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Diverticulitis and Stress: Can Stress Trigger Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis and Stress

Diverticulosis is a condition in which pouches (diverticula) form in the weak areas of the intestinal walls. Although diverticulosis is usually symptom-free, the diverticula can be prone to infection and inflammation, leading to digestive symptoms. This is known as diverticulitis or diverticular disease.

The Connection Between Stress & Diverticulitis

The relationship between stress and diverticulitis is still under investigation. 

However, a recent case study on patients with acute diverticulitis suggests that severe “social stress” may contribute to the development or exasperation of diverticulitis. The case study found that three out of four cases had suffered a history of “remarkable” personal and emotional stress. 

According to researchers, prolonged stress causes extensive activity of the sympathetic nervous system – the body’s “fight or flight” response to perceived danger. This releases a deluge of stress hormones that impact the gut. 

In the case of diverticulitis, researchers believe these stress hormones could lead to a prolonged spasm of the large intestinal muscles, potentially leading to diverticula and the exasperation of related symptoms – especially abdominal cramping, changed bowel movements, and digestive discomfort. 

How Stress Can Worsen Diverticulitis Symptoma

Chronic stress additionally increases inflammation, which can irritate the diverticula and lead to a flare-up. It may also make it harder for your body to fight infections, as it can weaken the immune system response. 

This is due to what researchers call the gut-brain axis, referring to the bidirectional communication system between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system which is essentially the nervous system of the gut. Here’s how it works: 

The Gut-Brain Axis & Gut Inflammation 

When we experience chronic stress, our bodies release the stress hormone glucocorticoid, which includes cortisol. The problem is that we have glucocorticoid receptors throughout our intestines. When our intestines come under chronic glucocorticoid exposure, our enteric glial cells (which contain glucocorticoid receptors) transform into white blood cells that instruct the body to release TNF signals. This causes a surge of inflammation, intestinal cell damage, and painful gut symptoms. 

As patients with Diverticular Disease show uncommonly high levels of colonic mucosal TNF-α, chronic stress is indicated in certain digestive symptoms of diverticulitis. 

Stress Management in Diverticulitis Treatment 

Although more research is needed on the exact relationship between stress and diverticulitis, studies show a clear link between stress and poor gut health, highlighting the importance of incorporating stress relief for all GI patients. 

Taking up yoga, meditation, breathwork or tai chi can greatly help reduce stress. Meditation may be especially beneficial, as researchers recently found the practice can directly promote healthier gut bacteria.

Herbs for Stress Management

Many herbal teas offer calming properties that also soothe the digestive system.

Chamomile performed exceptionally well in a 2016 study on participants suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) due to its mild sedative qualities on both the gut and the nervous system. 

Valerian root was found in a few studies to relieve anxiety and improve sleep quality in various medical patients, an important part of managing any digestive condition. 

Green tea includes L-theanine, an amino acid that might reduce anxiety. A 2017 study found that students who drank green tea reported lower levels of stress than students in the placebo group. Green tea is also a powerful antioxidant, helping combat gut inflammation. 




This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.


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