Home Health Can Anxiety Cause Nausea And Diarrhea

Can Anxiety Cause Nausea And Diarrhea

by Clara Wynn

Can Anxiety Cause Nausea And Diarrhea

Can Anxiety Cause Nausea And Diarrhea? Stomach problems, such as nausea and diarrhea, are among the most common symptoms of stress and anxiety. Anxiety is a normal bodily response to threat or danger. For example, when you’re about to take an important test at school, your body releases certain hormones that cause your muscles to contract, heart rate to increase and blood pressure to drop (which is why we feel sweaty). Your brain sends messages to your nervous system to prepare you for action — like going out for a jog if it’s hot outside. When there isn’t any imminent danger, these same hormones relax your muscles so they don’t tense up into knots all day long.

But sometimes our bodies release too many of these “fight-or-flight” hormones in one sitting. This can happen with chronic anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic attacks. In fact, studies show that sufferers experience higher levels of cortisol, which increases their risk of contracting cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Anxiety comes from within us, but its effects on the digestive tract may not be internal. It turns out that the gut bacteria living inside our intestines play a critical role in regulating our immune systems and metabolic functions. The trillions of microorganisms that live in this area account for three-quarters of our immune system function. So when changes occur in the composition of the intestinal microbiota, immune regulation goes haywire. That’s because this type of intestinal inflammation makes it easier for allergic reactions to develop, increases inflammation and even causes autoimmune diseases.

It’s possible that anxiety also contributes to gastrointestinal issues by causing more intestinal permeability, meaning that our guts become leaky allowing harmful substances to enter them. These toxins can trigger an inflammatory response and make it harder for our bodies to absorb nutrients. They can also contribute to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease.

So how exactly does anxiety affect our guts? According to Dr. Jason Chehrazi, medical director of gastroenterology services at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, anxiety might do so by increasing the amount of stress hormone, called cortisol, that gets released into our bloodstream. Cortisol has been shown to damage the lining of our small intestine and reduce the number of beneficial bacteria living inside it.

In addition, he says, anxious individuals, tend to eat foods high in carbohydrates and fats. Carbohydrates provide fuel for energy production, while fat provides insulation between cells. With an increased intake of carbs and fat, our intestinal walls become less pliable, making it easier for food particles to pass through.

Another theory about why anxiety leads to GI distress involves neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain that relay signals throughout the central nervous system. Among other things, they influence moods, appetite, pain sensitivity and memory formation. Two classes of neurotransmitter receptors are especially relevant here: Serotonin Receptors 2 and 3 (5HT2R and 5HT3R) and Benzodiazepine Receptor 1 (BZR1). Scientists have found that both types of serotonin receptors have something in common: Their activation results in reduced activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms down the nervous system and helps us sleep. BZRs work similarly.

When someone suffers from anxiety, his/her brain releases excessive amounts of adrenaline, which stimulates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. As mentioned earlier, this part of the nervous system controls involuntary processes, including digestion. Overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system can disrupt the movement of food through the small intestine. In extreme cases, this could lead to constipation, bloating and stomach cramps.

If you think you suffer from constant worry and anxiety, you should talk to your doctor about whether medication may help. Anti-anxiety medications include benzodiazepines, antidepressants and beta-blockers. You may also want to consider seeing a therapist who specializes in behavior therapy. Some therapies involve mindfulness training, meditation and cognitive-behavioral techniques. If you find yourself suffering from severe bouts of anxiety, seek immediate professional attention.

For those of us without anxiety disorders, being aware of the relationship between our brains and our guts can help us better manage our health. Here are four tips to get started.

  • Eat Well
  • Drink Water
  • Exercise Regularly
  • Take Probiotics

4 Tips to Improve Gut Health | EzineArticles

Jennifer Korn is a freelance writer who writes frequently about relationships and health topics. She is currently working toward her master’s degree in public relations. Previously she worked in marketing communications for Procter & Gamble Consumer Products Company. Jennifer lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two cats.

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