If you’ve ever gotten stomach aches before a big meeting or an important day at work, you’re not alone. The anxiety you’re feeling can affect your stomach’s behavior because your whole body works together in ways you’ve probably never thought about. Below we will discuss gut-brain connection and how you can take care of that nervous stomach when it starts bothering you.
What is the connection between the brain and the gut?
Your brain and gut are connected in a way you may not have realized—it’s the gut-brain axis. This means that when your brain experiences something like anxiety, it can travel to your stomach, intestines, and intestines and cause distress. Similarly, stomach pain can tell your brain about anxiety, which can cause stress or anxiety, according to Harvard Health.
Your vagus nerve is one of the central connections between your gut and your brain. This set of nerves controls digestion, among other things. When you have damage to your vagus nerve, you can experience digestive problems, such as gastroparesis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It’s a condition where you don’t digest food properly.
Your nervous and digestive systems are inherently linked, meaning that a problem with one can cause a problem with the other. When it comes to anxiety, it’s something that happens in your brain that translates into problems with your stomach.
Common symptoms of an upset stomach:
- An upset stomach that leads to vomiting or diarrhea.
- Stomach pains.
- Loss of appetite.
- Sick gases.
- Butterflies in the stomach.
- Increased need for the bathroom.
Tips to ease an upset stomach
Having an upset stomach is common, and there are many things you can do to ease your symptoms. Try one of the following the next time you have an upset stomach.
Watch what you eat and drink
It only makes sense that what you eat and drink affects your stomach. But in addition to thinking about what foods usually give you stomach aches, you should also think about what might be affecting your brain. For example, although it’s often helpful if you’re tired, caffeine can make your mind race and possibly cause some anxiety. This anxiety can lead to an upset stomach. Certain foods can also help ease the anxiety you may be experiencing, such as dark chocolate or turmeric. Chamomile tea is also often a stress reliever.
Read more: The best (and worst) foods for your mental health
Use herbal remedies
As mentioned earlier, chamomile can relieve stress, but ginger is another popular natural remedy. There’s a reason so many people drink ginger ale on airplanes—it can help calm a nervous stomach! You can get your ginger from ginger beer, ginger tea, ginger candy, or just plain ginger. This root is great for your digestive system because it keeps it efficient, according to Johns Hopkins. Peppermint essence and tea can also help soothe an upset stomach.
Try deep breathing
Deep breathing can help you in two different ways. Practicing deep breathing can both ease an upset stomach and calm anxiety. According to the University of Michigan Health, deep breathing can help with an upset stomach because it activates the diaphragm and gives your organs a gentle massage to comfort them. When it comes to your anxiety, deep breaths activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers the nervous and digestive systems to find balance, according to Dignity Health. If you’re experiencing an upset stomach or anxiety, stop what you’re doing and take a few deep breaths. Repeat until you start to feel some relief.
Work to improve gut health
Starting at the source can certainly help resolve stomach issues. Improving your gut health can reduce any stress your jittery stomach causes you. One of the best ways to do this is to eat the right foods. Try to stick to a well-balanced diet – though treats are fine in moderation! — it’s full of fiber. According to Johns Hopkins Medical, a high-fiber diet will keep your digestive system moving as it should. You also want to make sure your stomach is full of good bacteria. You can get it from foods like yogurt and kefir. Regular exercise and good sleep hygiene can also help keep your bowels in check.
Simple and clear, exercise is good for you. It is good for your mental health because it allows you to channelize your stress and relax. Plus, sweating burns calories and exercises your muscles. But research has also found that exercise can positively affect the gut microbiome. Studies show that regular exercise improves gut microflora (aka all the bacteria) and can help the brain-gut connection, keeping your nervous and digestive systems working and intact.
When is my upset stomach a problem?
Having an upset stomach from time to time is normal. You might feel a nervous stomach if you have a big meeting at work or are about to head into an unfamiliar situation with people you don’t know. This is normal! However, if you have persistent stomach upset, it is best to see a doctor. There’s a good chance it’s not an upset stomach. It can still be traced back to anxiety.
Also, chances are your upset stomach is due to something else entirely, in which case it’s time to talk to your doctor about what’s going on. Check with your doctor to rule out common problems like irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.