How To Calm An Anxious Stomach: The Brain
Ever wonder why you get butterflies in your stomach before doing something stressful? Or why you feel like your stomach is tied in knots after an argument? Ever had a meeting with a toilet that went longer than expected and it wasnt caused by anything you ate? Stomach problems are one of the most common symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Researchers have identified a powerful connection between the gut and the brain. Like the brain, the gut is full of nerves. It contains the largest area of nerves outside the brain with the digestive tract and the brain sharing many of the same nerve connections.
Whether its a single nerve-wracking event or chronic worry and stress over time, stress can exact a physical toll on your digestive system. When you are anxious, some of the hormones and chemicals released by your body enter your digestive tract, where they interfere with digestion. They have a negative effect on your gut flora and decrease antibody production. The resulting chemical imbalance can cause a number of gastrointestinal conditions.
Common stress-related gut symptoms and conditions include:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- and peptic ulcers
Six Tips for Reducing Stress and Anxiety
What Causes Nervous Stomach
Have you noticed cramping, tightness and fluttering in your stomach during stressful situations? It is usually reported by people when they are in situations of stress or anxiety. The digestive system is susceptible to emotional changes, stress, anxiety and depression. In fact, some doctors have suggested that stressful situations trigger the stomach to produce more stomach acid, which causes symptoms that resemble heartburn. Some of the key triggers are:
- Stomach ulcers and acid reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome
- Changes in digestive enzymes
- Food allergies and the intolerance of specific foods
- Eating foods that spicy, oily, high in fat, as well as fast foods
- Eating foods rapidly and not chewing the food thoroughly
- Eating late at night and eating heavy snacks at night
- Sedentary lifestyle and limited exercise, smoking in excess and alcohol abuse
- Depression, emotional stress caused by relationship issues and academic pressures and other mental illnesses, as well as hormonal changes
- Sickness during pregnancy in the morning
- Medications and antibiotics side effects
- Motion sickness, gastritis, Helicobacter pylori infection, Crohn’s disease, viral infections and stomach flu
- Malabsorption, loss of intestinal flora, low blood sugar and vitamin deficiency
Psychological Treatment For Ibs
Researchers at Wayne State University conducted a study in 2017 on a specialized form of talking therapy called Emotional Awareness and Expression Training , which helps people to recognize and express their emotions fully.
They compared the treatment to relaxation training and a control group of patients on a waiting list. Both the EAET and relaxation groups received three 50-minute training sessions delivered once a week.
At the end of the 10-week follow-up period 63% of the people in the EAET group reported significant improvements in their IBS symptoms compared to those in the relaxation and waiting list groups.
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How Emotions Affect Our Body
Why do our feelings sometimes make us sick?
Our lives are filled with emotions, from anger to shame, fear to delight, says Tracy A. Dennis, PhD, associate professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College, the City University of New York.
These physiological and neuroendocrine changes associated with emotion influence all aspects of our body, including the digestive system, Dennis tells WebMD. These physical responses can start and stop quite suddenly and be very intense.
Dennis says its the intensity of emotions that can send our body into overdrive, producing immediate gastrointestinal distress — stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
Why Does Anxiety Upset My Stomach
When feeling anxious, your body calls code red, and all the essential systems used in flight or flight get put on high alert. Blood starts pumping faster to reach the large muscle groups, your pupils get larger so you can see the enemy better, blood sugar is released to create more energy for action.
But guess which system gets shut down, because its not necessary in an emergency situation? Yep, your digestive system!
So this upsets your stomach in two ways:
These changes are temporary and a nervous tummy will disappear once the event is over. In the case of an interview, it will probably disappear the moment you are in the room.
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Types Of Stomach Problems From Anxiety
What’s interesting about anxiety stomach problems is that they may occur at different times for different people. Some people get stomach problems only during severe anxiety attacks. Others get these problems all throughout the day but know that they suffer from intense anxiety.
The following represent the most common types of “stomach problems” from anxiety. Remember, people often use the word stomach to also include bowels, colloquially.
It Could Be Constipation
While youre spending a lot of time at home, you may not be moving as much as you usually do. You may also be eating different foods. This can lead to constipation. You may be constipated if you experience:
- Fewer bowel movements than normal for you
- Stool that is lumpy or looks like pebbles
- Difficulty passing stool or a feeling that you still need to go after youre finished
Fortunately, you can make a number of at-home changes to help relieve your constipation. These include:
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Other Treatments For Ibs
The following treatments are also available for IBS. However, the effectiveness can be lower than for psychotherapies:
- Low FODMAP diet. This diet eliminates common âtrigger compoundsâ of IBS such as fructose and lactose and has been shown effective in treating IBS.
- Antidepressant medication. Low dose treatments of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricycle antidepressants have been shown to relieve symptoms of IBS.
- Peppermint oil. It’s been shown that peppermint oil is a natural anti-spasmodic which means it can relax the smooth muscles in the gut, improving some of the symptoms of IBS.
Get Up And Get Moving
Whether its a brisk morning walk or a visit to your local gym, physical activity is one of the best ways to lift your mood in the morning. If you find yourself dealing with an excessive amount of worry in those early hours, try to exercise at least five days a week for about 30 minutes each session.
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Coping Techniques And Resources To Help Kids Thrive
With functional abdominal pain, there isnt necessarily a definite treatment or medication that will cure kids discomfort.
Its more about helping these kids learn coping techniques and identify the triggers that exacerbate their symptoms, said Pattamanuch. Children may need more screening for depression or anxiety from a mental health professional. There are helpful clinics at Seattle Childrens for this.
Some kids may be referred to the Biofeedback Clinic, where they can learn relaxation techniques to decrease the intensity of their pain. They may also be referred to the Pain Medicine Clinic where they could undergo an in-depth assessment to help manage their pain.
Aside from these resources, Pattamanuch often works with kids on simple techniques they can practice at home and implement into their daily lives to alleviate their recurring abdominal pain and discomfort. These include:
While all kids have unique needs, some may require medication to help with their symptoms. However, Pattamanuch says theres careful consideration when offering this treatment.
When needed, we have some medications we can prescribe to help relax the gastrointestinal tract, but often they arent useful because theyre not addressing the root cause of the issue, said Pattamanuch. Its most beneficial for kids to learn how to get in-tune with their psychological triggers and try to address those issues first and foremost.
Why Does Stress Cause Stomach Pain Or Gi Discomfort
We know through research there is a strong connection between our brain and our gut through the central nervous system. The enteric nervous system an out-branching of the central nervous system serves the GI tract, making a direct connection between our brain and gastrointestinal system. That connection can cause normal physiologic processes to be interpreted as painful under stressful or anxiety-provoking situations.
When were stressed, hormones and neurotransmitters are released in the body. This can negatively impact gut motility, or the way our intestines and stomach squeeze and move waste through the body. Also, stress can affect the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut, causing GI discomfort.
People experiencing chronic stress may also eat more or eat unhealthy foods with a higher amount of natural and artificial sugar that is poorly digested and causes GI distress. People may also smoke and drink more alcohol or caffeine than normal which can cause symptoms.
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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.
What Are Some Of The Best Stress Management Strategies
Learning to manage stress can have a huge impact on your daily life and potentially prevent some of the serious issues mentioned above. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to stress management, the following are some of the most tried-and-true techniques.
1. Identify the Sources of Stress in Your Life
Like other problems in your life, its hard to address the issue if you cant identify the source. Stress management begins with recognizing the root causes of stress in your life. While it may be easy to pinpoint major stressors in your life, such as losing a loved one or your job, the minute issues are the most challenging ones. We recommend analyzing your daily habits to help recognize some of the daily stressors in your life. The following questions may help you draw a conclusion as to why the stress never ends.
- Is stress a part of your daily work or home life?
- Can your stress be attributed to outside factors?
- Do you play stress off as a temporary issue?
Your stress levels may be out of your control until you identify and address the root cause. One good way to do this is to start a stress journal. Anytime you feel stressed, write down about it. By keeping a journal, you may start to recognize patterns of stress, and youll be better equipped to deal with it the next time you are faced with the same situation.
2. Focus On a Healthier Lifestyle
Here are some tips to help foster a healthier lifestyle:
3. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
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Stomach Aches And Anxiety In A Child
Anxiety is one of the most common causes of stomach aches in children. By knowing whatâs leading to your childâs tummy issues, you can help them find the right solution!
As a parent, weâve all experienced the moment our child awakes at night or before school and says “my tummy hurts”. While your child could be tired or stressed, itâs often hard to know what the cause of stomach aches is. But itâs important to have an idea so it can be treated effectively! Be sure to share your own tips to soothe a belly ache with other parents on your favorite family app.
Medical Causes Of Anxiety: Anxiety As A Symptom
Anxiety is rarely just about biology or psychology. Except when it is.
We humans are chemistry, and nothing could make this clearer than the chilling story of an old family friend who suffered lifelong anxiety and panic attacks.After of living with this curse, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. One of the consequences of this genetic disorder are small tumours on the adrenal glands that cause spikes in adrenalin production. He had one on his adrenal gland. The gland was excised, and he was cured or perhaps set free would be a better description.
Thats an exceptionally rare cause of anxiety, of course. But dont neglect the possibility of a medical explanation or complication. Some of them are much, much more common. In fact, there are at least several insidious or underestimated medical causes of anxiety, which may explain an awful lot of allegedly free floating anxiety and symptoms of anxiety disorder in people who do not seem like a good psychological fit for it.
Chronic pain is extremely common, and can be both a cause and consequence of anxiety sometimes equally, sometimes slanted much more one way than the other, but each always influencing the other to some degree. For many people with both anxiety and pain, solving the pain is the best possible treatment for the anxiety. Others must solve both at once. And a few will find that pain is just one of many ways that they are haunted by anxiety demons.
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Wide Range Of Symptoms
One of the more surprising issues with some types of anxiety disorder is the way that they change sensations in our body. For example, for many, feeling full is a nice feeling. However, it can lead to a variety of natural body sensations, including:
- Feeling lightheaded
- Slight stomach discomfort
In those without anxiety, these are natural. In people suffering from some degree of anxiety, those sensations feel much more pronounced and can trigger a full-blown panic attack.
Dont Let Anxiety Impact Your Recovery
Stress and anxiety are normal parts of life. However, chronic worry can have a detrimental effect on your physical, emotional and mental well-being, especially if you struggle with addiction. If you need help, 7 Summit Pathways is here for you.
We understand that issues like anxiety or depression often serve as catalysts for addiction. Our team of interdisciplinary specialists addresses not only the addiction but also any underlying conditions that may have triggered your substance use.
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The Enteric Nervous System
The enteric nervous system refers to the neurons controlling the digestive system. This âsecond brainâ is connected to the central nervous system â the brain and spinal cord. This system relies on neurotransmitters to communicate with the central nervous system and may affect mood.
After sensing food, the nerves of the enteric nervous system communicate with muscle cells to initiate contraction, moving food along the intestines.
In response to stress and in disorders such as IBS, the enteric nervous system may function abnormally. For instance, levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin may be altered, or nerves may become hypersensitive. This may lead to gut symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, or constipation.
Make A Drink With Apple Cider Vinegar
When your stomach is aching, a shot of acidic apple cider vinegar might be the last thing you want to put in it, but it could actually make you feel better.
There are two reasons for this.
First, apple cider vinegar kills bacteria, so if youve got a bacterial infection in your stomach, the vinegar can help clear it out.
Second, apple cider vinegar balances your stomach acid, which can help with acid reflux issues.
Dont ever drink apple cider vinegar on its own its too strong, and it could damage your teeth.
Instead, mix it with something else. Try stirring a tablespoon of vinegar into a cup of warm water or fruit juice.
Add some honey to improve the taste if you want.
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How To Relieve Nervous Stomach
If you experience occasional symptoms of this condition, it may be resolved using natural remedies and healthy lifestyle changes to improve digestive functions. On the other hand, if you experience it with increased frequency, such as daily or weekly, you should seek medical attention.
It is important to consider your diet and you should keep track of the foods that improve or worsen your symptoms. Drinking beverages such as carbonated drinks and dairy products as well as high fat foods, beans, cabbage, and broccoli may contribute to the build-up of gas. In addition, extremely spicy foods may cause indigestion and worsen your stomach discomfort. Caffeine and alcohol cause dehydration and irritate the lining of the stomach, which may have a negative impact on the digestive system. On the other hand, honey, mint, ginger, fennel and cinnamon may relieve the symptoms. Instead of drinking fruit juices that are normally very acidic and contribute to stomach problems, you should drink lots of water to soothe your stomach and to maintain normal bowel functions. Similarly, a cup of hot tea may soothe the stomach.
Medicines and herbal supplements
Exercise is a great stress reliever and it stimulates digestion. In addition, exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which are the body’s naturally occurring”happy drug”. And endorphins can help to relieve symptoms of stomach problems.