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Can Stress Cause Appendicitis?

By 27th February 2024Gut Health


The appendix is a section of the digestive tract connected to the large intestine. While there are theories about the functions of the appendix, the exact function is unknown. 

The experience of appendicitis can be stressful. Some may even find that stress can be present before appendicitis starts. This doesn’t necessarily mean that stress can directly trigger appendicitis. However, the link between stress and appendicitis is something that will be explored in this article. 

What Does the Appendix Do?

While the function of the appendix is not known, if the appendix becomes inflamed this is referred to as appendicitis. If left untreated this can then lead to the appendix bursting which can be life-threatening. 

The symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain in the lower right-hand side of the abdomen
  • Pain that increases as time goes on
  • Changes in bowel movements (e.g. constipation or diarrhoea) 
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever 
  • Chills [Source: NHS, Hopkins]

What triggers appendicitis?

The most well-accepted theory about the cause of appendicitis is a form of blockage at the entrance of the appendix. This can lead to the accumulation of bacteria or stool in the appendix, leading to inflammation of the appendix. [Source: PubMed]

It may also be that a virus or parasite can trigger appendicitis. This can be due to the inflammatory or oxidative stress these invading organisms have within the gut. This inflammatory stress may trigger an immune response within the gut that then leads to increased inflammation and appendicitis. [Source: Hopkins]

Can appendicitis be triggered by stress?

Stress is a known trigger for certain digestive symptoms and conditions. This can be true for IBS as well as inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease.

In these situations, emotional stress can lead to inflammation in the gut. This has been reported in studies that have found that stress can lead to inflammation in the gut. [Source: PubMed]

In IBS, levels of inflammation in the bowel as not as high as those seen in inflammatory bowel disease, however, low-grade inflammation may still be present. [Source: PubMed]

While stress has not been reported to be a trigger or increase the risk of developing appendicitis, it may play a role. This is due to the well-reported mechanisms by which stress can trigger or increase inflammation in the digestive system.

It has also been reported that long-term stress can negatively impact the immune system and the immune response. This can be due to immune dysregulation as well as an increase in inflammation in the body. Both of these stresses are considered risk factors for developing appendicitis. [Source: PubMed]

How to Deal with Stress

Stress is a factor that can impact a high percentage of the general population. While some may feel that a certain level of stress is beneficial, for example, the type of stress that helps us to meet a deadline, ongoing periods of high stress can lead to negative health consequences.

For many, if stress is present, working to address the cause of the stress can be the most crucial first step. This may involve having a difficult conversation with a family member or a work colleague. These situations can lead to ongoing levels of emotional stress.

In other situations, seeking external support can be an important way to address and deal with stress. 

These include:

  • Mediation [Source: PubMed]
  • CBT therapy [Source: PubMed]
  • Talking therapy [Source: PubMed]

In addition to these stress management processes; other approaches can be considered to deal with stress:

Best Supplements for Stress

Certain natural supplements have also been found to help with stress. These can help to manage stress if the causes are still ongoing.

These include:

Both probiotics and prebiotics have also been studied and found to help deal with stress. These include:

  • The probiotic L Plantarum 299v [Source: PubMed]
  • The prebiotics, BIMUNO [Source: PubMed]

What are the early warning signs of appendicitis?

The first signs of appendicitis can be a general ache or discomfort across the abdomen (belly). This can be a low-level symptom of pain. However, in appendicitis, this pain can increase in severity and become more concentrated in the lower right region of the abdomen. This is the area where the appendix is located.

The pain may progress within hours and it’s not uncommon for symptoms of appendicitis to start slowly and increase over a short space of time.

It can also lead to an increased level of pain or sensitivity in that region when moving, coughing or touching that region. [Source: NHS]

If left untreated further signs and symptoms can appear such are nausea, diarrhoea, fatigue as well as fever and chills. [Source: NHS] If left untreated, this can lead to complications which may be life-threatening.

Can appendicitis pain come and go for days?

While most cases of appendicitis are acute (eg, with a sudden onset that requires medical attention) it’s also possible to have chronic appendicitis. 

This can be where the inflammation and oxidative stress in the appendix do not reach a high enough level to lead to the most severe signs and symptoms. In chronic appendicitis, it may also not be until symptoms become acute that the condition is identified. [Source: Very Well Health]


While stress can lead to a range of negative health issues a clear link between stress causing to appendicitis has not been reported in research studies. However, if you are experiencing stress working to address the causes as well as include appropriate support can be extremely important and helpful.

It is also important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing an increase in the symptoms outlined in this article that are associated with appendicitis.