Just about everyone has had an experience when they’ve been so worried or anxious that they’ve felt sick to their stomach. We describe nervousness as feeling like we have butterflies in our stomachs, and emotionally traumatic events are often called “gut-wrenching” for the way they feel. These feelings are universal, yet we don’t always pay attention to them. Sure, we can chalk them up to our emotions, but we never stop to think about the connection that our brains have to our stomachs.
As it turns out, the connection between our brains and our stomachs is much stronger than you might know. It’s not hard to understand how the thought of eating releases digestive juices in your stomach even when there is no food there, but that connection works both ways. A troubled digestive system can send signals to the brain, which means that your upset stomach could be a symptom of your anxiety or the cause of it.
If you’ve been having gastrointestinal problems that have no apparent physical cause, they might very well be caused by a mental health issue. If this is the case, simply addressing your gastrointestinal issues won’t be enough to cure what is bothering you. You need to take a look at your mental health if you really want relief from a perpetually upset stomach.
What to Do When You Worry Yourself Sick
The best way to determine if your gastrointestinal problems are being caused by stress or anxiety is to pay attention to your symptoms as they arise. If they coincide with some of the physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms of severe stress and anxiety, your problems are quite literally all in your head. Some of the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety include stiffness in your muscles, difficulty sleeping, and slight tremors. Some of the behavioral symptoms include increased procrastination, grinding your teeth, being quick to anger, and feeling depressed. If you notice some of these symptoms when your stomach problems are at their worst, you should seek help for your mental state while you try to ease your upset stomach.
When Your Stomach Makes You Nervous
Of course, it is also entirely possible that your stomach problems are causing your anxiety and depression instead of the other way around. For example, many people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or IBS often live with depression or anxiety. They may technically have little reason to be anxious, but they feel that way because of their IBS and the symptoms it causes. Part of the reason for this is because of the close connection between the digestive and nervous systems via the vagus nerve, but it can also be attributed to your gut flora, or the bacteria that is naturally found within your stomach and intestinal tract. This bacteria influences the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your body. In fact, over 90 percent of your body’s serotonin is in your gut. Not only is serotonin important to gastrointestinal motility, but it also greatly influences your mood. Higher levels of serotonin lead to a feeling of happiness and well-being, while lower levels of serotonin can lead to depression and all that is associated with it.
The bacteria in your gut is far from the only factor that can influence your mood, but it is clear that it can be a factor. Unfortunately, those who have poor diets or documented gastrointestinal problems may not have the healthy levels of this flora. This is also part of the reason why those with poor diets often feel depressed and have little energy, and those who eat well are generally in a better mood. A lack of healthy gut flora can often be reversed through changes in diets.
A lack of healthy gut flora can often be reversed through changes in diets. If you believe that a lack of gut flora is the cause of your bad mood, speak to your doctor about improving your diet. Adding more fruits and vegetables is always a great way to improve your gut flora along with your mood, and so is eating more fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir. These fermented foods are great sources of probiotics, so they may improve your digestive health along with your mental state. If you don’t like the idea of eating lots of yogurt for breakfast, you can also get plenty of probiotics through supplements such as Floratrex. As always, ask your doctor for advice before consuming any supplements. They are safe and can be purchased over the counter, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health.
Mental health is always a difficult subject to discuss, especially since no two people are alike. What works for one person’s depression or anxiety won’t do anything for someone else. There is obviously a strong connection between the digestive and nervous systems, but never assume that your stomach and mental issues are always connected. Always keep your doctor informed of your health before you make too many drastic changes to your life.