Keep Stress From Causing An Upset Stomach
Stress can cause stomachaches, diarrhea, and other digestive problems, but stress management can keep them under control.
If you get butterflies in your stomach when you have to give a speech, drive through white-knuckle traffic, or argue with your spouse, youre not alone: Stress can exact a very real physical toll on your digestive system. Your gut is extremely sensitive to stress and your overall emotions. And conversely, the right stress management techniques can help soothe an upset stomach.
The Link Between Your Gut and Your Emotions
The physical reason why emotions and stress can lead to stomachaches and other digestive problems is because the gut is highly sensitive and full of nerves, just like the brain.
“There is definitely a connection between the brain and the gut,” says Francisco J. Marrero, MD, a gastroenterologist with the Digestive Disease Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “The gut is called the little brain it’s the largest area of nerves outside the brain.”
Upset Stomach: Even Little Stresses Affect the Little Brain
Stress and nerves often have very noticeable physical symptoms that focus around the digestive tract.
“Any time you’re in a stressful situation, a lot of people will get butterflies in their stomach or may get diarrhea,” says Dr. Marrero. “It gets better when they get out of that stressful situation.”
Upset Stomach: Getting a Handle on Stress
To reduce stress and manage digestive problems on your own, try these stress management tips:
Can Anxiety Cause Long Term Digestive Issues
In some people, stress slows down digestion, causing bloating, pain and constipation, while in others it speeds it up, causing diarrhoea and frequent trips to the loo. Some people lose their appetite completely. Stress can also worsen digestive conditions like stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
How Do I Know If Its Anxiety And Not An Ulcer
Its not uncommon to find yourself concerned that your struggle with stomach pain is not from anxiety or stress at all. For example, you may find yourself concerned that instead of anxiety, what you are really struggling with is an ulcer.
Only a doctor can diagnose whether or not your pain is from an ulcer, but there are some clues. The clearest signal is if you have any blood in your stool or acid burps . Thats often a clear sign of an ulcer. Also, if the pain or discomfort tends to occur after eating and isnt related to a similar condition, GERD , its possible you may have an ulcer.
However, this is complicated by the fact that ulcers can be caused by long-term stress and anxiety, as they stimulate the production of extra stomach acid. This excess acid in the stomach breaks down the gastric or intestinal lining and cause open wounds that may harm your health.
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Can Anxiety Cause Nausea
Yes, anxiety can cause nausea and other gastrointestinal problems.
Outside of your brain, your digestive system contains the second largest number of nerves in your body. Some scientists even call your gut your “second brain.”
It’s no surprise then that the hormones and chemicals released when you’re anxious can cause gut-related issues, including:
Binge Drinking Causes Acid
Moderate drinking will not hurt your digestive system, but binge drinking increases acid production in your stomach, and can cause heartburn and aggravate other digestive disorders.
Binge drinking is defined as drinking 8 or more units of alcohol in 1 session for men, and drinking more than 6 units in 1 session for women.
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Gut Stress Reaction And Variations To Notice
If you experience a stomachache related to stress, the outcome may vary depending on your digestive system. Every stomach is different, and some may be aware of other digestion issues. Something else to consider when wondering does stress causes diarrhea is whether your digestive tract has other issues going on. It may not be as serious, but it may be enough for you to notice differences in how you experience a bowel movement or constipation.
Stomach and gut symptoms you may notice in connection to the body’s reaction to stress may include cramps, nausea, lack of appetite, indigestion, unusual hunger, constipation, and diarrhea. In some cases, peptic ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome or IBS may be influenced by stress.
Sometimes you can spot when these issues occur. For example, if diarrhea occurs when you’re having problems pooping, you’re likely experiencing tension or when you’re upset leading to constipation. It is believed that stress causes diarrhea to occur more often than constipation, but the level of your stress likely determines how your stomach will affect your bowels.
When A Gut Condition Is Triggered By Stress
So what if something else is going on affecting your digestive system? Some experiencing stress causing diarrhea may have digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease . There are different forms of these conditions, and their symptoms may be triggered by stress.
What You May Eat Also Add Stress To Your Stomach
What Causes Nausea With Anxiety
Anxiety can trigger your fight or flight response. Basically, your body is preparing you to face a crisis. This is a natural reaction to a stressful situation and, when called for, can help you survive.
When you feel stressed or anxious, your body releases a rush of hormones. Neurotransmitters in the brain react by sending messages to the rest of your body to:
- get the heart pumping faster
- increase the breathing rate
- tense the muscles
- send more blood to the brain
Anxiety and stress can affect virtually every body system. This includes your cardiovascular, endocrine, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive, and respiratory systems.
In the digestive system, stress can cause:
- nausea, vomiting
The symptoms you feel due to anxiety are very real. Your body is responding to a perceived threat. Absent a true emergency situation, there are some things you can do help to control anxiety and nausea.
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Should I Be Getting Screened Regularly For Colon Cancer Or Other Gi Tract Cancers
As of 2021, the United States Preventative Services Task Force and major GI medical societies recommend that adults at average risk for colorectal cancer are regularly screened beginning at age 45.
People who have a family history of colorectal cancer or other GI tract cancers, including stomach or pancreas cancer, or a history of GI conditions like inflammatory bowel disease may need routine cancer screening earlier than age 45.
Talk your primary care physician about your risk and ask if you should get tested.
Sometimes Abdominal Pain Is Physical And Mental
If you have a gastrointestinal condition such as IBS, Crohns disease, or ulcerative colitis, stress or anxiety can exacerbate your symptoms. This can make your physical and mental health even more inextricably linked.
This relationship can be cyclical, Sperling says: Stress or anxiety can prompt gut inflammation and intestinal spasms, leading to more GI symptoms, which can just translate to more stress or anxiety. Its pretty unfair. If you have a GI condition and feel like youre stuck in this rhythm, talk to your doctor to see if theres a way to make your gut and your brain get along a little better so that you dont have to suffer.
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Gut Reactions To Stress
The reason that you can experience diarrhea when you are stressed is directly related to your body’s programmed stress response, what is commonly referred to as our “fight-or-flight” reaction.
The fight-or-flight reaction did a great job in helping humans to survive as a species, particularly back when they were often faced with things like hungry lions. But this same reaction has become more troublesome in light of the challenges you are faced with, and the fast pace of, modern life.
When you come across something that you perceive as threatening, your body reacts with a variety of physical changes. Heart rate and respiration increase, your muscles tense up, blood is directed toward your extremities, and most relevant to the current discussion, your colon contractions speed up. In some cases, this increase in colon activity can result in the symptom of diarrhea.
The Parents Role Is Key
Its only natural that parents dont want to see their kids in distress or make them go to school when theyre worried that theyll throw up. That puts parents in a difficult spot. What we hear from parents is, We just let them stay home one day and one day led to three months, says Dr. Domingues. Its a slippery slope the child may ask to stay home more and more.
So we work with parents a lot around how to find that balance between enabling anxiety and meeting a child where they are, she adds. And we also give them statements that they can use to be empathic and encouraging at the same time. For instance: I know that this is really hard and you feel like youre sick. But we also know that this is anxiety, and you can get through it.
Sometimes setting up a reward system can help by giving a lot of positive reinforcement for kids pushing through their anxiety.
Parents also face the challenge of tolerating their own anxiety about pushing a child who says they are ill or worried about vomiting. If your kid is in distress and talking about not wanting to go to school or feeling sick or thinking they might throw up, says Dr. Domingues, then youre, as a parent, also anxious that that might happen.
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Is Stress From Covid
The gastrointestinal system may be a victim of COVID-19 stress. Here, experts help to navigate those tummy troubles.
Editors note: Information on the COVID-19 crisis is constantly changing. For the latest numbers and updates, keep checking the CDCs website. For the most up-to-date information from Michigan Medicine, visit the hospital’s Coronavirus webpage.
Interested in a COVID-19 clinical trial? Health research is critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Our researchers are hard at work to find vaccines and other ways to potentially prevent and treat the disease and need your help.
That stomachache you feel with each update on the COVID-19 outbreak? Its real. So, too, are the indigestion and the heartburn. Theyre symptoms of stress that manifest in the emotive digestive system, the connection between the brain and the gut. Stress-related digestive troubles may be on the rise as people around the globe worry in the midst of a pandemic, experts warn.
Stress and anxiety can trigger more frequent or stronger contractions in the GI tract which some may perceive as uncomfortable or even painful, says Michigan Medicine gastroenterologist William Chey, M.D., a professor of gastroenterology and nutritional sciences at Michigan Medicine.
Everyone reacts to stress differently, he says.
Why Does The Stomach Feel Stress
Stress impacts the gut because each person has a hard wired connection between the brain in the head and the nervous system housed within the GI tract called the enteric nervous system, Chey says. The enteric nervous system lives within the wall of the GI tract and communicates through the spinal cord with the brain. While the enteric nervous system typically runs the GI tract independently, the brain can influence how it behaves. In times of stress, it may send a distress signal that makes the GI system run differently. In addition, stress makes the nerves in the gut overly sensitive so things that normally arent even perceived at a conscious level are perceived as unpleasant gut symptoms.
Everybody knows somebody that during high school before a big exam or an athletic event would have to run to the bathroom, Chey says. It happens because of the impact of stress or anxiety in the GI tract.
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Are There Foods That Reduce Stomach Pain
Anxiety-related stomach pain is not usually the result of your diet , so there arent necessarily any dietary changes that can help reduce stomach pain.
That said, those with panic attacks are more prone to experiencing more severe stomach discomfort, even when no anxiety is present. In other words, when you have panic attacks, its possible to have stomach pain even without a panic attack.
Also, those with anxiety attacks and severe anxiety are prone to whats known as over-sensitization. That means that they are more likely to notice and feel smaller, normal changes in the body, and these can trigger an anxiety attack. So if your diet does contain foods that cause you gas, stomach discomfort, or mild indigestion, it may be best to avoid them because the slight amount of discomfort could feel worse than it should and may trigger a panic attack.
Thats why healthy eating is important in those that get stomach pain with anxiety. Make sure youre getting:
- Whole-Grain Carbohydrates
Also, if you suffer from stress-induced hyperacidity, then it is recommended that you consume dairy products and non-spicy foods. In moderate amounts, over-the-counter antacids may be needed as well.
In addition, if possible, try to avoid eating until youre too full. Those with severe anxiety sometimes interpret the full feeling as pain, and this could trigger a panic attack and further pain.
What Does It Mean When Your Stomach Gurgles A Lot
Causes of abdominal sounds. The abdominal sounds you hear are most likely related to the movement of food, liquids, digestive juices, and air through your intestines. When your intestines process food, your abdomen may grumble or growl. The walls of the gastrointestinal tract are mostly made up of muscle.
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Can Anxiety Cause Stomach Problems
When we think of anxiety and our stomach in a single sentence, it is difficult to fathom the connection between the two. One is an organ where the other is an emotional state of mind . However, the reality, which many may be surprised to know, is that Anxiety and Stomach Problems often go hand-in-hand. Studies reveal that in some individuals, anxiety is directly related to or is the direct cause of stomach problems. Many a times, the stomach problems caused due to anxiety become chronic in nature and become a source of frustration for the patient. Stomach problems caused due to anxiety can be difficult to diagnose and manage.
According to medical professionals, mind and the stomach have a robust linkage as both are affected by similar neurotransmitters and hormone and both our mind and stomach are highly sensitive to changes in the chemical patterns and to stress. This is the reason why Anxiety and Stomach Problems frequently go hand-in-hand. Given below are some common stomach problems caused due to high level of stress and anxiety and some methods to cope up with the stomach problems and other symptoms.
Where In The Hell Are These Nervous Poops Coming From
Thanks to the probiotics trend, youve probably heard how our bodies and brains interact as one interconnected unit. Thanks to something called the gut-brain axis, these two organs are particularly close pals with undeniable influence on each other.
When your guts enteric nervous system gets signals from the brains central nervous system, it regulates the gastrointestinal tract.
But when youre feeling stressed, agitated, annoyed, or scared, these chemical messengers can make your GI tract go wild. Think: diarrhea, nausea, or constipation.
Or it might be the other way around, with your gut sending signals to the brain and causing an emotional whirlwind.
If your mood has been off after a bad bout of digestion, see if these physical symptoms came first:
- stomach cramps
Gone to the bathroom and still feel on edge? And not keen on the idea of a second or third diarrhea attack? Then lets strategize on managing your anxiety with these seven tips.
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Eat Properly To Help Your Digestion
It’s very easy to spend our working lives eating on the move or at our desks, gulping down food between meetings and then crashing out in front of the TV with a takeaway in the evenings.
But eating this way can play havoc with our digestive system.
Follow some basic rules to prevent problems:
- Do not rush your food. Take the time to eat slowly. Try putting your fork down between bites and chew each mouthful well.
- Do not overeat. Reduce the size of your portions at mealtimes, or try eating 4 to 5 small meals instead of 3 large ones.
- Eat regularly and try not to skip meals.
- Avoid eating a big meal just before you go to bed. Eat your last meal at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down.
- Make sure you have plenty of water to drink.
What To Do When You Have Stomach Problems From Anxiety
While the best way for you to stop your stomach problems is to cure your anxiety, there are some strategies that you can try to implement that may reduce some of the symptoms. These include:
- Breathing Exercises There are relaxation exercises that focus on the idea of breathing more efficiently. When your stomach problems are caused by hyperventilation or air swallowing, slow and controlled breathing can be not only calming but also reduce the likelihood of further air swallowing symptoms.
- Healthier Diet Even though anxiety is going to create some stomach problems no matter what you eat, the reality is that foods that are hard to digest are always going to put some strain and stress on your stomach. When combined with anxiety, they’ll be more likely to get much worse. Healthier eating can be a much more effective way to ensure that you aren’t suffering from as many stomach problems.
- Exercise Exercise can temporarily create more stomach problems because exercise increases stomach acid. But eventually, exercise should help you control your anxiety better, and possibly improve your hormonal balance. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health, providing far more benefits than simply muscle mass and a healthy heart.
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