Did you know that your gut and brain are connected? What this ultimately means is that whatever goes on in your brain may affect your stomach. Hence, when you have a stomach ache, it may not be some errant organ in your tummy that is to blame.
It may be, as they say, all in your head.
Abdominal pain can be caused by both external (physical) and internal (mental) factors. The vagus nerve, which is the tenth cranial nerve (CN X), extends from the head to the abdomen. It is also referred to as the wandering nerve.
The vagus nerve connects your mind to your gut and is a busy ‘highway’ for back and forth communication. Therefore, if there is turmoil in your brain, it can be communicated to your stomach and vice versa.
Your Stomach May Ache When You Are Anxious
As mentioned earlier, anxiety and stomach pain are linked. For starters, can you tell if your pain is caused by physical determinants? Yes, you can. The cause of your tummy troubles is physical if:
- You are constantly passing wind or burping
- You feel bloated and are not able to either pass stool or keep your food down
- You ate food that may have been contaminated
- You took anti-inflammatory medication on an empty stomach
- Severe pain accompanied by nausea, fever, and vomiting
- The pain can be located in a specific area
- You ate food that triggered your acid
This tells you that for the most part, stomach trouble is a result of external factors. However, sometimes your discomfort is caused by mental issues. Anxiety stomach pain relief is crucial for you to feel well again.
Panic Attacks Cause Abdominal Pain
A panic attack can be harrowing. It comes with physical symptoms such as the following:
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
It is also known to cause abdominal pain as well as diarrhea. Someone who has experienced panic attacks may tell you they felt like they were dying. They would not be exaggerating.
Effect of Anxiety on Your Digestive Tract
Stress and anxiety can have a physical effect on your digestive system. Anxiety causes some hormones and chemicals released by your body to access the digestive tract. While there, they play havoc with your digestion.
This impacts negatively on your gut flora; microorganisms that are found in the digestive tract that help with digestion. Interference in the digestive process causes a decline in the production of antibodies, thus creating several digestive-related problems for you.
You may then experience symptoms such as:
- Cramping in the stomach
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Unnatural hunger
Anxiety can be caused by any number of factors from public speaking to family get-togethers. If your gut cramps every time you have some event coming up, it may be due to anxiety.
Think back to times when you have been stressed or anxious. How did your stomach behave? Did you feel an ache or sudden onset of heartburn? If your answer is in the affirmative, you may have experienced anxiety-related stomach pain. If you already deal with anxiety, a doctor or therapist can help you manage it.
One way to keep track of your stomach troubles journaling. A few weeks of journaling should reveal if is caused by mental issues. You can associate your discomfort with the immediate event before trouble struck.
Moreover, it helps you chronicle how your aches come and go as your tummy responds to stress and anxiety.
How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Stress is normal and most people experience it in their everyday living activities. When it becomes too much and interferes with your day to day life, then it must be managed. Here are a few tips on how to manage anxiety and its impact on your tummy.
1. Learn to Say ‘No’
Do not attempt to do everything whether in the workplace or at home. Also, avoid trying to please everybody. That has been proven to be impossible. Have some boundaries and set limits. Learn to say ‘no’ when they try to pile more on you.
2. Take the Occasional Breather
Every few hours, stop all activity and rest. Breathe in and out slowly and steadily through your nose. This is especially helpful when you are performing a task that refuses to give the expected results. Instead of repeating it for the third time, take a rest and just breathe.
When you get back to it, you will realize that your heart rate is back to normal. Also, that tension headache has reduced.
3. Speak to a Trusted Person or Therapist
Sometimes vocalizing your frustration does a world of good. A therapist or someone you trust can help you reduce your anxiety. A therapist can give you coping mechanisms or prescribe medication if they feel you need it.
4. Get Physical
Physical activity is great for reducing stress and anxiety. Even fifteen minutes are enough to get the endorphins churning. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that hit the receptors in your brain to trigger positive feelings.
Managing anxiety is the best way to eliminate stress-related stomach pains. When you feel an activity or situation is making you anxious, walk away, or take a break if possible. Seek help from a therapist or psychiatrist if you have anxiety disorder.