Is Anxiety Giving You Heartburn? How managing stress can relieve stomach discomfort

by on July 23rd, 2010 at 7:00 am

Modern day life often compromises systemic health, mainly due to poor stress management and anxiety. Now stress is considered America’s #1 health problem.

A study performed by the American Psychological Association in September 2007 found that stress was a fact of life (79 percent of people agreed). However, according to survey responses, Americans routinely experience what they believe are higher than healthy levels of stress.

It is commonly known that anxiety and stress can lead to or aggravate gastrointestinal disorders, so it makes sense that a connection exists between stress, anxiety and stomach disorders like GERD or acid reflux disease.

Sometimes everyday life can interfere with cues the body sends to acknowledge its essential needs. When the realization is finally made that an imbalance exists, it has already taken the form of an ailment and subsequent symptoms that require prompt attention.

One-third of people in the U.S. regularly report experiencing extreme levels of stress (32 percent), and nearly one in five (17 percent) report that they experienced their highest level of stress 15 or more days per month. Even more alarming, nearly half of Americans (48 percent) believe that their stress has increased over the past five years.

A similar increase has been observed in the number of people reported to be suffering from gastrointestinal disorders as well as obesity. There is an obvious link between the two, and the culprits are most likely stress and anxiety.

Acid reflux aggravated by anxiety and stress needs to be taken very seriously, since excessive acid in the esophagus for a prolonged period of time can put increase the risk esophagus cancer.

Foods that can cause heartburn and worsen any pre-existing symptoms of GERD mainly consist of fried and spicy foods. Tobacco is also known to cause heartburn and indigestion and should be avoided as well.

Common foods that aggravate symptoms include:

  • Citrus
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine, soda and alcohol
  • Fatty and fried foods
  • Garlic and onions
  • Mint flavoring
  • Spicy foods
  • Tomato-based foods, such as spaghetti sauce, chili, and pizza

If symptoms of GERD are caused by overindulgence, then this habit must be addressed. Overfilling the stomach’s capacity will push stomach acids up the esophagus- thus causing heartburn. Most people resort to over-the counter-medication to treat their symptoms, but some OTC medications can have the opposite effect and lead to dependence, so they must be taken with caution. Certain medications for heartburn also cause problems, depleting the body’s sources of essential vitamins and minerals, leading to further problems down the road.

There are many natural ways to help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety that can be contributing to heartburn. Dietary modifications and exercise should be the first attempt to address the condition, especially if weight is an issue. Getting sufficient sunshine, eating a wholesome diet, and sticking to an exercise routine will work wonders to relieve pent-up stress. A daily walk after work is ideal for this purpose. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation can also be used to support emotional and nervous system health and facilitate digestive balance and harmony.

And of course- don’t forget to use natural remedies such as plants and herbs that promote nervous system balance, healthy digestion and balanced levels of acid in the stomach.

Fennel, for example, can be eaten in salads and is a natural digestive. The juice of one lemon mixed with warm water is a natural liver tonic and is especially beneficial when taken first thing in the morning. Ginger root relieves nervous tension, nausea, and is a natural digestive. Ginger tea before or after a meal is an excellent way of promoting healthy digestion. Finally, chamomile and mint have been used for thousands of years to soothe the nerves and support the digestive tract.

Tips and lifestyle changes to reduce stress, anxiety and heartburn include:

  • Stop smoking naturally.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that aggravate symptoms.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight in a healthy and natural way.
  • Eat small, frequent meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink cultured milk. Cultured beverages soothe the entire digestive tract.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes.
  • Avoid lying down for 3 hours after a meal.
  • Prop your head up with pillows at night.

MindSoothepromotes a balanced mood, emotional health and feelings of well-being.

4 Responses to “Is Anxiety Giving You Heartburn? How managing stress can relieve stomach discomfort”

  1. Rae

    Sep 2nd, 2010

    I am surprised to see mint on the list for aggravating heartburn symptoms…I always thought that eating a mint helped calm the stomach. Wow…very interesting.

    • P.Gough

      Sep 3rd, 2010

      Hi Rae,

      Thank you for your comment, you are absolutely right, mint does help digestion.

      It’s mint ‘flavoring’ that aggravates heartburn. xo!

  2. Sheryl

    May 23rd, 2011

    I just made myself some pills from ground up peppermint, which I grew, dried, pulverized, and put in some capsules because I read it helped with gas problems, and I just had such a bad case of heartburn right afterwards that I was looking online to see what was in mint to do that, so I don’t think it is just the flavoring. :-(

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