The University of Kansas Health System approaches return to fully normal operations following Friday's worldwide CrowdStrike incident. Patient care continues across the system. Learn more. 

Skip Navigation

Why Are Nutrition and Stress Linked?

When our brains send us into the fight-or-flight state, it has a direct effect on our digestive system. Our bodies get the sensation of immediate danger, so they focus on taking care of vital organs, like the heart, to make sure we have the energy to get out of harm's way as quick as possible. This means we stop digesting food, our bodies don't get the vitamins and nutrients they need and we can't recover quickly. Some of our normal bodily functions needed to make this happen can shut down when we're stressed, making it harder to breakdown food.

Chronic stress

Under periods of chronic stress, the fight-or-flight state often lasts much longer, sometimes weeks or months. During this period, our bodies fail to get the nutrients they need, and we may experience many long and short term health issues.

  • Acid reflux (heartburn)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Indigestion
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Unwanted weight gain
  • Undesired weight loss
  • Weakness or fatigue

The everyday stress we're under can also lead to poor nutrition habits – like making less healthy food choices, binge eating and comfort eating. It causes us to do things even when we're not eating that can lead to poor eating habits down the road, like a night out of drinking or relying on caffeine to get through a busy work day. This kind of behavior reduces our appetite and means we miss out on nutrients that give our bodies the energy to deal with stress and function well.

Related links