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January 2, 2017

Is Anxiety Causing Your Stomach Issues?

Many people remember their parents asking if there was something they were worried about when they had a stomach ache as a child – maybe there was an upcoming test in school or you had a fight with a friend? This line of thought may not hold true for every gastroenterological issue, but many people do experience stomach problems due to anxiety.

Our emotions can easily provoke physical responses. For example, anger, excitement or being started can bring on an increased heart rate and adrenaline flow. In much the same way, similar emotional states such as stress, dread, concern, doubt or unease can result in an upset stomach.

An upset stomach caused by anxiety can exhibit a number of common symptoms, so it may be difficult to discern if your stomach is reacting to an illness or anxiety. Some of these symptoms can be:

  • Indigestion (discomfort, can include gas/bloating)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

It’s important for you to discuss your symptoms with your gastroenterologist, especially if they occur frequently or interrupt daily routine. Your gastroenterologist will be able to help determine if your stomach issues are caused by anxiety or if there is an underlying condition in need of diagnosis and treatment. Please contact SFGI to schedule an appointment today.

Luckily, for those who find that their stomach issues are due to anxiety, there are steps you can take to help relieve your symptoms. If your anxiety proves overwhelming or disruptive to your work or personal life, we encourage you to speak with your doctor. However, we do recommend that patients begin to ease their anxiety by taking the following steps:

Change your diet: Sometimes anxiety can give a person an upset stomach regardless of what they had to eat for lunch that day, but a healthier, balanced diet can really make a long-term difference in a person’s overall health, including how often an upset stomach will occur.

Exercise: If you are experiencing an upset stomach, going for a run can seem impossible, which is why we recommend that patients use exercise as an outlet either when they start to feel stressed or anticipate future stress.

Practice breathing exercises: Try breathing in slowly and deeply, and release the breath slowly. Repeat this pattern until you feel yourself relax.

Make a list: Sometimes just writing out a list of the things you are worried about can help you realize that you can tackle each item one by one – plus, this helps organize your thoughts and provides the relief of having a plan to handle your busy schedule.