Why does my stomach flutter?

Updated July 19, 2017

It may happen before an interview, before a big game or on the day of your wedding. The feeling of butterflies fluttering in your stomach. The jumpy sensation is normal and occurs with positive and negative stressful events.


Anxiety isn't all in your head. The state of anxiousness produces physical symptoms that can include a nervous feeling in the stomach. Smooth muscle that lines your stomach and intestines responds to different chemical messages, including the ones produced by anxiety or nervousness. Anxiety can also cause a decrease in the amount of stomach acid and a decrease in the amount of blood flow to the stomach.

Flight or Fight Response

Adrenalin is produced when you sense danger. It affects the smooth muscle directly and a sudden increase of adrenalin causes a decrease in the amount of stomach acid produced and a decrease in the amount of blood flow to the stomach. Too much adrenalin can cause a knotting or peristalsis—the contraction of the stomach necessary to empty its contents. Sometimes the emptying can happen in the wrong direction. Anxiety doesn't just work on the gastrointenstinal tract, it also causes changes in other bodily functions, such as breathing, blood pressure and sweating.


Pregnant women may feel a fluttering feeling in their stomach. Movement of the foetus begins as early as 13 weeks into the pregnancy. Women may even feel the foetus as it hiccups or as reacts to loud noises outside the womb.

The Wrong Kinds of Flutters

Flutters felt in the chest area may be atrial flutters. These occur when the atrium or upper chambers of the heart are overstimulated and the heart beats rapidly. Atrial flutter may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as shortness of breath or fatigue. Some people may experience this for a long period of time. If you have heart disease or exercise makes your heart pound or work with difficulty, talk to your doctor about scheduling a stress test.

Calm the Butterflies

While you can't stop the adrenalin, it is possible to ease the anxiety by taking deep breaths. Truly calming breaths take a little practice but are effective for many people by naturally destressing the body.

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About the Author

Bernadette Sukley's work has been published in "Natural Health," "Sports Illustrated for Women," "Men's Health" and "Swimmer" magazines as well as local magazines and newspapers. She's been fact checking, writing and editing for over 20 years. Sukley specializes in health and lifestyle topics.