People with anxiety can sometimes experience heartburn. It’s just one of those uncomfortable symptoms of serious mental distress and a possible warning sign. The question is, though – can anxiety cause heartburn?
In this article, we’ll explore the truth about anxiety and heartburn. First, we will be identifying the most common causes of both conditions. Next, we will provide some solutions that can help ease symptoms.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a very common condition which can affect anyone at any time. It can lead to disturbed sleep, low moods, tiredness and fidgeting – in fact many other symptoms. It’s considered a type of mental illness and affects around 16% of people. Its causes include abnormal brain chemistry, personality traits, genetics and stressful life events.
Sometimes anxiety symptoms are so severe that they can cause physical symptoms such as sleeplessness or depression. Chronic anxiety can also lead to symptoms such as headaches and irritable bowel syndrome. Anxiety and stress impacts the gastrointestinal system just like it affects every other system in your body. As we’re discussing whether anxiety can cause heartburn, we will focus on that connection next.
Can Anxiety Cause Heartburn?
The answer is yes. There are several ways anxiety can cause heartburn and some of them are quite simple.
Anxiety triggers the body’s fight or flight response. When you feel stressed, your body prepares for action towards a perceived threat, even if there is none immediately present. It releases hormones such as adrenaline, which causes your heart rate to increase. This affects the digestive system by decreasing stomach acid production. Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of this response; your food won’t be digested properly, causing erratic digestive behavior.
Anxiety can also cause peristalsis (the digestive system muscles moving food through the GI tract) to slow down and relax. This means that digestion is slower than it normally is, disrupting normal gastrointestinal processes.
Another symptom of anxiety is that it can make you eat too much. This is another common way anxiety can cause heartburn. You may eat out of an automatic reaction towards feelings of anxiety. Or, you may be eating because you feel bored or restless. You may also choose to eat foods that are less healthy, such as fast food, or consume more alcohol than usual. These can all increase your risk of heartburn symptoms.
Ways To Relieve Heartburn
As we’ve already established, anxiety can cause heartburn and aggravate symptoms. However, there are some ways to improve your symptoms.
- Eat a healthy diet. Heartburn can be relieved by eating a nutritious diet which is high in fiber and low in fried foods and junk food. It’s a good idea to avoid highly acidic foods, pickled foods, and foods prepared with vinegar.
- Use antacids. Available over the counter, antacids neutralize stomach acid and reduce heartburn symptoms. If the symptoms are severe, your dermatologist can prescribe stronger antacids.
- Monitor and limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol can irritate the stomach and cause heartburn and bloating.
- Try relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises and meditation. This is a good way to relieve stress, calm your mind, and mitigate the physical impact of anxiety on your body.
If you’re still having trouble with heartburn and anxiety, you should see a qualified gastroenterologist. They can prescribe certain medications that can help reduce symptoms and control your heartburn.
At the Gastroenterology Diagnostic Center, we have significant experience treating gastrointestinal disorders. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with our board-certified gastroenterologists, please call us at (281) 357-1977. We will be happy to help you enhance your quality of life and show you why we’re the best GI in Tomball.