response Explained
Anxiety - What Is Anxiety

Fight or Flight Response Explained
Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety Disorders
Coping with Anxiety – Anxiety Factors
Generalised Anxiety Disorder GAD
Panic Attacks – Anxiety Attacks
No More Panic
Anxiety Treatment 
Anxiety Management – Managing External Stressors
Anxiety Management – Managing our Response to Stress
Anxiety and Debt
Social Anxiety
Anxiety as a Result of Domestic Abuse
Work Related Stress
Anxiety and Substance Abuse

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