When To See A Doctor
If anxiety-related nausea is interfering with your quality of life and you cant manage it on your own, its time to see your doctor. If its not due to a medical condition, ask for a referral to a mental health professional.
Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at some point. There are steps you can take to lower stress and deal with occasional bouts of nausea.
There is help. Anxiety, nausea, and anxiety disorders can be identified and effectively managed.
Stop Smoking To Prevent Reflux
Smoking can weaken the muscle that controls the lower end of the food pipe and allow acid from the stomach to travel in the wrong direction back up, a process known as reflux.
Reflux causes the symptoms of heartburn, and can bring on or aggravate stomach ulcers and inflammatory conditions of the bowel.
Smoking is also an important risk factor for stomach cancer.
The Connection Between Stress And Diarrhea
Stress and your gut are connected more than you realize. First, stress affects the muscles in the bowels and intestines. This can affect the ability of intestines to filter out harmful gut bacteria. Two out of three times, the immune system runs to the rescue with inflammatory responses.
However, when you are stressed over a long period, your intestines keep messing up their filtration duties. Your nervous system reacts with more inflammatory responses, which can lead to a mild diarrhea case.
The most common connection between chronic stress and diarrhea is hormonal changes. In response to stress, a psychological reaction occurs .” rel=”nofollow”> Fight-or-Flight Response). This response activates the release of hormones that gets the body ready to take action.
At the same time, your brain sends a signal to your bowels to increase bowel movement in the large intestine. This leads to a mild case of diarrhea.
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A Natural Part Of The Fight
Anxiety is a natural reaction, and in small doses, its actually healthy. It is thought that some of the symptoms of anxiety including nausea developed to tell your brain that there was something dangerous or new in the vicinity so that you would make a smart decision regarding your next action.
When you are under stress but not facing any present danger, nausea can be especially distressing. When faced with stress, the body goes into the “fight or flight mode,” triggering the autonomic nervous system specifically activating the sympathetic nervous system and inhibiting the parasympathetic nervous system.
This action releases a hormone called epinephrine, which is often referred to as “adrenaline.” Additional stress may trigger other adrenal-related hormones. These hormones alter the stomach lining and food digestion take blood away from the digestive system and cause hyperventilation , dizziness, and more.
Stress can also cause muscle tension in your abdomen, and that added tension may squeeze your stomach in a way that leads to nausea. The gut also has an abundance of neurotransmitter receptors and is highly connected to the brain. It is possible that the way anxiety alters neurotransmitter levels in the brain may affect the gut as well.
Finally, during fight or flight, digestion is inhibited, which may affect how you process food and stomach acid and may lead to nausea.
Ways To Help Reduce Stress And Stomach Pain
According to a poll that tracks negative experiences of people in 115 countries, 2020 was the year the world reached its highest stress peak in over 15 years. Around 40% of the surveyed population reported experiencing significant stress.
While you should see a doctor if your stomach pain is severe, prolonged, or recurring, there are things you can do to calm a nervous stomach and help reduce the kind of stress and anxiety that could lead to stomach problems.
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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.
Can Anxiety Cause Shortness Of Breath
Certain anxiety disorders can cause feelings of shortness of breath.
General anxiety increases your respiration rate, causing you to breathe more rapidly than usual. This faster breathing, also called hyperventilation, isn’t the same as shortness of breath, however.
Shortness of breath feels like a tightening in your chest and often comes with trouble breathing. It’s not a common symptom of general anxiety.
However, similar to feelings of chest pain, shortness of breath is associated with panic attacks and panic disorder, a specific type of anxiety disorder.
Since it can be a sign of heart attack or another life-threatening condition, unexplained shortness of breath is a medical emergency. Whether you have a history of panic attacks or not, you should go to the emergency room if you’re experiencing sudden and/or severe shortness of breath.
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How Long Can Stress Related Diarrhea Last
Taking multiple trips to the bathroom due to anxiety sucks not only because of how uncomfortable it is but also since it can last for a while. The duration of stress-induced diarrhea depends on various factors such as the intensity of the stress and measures taken to calm yourself down.
Ideally, diarrhea will begin to subside as the body recovers from the stress response. The normal bowel motility is restored, and the digestive system can absorb fluid from the bowel.
The body can take minutes or more to recover from a stress response once you begin to calm down. However, prolonged psychological distress can extend the bodys recovery period significantly.
If you are sure that the diarrhea is as a result of anxiety, there should be no cause for alarm. However, you can take some steps to calm yourself down during a stressful period and prevent or alleviate the associated symptoms.
Why Does Stress Sometimes Cause Diarrhea
“There’s an entire nervous system in the GI tract,”Carolyn Newberry, MD, a gastroenterologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, tells Health. She’s referring to the infamous brain-gut connection. According to Johns Hopkins, you can think of the enteric nervous system as a “little brain” in your gutseparate, but connected to your central nervous system.
Your enteric nervous system, which comprises 100 million nerve cells, is in charge of controlling digestion. Studies have shown that the “big brain” in your skull is in constant communication with the “little brain” in your gut, meaning that your mood may affect your stomach and also that gut problems may affect your mood. According to a study in the journal Comprehensive Physiology, stress activates CRF-containing neurons that both make your bowels move faster and increase anxiety-like behaviors. Corticotropin is a hormone connected to how much stress hormone, known as cortisol, is in your body at any given time.
Different people react differently to an extra wave of stress hormones in their gut, Dr. Newberry says. Some will have diarrhea. Others will get constipated, and still others will have stomach pain, bloating, and nausea. And, of course, there are people who get a combo of symptoms, like stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea at the same time.
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How To Prevent Anxiety Nausea
Experiencing mild nausea with anxiety once in a while might not be a big deal. But if you experience intense nausea and anxiety on a regular basis, it can have a significant and negative impact on your life. Here are a few tips to keep these feelings at bay.
- Get enough sleep.Research shows that getting a healthy amount of deep sleep can act as a natural anxiety reliever. Be sure to log at least 8 hours a night if possible.
- Avoid caffeine.Caffeine can be a common trigger for anxiety and can make anxiety symptoms, like nausea, even worse. If you regularly feel anxiety nausea, consider removing caffeine from your diet.
- Exercise regularly.Physical exercise can help release built-up muscle tension that could otherwise lead to nausea when youre feeling anxious. It can also help you relax which may help prevent anxiety from happening in the first place.
When anxiety nausea starts affecting your daily lifestyle, its time to start thinking more seriously about treatment options. Treating anxiety nausea goes hand in hand with treating anxiety.
Stick To Low Fiber Foods
Though bursting with flavor, greasy, fatty and fried foods are also bursting with macronutrients that the stomach has difficulty digesting. This is also the case with highly seasoned foods, certain caffeinated beverages and select dairy products. As a result, foods that fall into these categories sit in the stomach for a long time, triggering gas and bloating, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea.2
If your diet is rich in heavy, flavorful foods and if, as a result, you live with chronic stomach upset consider changing it up for a bit and only eating bland foods. Some items to add to your temporary menu include the following:
- Steamed veggies and canned fruit
- Mashed potatoes
After a week on this diet, your gut bacteria should be back into balance and your stomach feeling better.
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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.
The Gut Bacteria Connection
There are millions upon millions of bacteria living in your gut. A healthy GI system relies on good bacteria outnumbering or balancing bad bacteria. There is a connection between gut bacteria and mental health, so stress or anxiety can upset the balance:
- Stress may reduce good gut bacteria and favor bad bacteria.
- Bad bacteria cause GI symptoms.
- Bad bacteria reduce the production of the mood-lifting chemical serotonin. That means less serotonin going to your brain and a depressed or anxious mood.
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Can Diarrhea Be A Sign Of Depression
Are you worried that your gastrointestinal disorders could be as a result of depression? Sure most of us feel sad, lonely, and depressed at times.
It’s okay to have these feelings sometimes, but when they occur over a prolonged period, you are bound to get worried. This is more so if they are accompanied by diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and weight changes.
Before getting into the relationship between depression and diarrhea, it is important to recognize the symptoms of clinical depression. Research by the National Institute of Mental Health shows that depression is characterized by the following:
- Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and worthlessness
- Change in dietary patterns that is, overeating or loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as stomach pain and diarrhea that dont go away with treatment
- Suicidal thoughts
It is evident that diarrhea is one of the symptoms of depression however, it is inaccurate to assume that you are suffering from depression due to this sign alone.
However, since individuals who suffer from depression may often show signs of stress and anxiety, self-diagnosis can be difficult. At the same time, it is advisable to see the doctor if you think that the episodes of diarrhea and other accompanying symptoms are as a result of depression.
When Should You See A Doctor For Stress
Anytime you notice big differences in your digestion, you should consider seeing a doctor, Dr. Ganjhu says. “Any suspicion should be evaluated by a healthcare provider just to rule out all the bad stuff.” You probably won’t get really sick from stress diarrhea, but if it’s frequent, it could point toward an underlying problem like IBS or IBD.
It’s especially important to see a doctor if diarrhea is accompanied by so-called “alarm features” like unexpected weight loss, bloody stool, and intense abdominal pain, Dr. Newberry says. These symptoms can all be part of a more serious gut illness. Otherwise, a nervous stomach isn’t something to worry too much about.
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Stress And Stomach Pain: When Should You See A Specialist
Do you ever feel like theres a knot in your stomach when youre worried or stressed? Do nerves make you feel butterflies in your gut? If so, youre not alone.
As a gastroenterologist, a specialist in the treatment of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver, I help patients determine if their stomach pain is stress-related or if their symptoms are caused by a more serious condition.
When To Seek Medical Attention
The majority of people with stress diarrhea do not require professional medical care. However, there are instances when treatment is necessary to prevent or address complications of frequent diarrhea, notably dehydration. Promptly speak with a medical professional if:
- Your diarrhea lasts for more than one or two days
- You experience severe stomach or rectal pain
- Your stool is black or bloody
- You display signs of dehydration, which may include excessive thirst, dry mouth, weakness, dizziness, little or no urine, and dark-colored urine
Its also important to seek help if you feel as though stress, anxiety, or depression is taking over your life or making it difficult to find enjoyment in things you once loved. Consider speaking with a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or your primary medical provider about how youre feeling. For immediate assistance in a crisis, call 1-800-273-8255.
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