The human body is absolutely fascinating, isn’t it? Every day we are learning more how it works and realizing the extent that the different systems inside us don’t operate independently.
The stomach doesn’t just process food, nor does the heart just pump blood. Rather, all of these physical mechanisms that are responsible for keeping you alive are actually connected, and our emotional brains affect them greatly.
Thus, when you experience a health issue, such as a gastrointestinal problem, there is most likely more going on than you realize. For instance, it has been shown that anxiety and G.I. (gastrointestinal) problems are linked together.
Your Brain and Your Gut
An article published by Harvard Medical School describes how the brain and gut are connected.
For example, if you begin to think about how much you are looking forward to your favorite dinner, your intestine reacts. It begins to produce digestive juices in preparation for eating food.
In the same way, if you are feeling stressed or anxious, your gastrointestinal system will also react. This can amplify your distress.
But the connection between anxiety and G.I. problems goes deeper. Our bodies have what we call our “enteric brain”. This is a network of millions of neurons in our gut. They control our intestines and play an enormous role in mental health. In fact, it’s so complex and powerful that many researchers refer to this as “our second brain”.
Examples of how G.I. problems due to anxiety affect you include:
- Upset stomach
- Irritable bowel syndrome
These physical symptoms are more than just annoying. They can make life really difficult. That, in turn, can have an impact on your mental health as well.
How Anxiety and G.I. Problems Affect You
Have you ever felt nauseous when doing something that you know makes you feel nervous?
For example, people who are afraid to fly may experience physical symptoms when traveling. That’s because, of course, they are worried that the plane might experience a mechanical problem, or even crash.
The same can be true for those who feel enormous pressure to perform at work. The constant grind of deadlines, overbearing bosses, and an unhealthy work environment will take its toll.
Your mental health thus directly influences your physical health and can result in gastrointestinal problems.
What to Do About G.I. Problems Caused by Anxiety
To address gastrointestinal problems, the solution is to find ways to reduce and eliminate stress in your life, and to make sure that you don’t let anxiety go untreated.
You may try the following, for example:
- Surround yourself with people who have a healthy mindset and are not toxic personalities.
- Eat foods that are gentle on your stomach (yogurt, bananas, applesauce, etc.).
- Exercise regularly.
- Practice good “sleep hygiene” by going to bed at a regular and reasonable time in a bedroom that is comfortable and free of screens.
- Try breathing exercises to relax and not get “wound up” with anxiety.
- Use expressive arts (drawing, painting, etc.) to release stress and feel better.
- If possible, consider changing your work situation so that you can find an environment that is supportive and positive.
If you have physical symptoms that persist even after trying these strategies, make an appointment to see your physician. It’s important to track down the cause of any lingering symptoms.
Therapy for Anxiety
Another idea for addressing G.I. problems due to stress is seeing a therapist for anxiety therapy. Therapy is an important part of an overall strategy for dealing with this problem.
A therapist who understands anxiety therapy will be able to listen to your concerns. He’ll suggest ideas for how to better manage your anxiety and teach you skills. For example, a therapist could help you learn and master a new breathing technique. Or they can work with you on identifying which aspects of your stress seem situational, while others are perhaps old mental and nervous system habits that are simply operating on auto-pilot.
Anxiety and G.I. problems can feel confusing, and even stressful! That’s why it’s so valuable to have that additional therapeutic support.
Taking a closer look at anxiety and G.I. problems reinforces just how much the mind and the body are truly connected. What happens to one certainly has an effect on the other.
If you have been struggling with a gastrointestinal problem and don’t know what else to do, consider learning how to better manage stress.Get your anxiety treated with high quality psychotherapy. People really do recover!
Also, don’t hesitate to contact me for professional help through anxiety therapy.