Anxiety and Gut Problems: Could They Possibly Be Linked?
According to a Harvard Health Publishing article posted in 2021, the answer to the question—are your anxiety and gut problems related—is a resounding yes!
Maybe you’re familiar with sayings such as, “gut-wrenching experience” and having “butterflies in your stomach.” These are expressions born of the gut-brain connection.
It is now widely known that the brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines.
In fact, the gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to all emotions. Additionally, according to the experts, anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all feelings – can trigger symptoms in the gut. As noted in the Harvard article, the very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there.
The article states, “This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut.”
Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.”
Gut health and anxiety
Have you ever felt nauseated before making a presentation or felt stomach pains during times of stress? Our thoughts, or our psychology, works in combination with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms.
Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract. Thus, it’s not all in your head. But it does stem from stressful thoughts beginning in the head, causing emotions that create physical reactions in the body.
However, there is good news! We now know you cannot heal a distressed gut without considering the role of stress and emotion. Furthermore, experts agree based on multiple studies that psychologically-based approaches lead to greater improvements in digestive symptoms, compared with only conventional medical treatment.
LENS (Low-Energy Neurofeedback System)
This is a form of therapy – one of many therapies we use here at Serenity Wellness & Counseling for changing brainwaves so stuck patterns caused by anxiety and other traumas become unstuck.
LENS provides tiny sources of feedback stimulation that help you “reset” or “reboot” your nervous system. This allows for more flexibility in your thinking and greater clarity and peace of mind. LENS can help you regain energy, motivation, focus, and calmness.
The Relaxation Response
Psychologically based approaches such as LENS, tap into the opposite of the stress response and initiates the relaxation response.
Besides cognitive and behavioral therapy, meditation and exercises like yoga can help you move into a state of profound rest that works on your emotions. With regular practice, you can create a well of calm to dip into whenever you find yourself in a situation that causes anxiety.
We are learning more about the brain’s connection to every part and function of the body. Thus, we can no longer treat physical symptoms as merely physical.
As a result, we must take into consideration the emotional and psychological impact behind every dis-ease. Just like the lyrics to The Skeleton song illustrate that every bone in the body is connected one to the other, every organ and function of the body is connected to the brain…which means that emotions affect the body in ways more profoundly than we ever expected.
It’s exciting as we learn more about these intimate connections and learn how to healthfully and successfully manage our emotions and our overall health.
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