- Mental Health
How to Stop Anxiety-Related Stomach Upset
Anxiety and Your Stomach
All of us with anxiety have been there, we're about go into a job interview, maybe it's before an important final or a big presentation, and the anxiety is already skyrocketing through the roof. Then you feel it. Some rumbling and cramping that honestly could not have come at a worse time. You're already panicking and now your stomach is turning against you as well, now you're panicking about whether you should make a break for the bathroom or just try to power through it until said interview/presentation/test is over.
Unfortunately, anxiety isn't just a mental illness, it's a physical one too. Stomach problems, headaches, fatigue, backaches...not to mention the effect it has on sleep and concentration. It's been proven that the bacteria in your gut can have a profound impact on your mood and vice versa. So whenever you begin to panic, your intestines jump on that train as well. Then you enter a never-ending cycle of upset stomach because anxiety and then more anxiety because of upset stomach, on and on and on.
So it makes sense that if you want to stop your stomach from throwing a temper tantrum while also quelling anxiety, the first step is try to remedy the stomach problem.
As a sufferer of IBS, GERD, lactose intolerance, and generalized anxiety I can say that I know the stomach, even on its best day, can be slightly unpredictable. Whether you're like me and have a lot of stomach issues, or the need just pops up whenever you get that spike of adrenaline, I've gathered a list of things that will hopefully help you in your darkest of bathroom times.
Some of these things may work great, others may not, only you know your stomach and the solutions best suited for it.
Sometimes the bacteria in your intestines can be a big problem for cramping and pain, so adding more "good" bacteria in your system will level out the balance and also reduce anxiety. I take one probiotic every morning with breakfast, and on bad days or before something important the next day, I take another with dinner.
There are all kinds of probiotics out there, I've tried probably over a dozen but the one I've been using for the past year has been the Jarrow brand from Amazon and it works great. It's also much cheaper than a lot of the brands bought in stores at about $10-$15 per box.
Peppermint Oil is a natural antispasmodic and so it relieves painful cramping as well as soothes your bowels in order to stop diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Peppermint though can sometimes cause acid reflux in those that have GERD or heartburn problems, so my favorite is to get peppermint oil capsules with an enteric coating that don't cause excess acid.
The kind I use is called Heather's Tummy Tamers and these capsules are a combo of peppermint oil, ginger, and fennel. You take them on an empty stomach 15 mins to an hour before a meal. I started with just one a day and now I take two, but they can be taken up to three times a day before ever meal.
I bought my bottle at the local CVS, but they're also available online on Amazon and other stores.
Before two years ago I had never drank any sort of hot tea, and now I have boxes of herbal tea piled to the ceiling. There are so many great herbal tea remedies for stomach problems. My favorites are peppermint and ginger teas.
Ginger tea is an absolute miracle worker for my stomach. Ginger has been used for hundreds of centuries as a natural stomach soother and it still does the trick. It's great for nausea, acid reflux, bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramping, it does it all. I usually drink a lemon ginger tea because it tastes great and the lemon helps dull the strong ginger bitterness.
There's also a brand of tea called Yogi which has a tea called Stomach Ease with peppermint, ginger, fennel, coriander, cardamom, licorice, and a few other stomach relieving ingredients.
I usually drink herbal tea after a large meal to help with digestion and to calm my nerves if I'm worried about my stomach acting up, but many drink it first thing in the morning, or at any time throughout the day. There's no downside to too much herbal tea (except for running to the bathroom to pee every few hours).
To those who only get stomach upset when you're anxious, you might not need digestive enzymes, but if you have IBS, lactose or gluten sensitivities, or another stomach problem these definitely come in handy. It gets frustrating when you actually eat healthy but the healthy foods are the ones causing gas and bloating. Sometimes the stomach just has a little trouble fully digesting all of that fiber, and that's where digestive enzymes can help.
There are a ton of them out there, the most common being Beano, which for those who don't know can be taken with a lot of things that aren't just beans. They help digest other gassy foods like onions, cabbage, raw veggies, wheat, etc. I just use Beano or a generic brand with the same ingredients.
I've heard that NOW has a good digestive enzyme known as Super Enzyme, also available on Amazon.
Here in the midwest Hy-Vee has a good and cheap generic brand with the exact same ingredient as Beano which is the alpha-galactosidase enzyme. But Beano works well and isn't all that expensive either. You just take one or two capsules right before the first bite of whatever food is troublesome and let the enzymes do the rest.
Aloe, like ginger, is a miracle plant. It has hundreds of medicinal uses, many of them being for the stomach. Aloe helps soothes upset stomach, it decreases acid if you're having heartburn, and can even help heal ulcers.
Now you might be thinking that drinking straight up aloe doesn't sound all that fun, and that's why I'm here to tell you that there are actual aloe drinks that are cheap AND delicious!
I buy the Alo brand and it has a ton of great flavors such as mango, pomegranate, honey, raspberry, and even a wheatgrass one for the super health conscious. They're only $2 per bottle and they taste great. I find them at my local grocery store, but they can also be found at healthfood stores and online.
How often do you get anxiety-related stomach upset?
Stomach Is A Start
These are all safe and natural solutions to helping tame an upset stomach, but the root of all these problems is still the anxiety. So while calming the stomach may calm some nerves, taking steps to decrease the anxiety will help overall with the stomach issues.
Getting regular exercise lessens anxiety while also helping regularity. Getting enough sleep and GOOD sleep is very necessary to diminish anxiety and stop unpredictable bowel movements.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking anxiety medication while also wanting to try natural solutions for other problems. The tea brand Yogi also has quite a few stress-relief teas that can be bought for cheap, as well as "sleepy" teas to help you get a good nights rest.
It's a trial and error with what helps best and after a few years of my own trial and error these are my top contenders.
If you guys have tried other things that have worked well post them in the comments, or if you use any of these solutions and they have or haven't worked well post that too!