Many of you may be scratching your heads. What in the world does my indigestion have to with me feeling anxious? But think about it:
Haven’t you had a “gut feeling” about something?
What about experiencing “butterflies” in your stomach before a big event?
Where do you think the term “gut-wrenching” comes from?
Welcome to the gut-brain connection. Everything our body does is connected. In some cases, that connectivity is more easily affected.
How does anxiety impact your stomach?
Anxiety causes a wide range of symptoms. These include everything from headaches to cold feet. Smack dab in the middle, it can do a number on your digestive tract. Here are just a few examples of what can happen:
- Increased stomach acids: this, in turn, can lead to problems like reflux.
- Sleep issues: all bodily functions (including digestion) require a healthy amount of sleep.
- Overactive fight-or-flight response: always feeling stressed decreases our ability to digest normally.
- Bacteria imbalance: anxiety weakens our immune systems, throwing off the bacterial balance in our gut.
All of this contributes towards a tricky cycle. We feel anxiety. Over time, it impacts our digestion for the worse. Poor digestion creates symptoms (pain, discomfort, etc.) that trigger more anxiety. Eventually, it feels impossible to identify what factor is causing which symptom. Of course, that results in even more anxiety and more digestive issues. Simply put, this must be addressed as soon as possible. And that usually means getting back to the basics.
4 Steps for Dealing With Anxiety-Causing Digestive Trouble
1. Lifestyle changes and basic self-care
A strong foundation can withstand a storm. For each of us, this starts with the daily choices we make. Two examples are rest and activity. You don’t have to become a gym rat but daily exercise is essential. In addition, we must avoid long periods of inactivity—except, of course, when it comes to sleep. Healthy, regular sleep patterns are a major part of reducing both anxiety and digestive trouble.
2. Stress management and relaxation techniques
Let’s state the obvious: If our stress is managed, it will do us less harm. What qualifies as a relaxation technique can differ from person to person. Yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation are common examples. Perhaps something like the Oakland Floats floatation center will, (ahem*) float your boat.
3. Re-evaluating one’s eating habits
We are talking about digestion here. No matter what role anxiety plays we can and must make smart eating choices. In terms of what you eat, you can seek out a professional guide (see below). Other factors:
Chew slowly: Refrain from wolfing down your meals. Set aside time to eat slowly and mindfully.
Timing: Try not to let yourself go too long without eating and then gorging yourself. Timing is very important. You may wish to aim for many smaller meals throughout the day.
4. Clean out the everyday toxins in your life (including tech addictions)
From the soap we use to how much time we spend staring at our phone, our choices matter. Every day, poor choices can contribute to more anxiety. As a result, they will create further digestive problems. Take stock of the products you use. Learn to read labels carefully. Take breaks from your devices. One cannot overestimate the stress caused by our tech obsessions.
Creating a plan of action
Mental health and physical wellness go hand-in-hand. We cannot have true balance without both of these elements. Finding someone to guide you is important. At Healing Happens Therapy, we provide coaching in aspects of health, wellness and nutrition. Find your motivation and empowerment while setting and reaching goals. You can do it!