Bowel Anxiety Symptoms Problems
Bowel symptoms and problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome , abdominal cramps, and others can be signs of anxiety disorder.
This article explains the relationship between anxiety and bowel problems and symptoms.
To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, and Hyperstimulation Test.
The higher the rating, the more likely anxiety could be contributing to your symptoms, including bowel symptoms and problems.
Stress Anxiety Vomiting And Stomachache: What You Can Do
If you or your child suffers frequent stomachaches or nausea, first see a doctor to rule out any physical cause. Physical causes — bacteria, a virus, acid reflux, lactose intolerance, constipation — are usually behind the stomachaches and vomiting of younger children.
Its beyond toddlerhood when you tend to get into the stress-triggered abdominal complaints, says Chris Tolcher, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine.
Once youve ruled out physical causes, take a close look at how you or your child react to stressful situations.
We all know that our mind influences our body, and vice versa. The science of emotion and stress is starting to catch up with our intuitive understanding of this, Dennis says.
Therapy can help children and adults. But, often theres no need for a therapist. Learning how to regulate emotions more effectively also helps.
The key may be to learn how to look for the silver lining in each emotionally challenging situation before we have an emotional reaction, Dennis says.
For example, perhaps an upcoming job interview or school test would normally make you or your child anxiously fear failure. This fear leads to a cascade of negative emotions, stress, and physical distress. Instead, try to see the situation in a more positive light: An opportunity to share your expertise or enthusiasm, or to learn.
Childhood Stomach Aches May Lead To Anxiety Depression As An Adult
Stomach aches may be a normal part of life for some children, but a new study shows that unexplained abdominal pain at an early age may cause anxiety or depression come adulthood.
Research published online Aug. 12 in Pediatrics shows that 51 percent of children who had abdominal pain as children also had an anxiety disorder sometime during their lifetime. Thirty percent had a current diagnosis at the time they were surveyed.
A decade later, individuals who had stomach pain continued to have high rates of anxiety disorders, even if they no longer had stomach pain, study author Lynn Walker, a professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., told HealthDay.
For comparison, only 20 percent of people who did not have abdominal issues when they were a kid had an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.
The authors pointed out that between eight and 25 percent of all children experience chronic stomach pain without a known medical cause like an infection or blockage, which is known as functional abdominal pain.
Its very prevalent, and its one of the most common reasons that children and adolescents end up in their pediatricians office. Its one of the most common reasons kids are missing school, Dr. Eva Szigethy, head of the Medical Coping Clinic at the Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, said to Reuters. She was not involved in the study.
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How Do I Know If Its Anxiety And Not An Ulcer
Its not uncommon to find yourself concerned that your struggle with stomach pain is not from anxiety or stress at all. For example, you may find yourself concerned that instead of anxiety, what you are really struggling with is an ulcer.
Only a doctor can diagnose whether or not your pain is from an ulcer, but there are some clues. The clearest signal is if you have any blood in your stool or acid burps . Thats often a clear sign of an ulcer. Also, if the pain or discomfort tends to occur after eating and isnt related to a similar condition, GERD , its possible you may have an ulcer.
However, this is complicated by the fact that ulcers can be caused by long-term stress and anxiety, as they stimulate the production of extra stomach acid. This excess acid in the stomach breaks down the gastric or intestinal lining and cause open wounds that may harm your health.
Are There Foods That Reduce Stomach Pain
Anxiety-related stomach pain is not usually the result of your diet , so there arent necessarily any dietary changes that can help reduce stomach pain.
That said, those with panic attacks are more prone to experiencing more severe stomach discomfort, even when no anxiety is present. In other words, when you have panic attacks, its possible to have stomach pain even without a panic attack.
Also, those with anxiety attacks and severe anxiety are prone to whats known as over-sensitization. That means that they are more likely to notice and feel smaller, normal changes in the body, and these can trigger an anxiety attack. So if your diet does contain foods that cause you gas, stomach discomfort, or mild indigestion, it may be best to avoid them because the slight amount of discomfort could feel worse than it should and may trigger a panic attack.
Thats why healthy eating is important in those that get stomach pain with anxiety. Make sure youre getting:
- Whole-Grain Carbohydrates
Also, if you suffer from stress-induced hyperacidity, then it is recommended that you consume dairy products and non-spicy foods. In moderate amounts, over-the-counter antacids may be needed as well.
In addition, if possible, try to avoid eating until youre too full. Those with severe anxiety sometimes interpret the full feeling as pain, and this could trigger a panic attack and further pain.
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Should I Be Getting Screened Regularly For Colon Cancer Or Other Gi Tract Cancers
As of 2021, the United States Preventative Services Task Force and major GI medical societies recommend that adults at average risk for colorectal cancer are regularly screened beginning at age 45.
People who have a family history of colorectal cancer or other GI tract cancers, including stomach or pancreas cancer, or a history of GI conditions like inflammatory bowel disease may need routine cancer screening earlier than age 45.
Talk your primary care physician about your risk and ask if you should get tested.
Researchers Are Exploring The Link Between Ibs And Psychiatric Disorders Including Anxiety Insomnia Depression And Bipolar Disorder
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Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterized by varying degrees of recurring abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and gas. Even though IBS is frequently diagnosedreportedly affecting up to 23% of people around the world, and more women than men the exact cause remains unknown, and medical experts do not fully understand how the disease process works. Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohns disease, and other inflammatory bowel diseases with similar symptoms, IBS is considered a functional disorder, which means symptoms are caused by a dysfunctional digestive system, rather than by chronic inflammation, growth, or permanent damage along the gastrointestinal tract that can identified in a physical examination. This dysfunction interrupts the normal movement of food through the GI tract, causing the related symptoms. IBS can produce different symptoms in different people, and multiple factorsboth physical and psychologicalare thought to be involved in its development.
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You’ve Developed Acid Reflux
If you have noticed recently having more trouble digesting acidic foods, your anxiety might be the culprit. This relationship is especially likely if you’re going through a period of more stress than usual.
“Anxiety increases the amount of acid produced in the stomach,” Backe says. “If you find yourself constantly dealing with heartburn or acid reflux this could be a sign of a digestive issue related to anxiety.” So talk to your therapist or doctor to find a solution that works for you.
What To Do When You Have Stomach Problems From Anxiety
While the best way for you to stop your stomach problems is to cure your anxiety, there are some strategies that you can try to implement that may reduce some of the symptoms. These include:
- Breathing Exercises There are relaxation exercises that focus on the idea of breathing more efficiently. When your stomach problems are caused by hyperventilation or air swallowing, slow and controlled breathing can be not only calming but also reduce the likelihood of further air swallowing symptoms.
- Healthier Diet Even though anxiety is going to create some stomach problems no matter what you eat, the reality is that foods that are hard to digest are always going to put some strain and stress on your stomach. When combined with anxiety, they’ll be more likely to get much worse. Healthier eating can be a much more effective way to ensure that you aren’t suffering from as many stomach problems.
- Exercise Exercise can temporarily create more stomach problems because exercise increases stomach acid. But eventually, exercise should help you control your anxiety better, and possibly improve your hormonal balance. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health, providing far more benefits than simply muscle mass and a healthy heart.
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Physical Symptoms Of Depression
One of the most common symptoms of depression is the feeling of being constantly tired and drained.
While depression exhaustion can be mental, it often presents as a lack of physical energy.
This may occur as a result of low-quality sleep, especially for those that attempt to manage their depression with drugs or alcohol.
For some people, low quality sleep means insomnia and sleep deprivation, while for others it might mean sleeping constantly without ever feeling rested.
Alcohol adds to this effect by interrupting the REM cycle, causing the brain to miss out on the most restorative periods of sleep throughout the night.
Incessant fatigue makes working and socializing especially difficult, and can contribute to the sad and hopeless feelings that often accompany depression.
Fatigue may also cause a depressed individual to abandon their workout routine and become less active, which can exacerbate depression over time.
Aches and Pains
Depression can quite literally hurt. Just as when you have the flu and your body seems to ache all over, depression can cause mild pain and discomfort to amplify, becoming severely distracting and debilitating.
Because our brains are responsible for producing the sensation of pain, poor mental health can cause inappropriate responses to varying degrees of pain.
Research has confirmed that depression lowers pain tolerance, intensifying pain that would otherwise be manageable.
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.
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Tips To Reduce Anxiety Or Worry And De
Become a better breather. Stress can cause shallow breathing, which means that your body wont get enough oxygen to fully relax. Learn to breathe more slowly and deeply from your abdomen. One way to do this is to imagine that you have a small beach ball behind your belly button, which you slowly inflate and deflate.
Watch your self-talk. Much of our anxiety is self-induced, meaning that we often get ourselves wound up worrying about worst-case scenarios or blowing small incidents out of proportion.
Monitor your negative thoughts to see how often you fret about things such as losing your job, or making mistakes. If you find yourself obsessing, try to substitute a negative thought with a positive, but realistic one. For example, instead of thinking, I know something will go wrong during my presentation, tell yourself, No matter what happens, I can handle it.
Get physical. Exercise is a well-known tension reducer and can help relieve symptoms. The paradox is that strenuous, high-impact exercises might induce GERD symptoms, so take care to increase exercise slowly and assess your bodys tolerance to this as you do.
Have a good belly laugh. Laughter is a natural stress reliever that helps to lower blood pressure, slow your heart and breathing rate, and relax your muscles. How do you tickle your funny bone? Catch comedies, have a chuckle with a friend, and make an effort to look on the lighter side of life.
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Gut Support Tool Two: Prebiotics
Non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health.
Key combinations of beneficial bacteria have been shown to help improve the stress response as have specific forms of prebiotic fibres, such as galacto oligosaccharides .
While specific types of prebiotic fibres in supplemental form can help support the gut and the stress response but feeding key species of beneficial bacteria and supporting the gut lining. Additionally, the range and quantity of plant fibres in the diet has been associated with a reduction in levels of stress and anxiety. These are two key factors that can contribute to bloating.
However, if someone is experiencing bloating very frequently, it may be best to avoid specific fibres which commonly contribute to increased gas production. These are commonly referred to FODMAPs.
Even if certain foods are restricted, its important to keep the diet as diverse as possible. Two aims to keep in mind are
The aim here is to have the diet as diverse as possible to support a diverse gut microbiome.
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What To Do About Pain And Nausea From Anxiety
You should consult with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing unexplained mild to moderate GI disturbances for more than a few days, or if your symptoms stop and then return. They may order tests or refer you to a specialist to rule out any serious medical problem that may be causing your symptoms.
If your doctor determines that you have functional GI symptoms related to anxiety, there are many effective treatments availableboth for your GI concerns and the underlying anxiety. Prescribed medications and psychotherapy can help you to reduce your feelings of anxiety and develop healthy ways to cope with stress.
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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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.
Each of these emotions causes complex physical responses. When were angry, for example, our heart rate increases, adrenaline flows, blood pressure spikes, and we see red, Dennis says.
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.
Proton Pump Inhibitors May Cause Depression
Few studies have noted an increased risk of developing Major Depressive Disorder with use of proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole, esomeprazole.
Chronic proton pump inhibitor use may cause magnesium deficiency and magnesium is known to have an antidepressant effect.
PPIs may also increase the risk of severe cognitive impairment and dementia.
Quick Gist: Chronic use of proton pump inhibitors is associated with increased risk of depression. A few reasons to explain this could lack treatment response to PPIs or persistent reflux symptoms may be responsible for increased depression risk.
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Should I See A Doctor If I Get Stomach Pains When I Am Stressed
You should be seeing your primary care physician at least once a year, and you should tell them if you often have stomach pain or GI discomfort.
If your primary care physician identifies symptoms of a chronic GI condition or other warning signs, they may refer you to a gastroenterologist like myself. A gastroenterologist can help determine if your stomach pain or GI symptoms are related to stress, or due to another condition that requires different treatment.