Gastrointestinal disorders associated with mood change

23.07.2020
Sometimes those butterflies in our stomach hurt, churn and make us have a bad day. Anxiety very often manifests itself in this way, transforming into that nervous ball in the abdomen so troublesome. Now, what can we do in these cases?

Gastrointestinal disorders associated with mood are not well known to the general population. An example of this is anxiety stomach pain. One can go to the doctor looking for a remedy for organic discomfort, but it does not always occur to us that perhaps this alteration has triggers that go beyond the physical.

Stomach protectors, antacids, natural infusions ... Within our reach we have an endless number of remedies to treat one of the most common conditions such as stomach discomfort , burning, the feeling of being full or bloated. The pharmaceutical industries know this well and we are not short of products in the pharmacies and dispensaries in our homes.

However, many would be surprised to know that after a good part of these daily pains, what there is is a "pain of life" . Nerves eat us up inside when the mind goes too fast, when it anticipates problems, when it focuses on the negative and grips us with a whirlwind of conflicting emotions.

For example, studies such as those carried out at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville indicate that between 8 and 25% of children and adolescents suffer from chronic stomach pain. Pediatricians know very well that behind these common situations is an anxiety disorder.

This is, as we can guess, a highly relevant topic that is worth exploring in depth.

Anxiety stomach pain: symptoms, origin and treatment

Stomach discomfort has multiple origins: infections, colic, ulcers, gas ... Now, gastrointestinal pain often has a direct relationship with the emotional aspects . It is, in fact, the quintessential somatic symptom. That is to say, it is that mechanism by which the mind leaves an imprint on the body to warn us that "something is happening."

The stress, the generalized anxiety that we have been dragging for years ... All of them are factors of great impact that alter neurochemistry, as well as those hormonal processes that end up affecting the normal functioning of the body. So much so that anxiety stomach pain can become something capable of affecting quality of life.

The University of Gothemburg (Sweden) has already reported in a research paper that these gastrointestinal disturbances caused by anxiety are not only painful and limiting in our day to day. This psychological disturbance can be further aggravated in the event that people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.

What are the symptoms of anxiety stomach pain?

The first question we can ask ourselves regarding this topic is how can I differentiate anxiety stomach pain from that of an organic and non-emotional origin? On average, the first is accompanied by a broader symptomatology, in which psychological factors are integrated.

Let's look at the symptoms that define this condition.

  • Pain, cramps, and even occasional bouts of diarrhea.
  • The pain can be experienced as pricks or a burning that comes and goes.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Heavy digestions.
  • There are times when we experience a clear lack of appetite and moments when we feel craving for certain very caloric foods ( emotional hunger )
  • Nerves, restlessness, pressure in the chest when breathing ...
  • Insomnia or difficulties falling asleep.

As we can see, organic symptoms also alternate with emotional ones, which, for example, make us feel like eating compulsively.

What is the origin of these gastrointestinal disorders caused by anxiety?

The image may catch our attention, but it is worth visualizing: the digestive system is "covered" by a very complex network of nerve cells. As it is well said, the stomach has its own brain and is, therefore, very sensitive to changes in mood.

In those times when stress and anxiety are our life partners, the production of a very specific peptic hormone rises: adrenocorticotropic, which also acts as a neurotransmitter.

  • This hormone produces visceral hypersensitivity, pain and classic intestinal motility.
  • Studies such as the one carried out at the University of Shenyang (China) indicate that about 60% of patients with a mood disorder suffer from stomach pain due to anxiety.
  • The origin of this clinical reality would be in the enteric system . More specifically, on that axis between the intestine and the brain.
  • The enteric system, which we commonly call the "second brain," is made up of more than 100 million nerve cells that run from the esophagus to the anus.
  • These cells are very sensitive to any emotional disturbance. The fear, anxiety, stress and worry alter its structure and can react in many ways; the most common is inflammation.

How can we treat anxiety stomach pain?

At this point, most of us will be clear that, to treat anxiety stomach pain, the last thing we should do is take antacids. The drugs do not solve the origin of the problem, which is none other than the emotional one . Therefore, in these situations it is advisable to take into account the following factors.

  • More than half of people with anxiety suffer gastrointestinal disturbances. It is appropriate to consult a psychologist to work on that psychological reality.
  • Detecting the origin of that state of mind and integrating coping strategies is always the best answer.
  • On the other hand, it is appropriate to introduce breathing and relaxation exercises into our daily routine.
  • Likewise, we cannot forget that both stress and anxiety alter our intestinal flora. One way to strengthen the microbiota is by increasing the consumption of probiotics .

To conclude, let us always keep in mind that when the body speaks it is the mind that is trying to tell us something. Let's learn to listen, let's be aware that nothing is as dangerous as leaving for tomorrow the emotion that hurts today.

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