Calming your Anxious Stomach: The Brain-Gut connection

BY SECOND CONSULT Published on July 19, 2021

Unrealistic deadlines, being trapped in gridlock, having too many things to accomplish and not enough time to complete them. Most of us are acquainted with everyday tensions that cause our hearts to race, our breath to accelerate, and our stomachs to churn. Have you ever pondered why you feel "butterflies" in your stomach before a big presentation? Or why do you have the sensation that your stomach is "twisted in knots" after an argument? Have you ever had a rendezvous with the toilet that lasted far longer than intended and wasn't triggered by anything you ate? These are physical signs that your gut and brain are connected, resulting in stomach distress. But, according to research, even after a significantly stressful event has passed, it may still be influencing your stomach. Many of us overeat and drink too much alcohol when we are stressed, both of which have a negative impact on our gut.

With a global epidemic creating tremendous upheaval to our everyday lifestyle (including issues like job loss, financial troubles, and isolation), it's not astonishing that stress-induced panic rates are elevated than ever. Stress may take a physical toll on your digestive system, whether it's a solitary exasperating event or persistent tension and anxiety over time. When you are worried, certain of your body's natural chemicals invade your digestive tract and impede with digestion. They harm your gut microbes and reduce immunoglobulin synthesis. The ensuing chemical imbalance can lead to a variety of gastrointestinal problems. In addition, researchers have discovered a significant link between the gut and the brain. The gut, like the brain, is packed with neurotransmitters, with the intestinal tract and the brain sharing numerous neural connections. So, if you have indications of an anxious stomach frequently, in that case, particularly if your symptoms worsen, you may need to pay closer attention to your anxiety levels and gut health. In rare cases, an upset stomach may indicate a more severe health issue.

Here are a few examples of how stress manifests itself in physical difficulties other than an anxious stomach.

Breathing: As a result of the anxiety, your respiratory rate may vary. It can grow shorter, shallower, or even hold your breath for an extended period of time. Owing to stress, the lungs do not fully exhale. Therefore, relaxation and breathing exercises might be beneficial.

Tight Muscles: Anxiety causes stress to spread throughout the body, affecting various muscles. Other regions of the body are tense as well. It may be felt in the neck, jaw, chest, or stomach of certain people. There is no fixed location - the nerve signals are sent wherever the brain directs them to be. Therefore, when muscular tightness persists in a specific region for an extended period of time, it transforms into pain.

Rapid Heartbeat: A variety of factors can cause variations in pulse rate. To counteract the breathing difficulties, the heart will pump more oxygen into the blood. Another factor that influences heart rate is anxiety, which causes adrenaline to be released. These are typically released during high-intensity activities such as skydiving or mountain climbing. However, these moments can occur as a result of approaching thoughts in anxiety. For example, a dread of meeting someone or speaking in front of a group. The adrenaline trigger causes people to feel unsteady, sweat, and their heart races at the speed of light.

Therefore, to assist people in combating unpleasant gastric side effects here's a compiled list of guidelines on how to soothe an upset tummy when anxiety is unavoidable and when you should contact a gastroenterologist.

  • Yoga, relaxation, cognitive behavioural therapy, and stomach relaxation training are all effective methods that assist people in overcoming stress and boosting metabolism, related ailments of gastrointestinal discomfort, and standard of living. In addition, because the GI system is so susceptible to our mental state, practicing mindfulness and focusing on our emotions can help ease unpleasant symptoms.
  • Ingesting probiotics and foods or beverages containing active cultures can assist in balancing the microbiome. Our gut flora is influenced by the foods we eat, and studies have proven that variation contributes to a happier and healthier digestive tract. A diet vital in processed foods and high in calories, sugar, and salt can cause digestive issues such as incontinence, diarrhoea, and extreme bloating. Fresh fruits and vegetables, fermented meals, and Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce those unwanted side effects.
  • If your anxiety causes recurrent stomach discomfort, you might try avoiding spicy food, dairy products, and caffeine.
  • Excessive acid reflux, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhoea are signs of stomach distress that can be treated with over-the-counter drugs. These symptoms usually go away on their own after a few days. Still, it's a good idea to rest as much as possible and drink plenty of water to accelerate your recuperation. Drinking electrolyte-containing fluids (such as sports drinks) can supplement water, juices, and clear broths.

A Thought from Cognitive Healthcare

If you experience anxiety and gastrointestinal pain and no physical cause is found, you may have IBS. The gut-brain link shows that physical symptoms of IBS, such as stomach discomfort, may be connected to worry and stress levels. Seeking support from a mental health practitioner and undergoing psychotherapies such as gut-directed hypnotherapy will allow your gut and mind to recover together. Dealing with chronic concern and severe anxiety on your own is frequently too challenging. Stress and its repercussions on the stomach take discipline to alleviate. These tips can be effective if they are appropriately applied and made a regular commitment. Expecting immediate benefits and a complete lack of symptoms, on the other hand, would simply exacerbate your frustration and discomfort. Tolerance of specific stomach distress is essential.

In conclusion

Anxiety should be managed in the same way as any other chronic disease. Finally, consult a doctor and attempt the medical therapies that are advised. Many gastrointestinal ailments cannot be cured only by stress reduction. When attempting to handle gut-related issues, you must consider the biological, psychological, and social elements. Professionals can help you overcome your anxiety and physical symptoms by providing guidance and treatment programmes. Just as the body reacts chemically to negative thoughts, the brain responds biologically to positive ones. Imagine yourself in your favourite place on the planet or at your happiest.

Your nervous system can wreak havoc on your stomach. However, learning to rethink your coping strategies can have a profound influence on your health. "Obstacles are a part of everyday life, and it keeps you motivated, interested, and enthusiastic about who you are and what you do." It is not about being stress-free. It is all about altering your reaction to challenging circumstances.

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