How Does Anxiety Cause Stomach Problems?

Have you heard about stomach problems due to anxiety? Even though this might sound strange, stomach problems due to anxiety are very common. Often these stomach problems become chronic, presenting a real issue and a source of frustration for the affected person. It is also very difficult to diagnose anxiety-related stomach issues. How to deal with the stomach problems?

How Does Anxiety Cause Stomach Issues?

Here are some common stomach issues due to anxiety:


Indigestion is a common stomach problem due to anxiety. The exact mechanism how anxiety leads to indigestion problems is not known, but it is believed that certain neurotransmitters and hormones seem to play a role. The same hormones and neurotransmitters are affected in cases of anxiety, so normally an imbalance of these hormones and neurotransmitters causes stomach issues as well.

Anxiety is also known to release adrenalin in larger amounts than normal. Adrenalin will change the way the body processes nutrients, including glucose. When the way how the digested food is processed changes, it is normal to have various stomach issues including indigestion. Anxiety is known to affect the stomach acid as well. People dealing with gastric reflux tend to have more problems when under stress than normal.

Gas and Bloating

Gas and bloating are common anxiety stomach issues. They are often related to indigestion, even though technically gas and bloating are a separate issue. These two stomach issues often result from the changes in food processing system as well as from air swallowing due to anxiety and hyperventilation. In certain cases, significant abdominal pain and discomfort may occur due to flatulence and belching.


Sleeping problems are common in people suffering from anxiety. Sleep deprivation has a great impact on the entire human body including the digestive system, altering the normal process of food and other nutrients, leading eventually to various stomach and digestion problems.


Hyperventilation is known to lead to different stomach problems, especially nausea, flatulence, air swallowing, increased stomach pressure, stomach pain and discomfort, etc. Hyperventilation is more common among people dealing with panic attacks. In these cases even when the stomach problems are mild or moderate, the hypersensitivity due to a panic attack makes them feel more severe than they normally are.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional problem of the gastrointestinal system characterized by irregular bowel movements, an alternation of diarrhea and constipation, chronic abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, a presence of mucus in the stool, etc. It has been estimated that in 40 to 60% of patients seeking help for irritable bowel syndrome, psychological factors including anxiety were present as well. Although it is hard to determine if anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome only occur together, or if any of these two conditions are causing one another.

However, according to various studies so far, it has been estimated that anxiety was first diagnosed, followed by the signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, which suggests that anxiety plays an important role in the development of this gastrointestinal problem.

Gastroesophageal Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux is a medical condition characterized by a rise up of the stomach acids into to esophagus and sometimes back into the mouth. This condition is commonly known as acid reflux, usually occurring in cases when the lower esophageal sphincter is incapable or preventing the stomach acids from moving backward. A serious form of this condition is GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

If this condition is left untreated, permanent scarring of the esophageal tissue occurs, leading to narrowing of the esophagus, ulcers, esophageal bleeding and even development of esophageal cancer. Barrett’s esophagus is a precancerous condition resulting from chronic gastroesophageal reflux where the cells of the esophageal lining become abnormal. Studies show that anxiety is related with gastroesophageal reflux disease.

How to Deal with Anxiety-Related Stomach Issues?

Here are some tips that can help you control and reduce the stomach signs and symptoms due to anxiety:

  • Eat healthy – Be prepared for stomach issues no matter what you eat, as anxiety often leads to various gastrointestinal problems even when there is nothing in your stomach. However, certain foods can just make these problems get worse.
  • Exercise regularly – In the beginning, your stomach problems will get worse as physical activity increases stomach acid. However, on the long run, regular physical activity will help you control your anxiety issues and even improve your hormonal balance.
  • Breathing exercises – They will help you relax and focus on your breathing. These exercises are especially helpful in cases when your stomach issues are caused by hyperventilation and air swallowing.

If your stomach problems are a real issue, then you should seek medical help. However, the most important thing is to control and cure your anxiety. Here are some tips that can help you reduce and eliminate stress:

  • Cognitive therapy for stress and anxiety
  • Counseling for stress and anxiety
  • Keeping a daily journal about things that make you anxious, how you feel at that certain moment and what makes you feel better
  • Prioritizing your responsibilities
  • Being positive and thinking only of good things in your life
  • Saying no when you need to