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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow Can Stress Cause Nausea? The Gut-Brain Connection

Can Stress Cause Nausea? The Gut-Brain Connection

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Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: January 15, 2024
3 min read 930 Views 0 Comments
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We are unmasking the culprit behind your upset stomach

Can Stress Cause Nausea

Stress is how you respond when you feel pressured or threatened. It normally happens when you’re in a situation you don’t feel you have any control over. 

Everybody experiences stress to varying degrees. However, severe, persistent stress can affect your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Stress can be associated with physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and insomnia.

In this article, we discuss how stress can cause nausea. We also offer simple tips to prevent nausea from stress and tell you when to seek medical help.

Can Stress Cause Nausea?

Stress can cause nausea. This is because when stressed, your body releases a rush of hormones called neurotransmitters to prepare for high alertness. This process gets the body ready to “fight or flight”  in the event of possible danger.

The neurotransmitters in your brain send signals throughout your body. These signals instruct your body to increase your breathing, tighten your muscles, increase blood flow to your brain and speed up your heartbeat.

Some neurotransmitters reach the digestive system and may disrupt the delicate balance of microbes living in the gut. These imbalances in the gut microbiome can cause nausea. 

Anxiety and stress can also affect the digestive tract, resulting in physical symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, bowel spasms, gas, bloating, heartburn, and constipation.

Stress and anxiety can impact many bodily systems, including the respiratory system, the endocrine system, the neuro system, the reproductive system, the cardiovascular system, the musculoskeletal system, and the digestive system.

Other anxiety disorders that can cause nausea include social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What Causes Nausea With Stress?

Stress can cause someone to become “hypersensitive” to their physical sensations. This means that the body is given more attention. A small quantity of “regular” nausea that you might be able to ignore can feel terrible and difficult to control when you become hypersensitive.

Stress and anxiety disorders may cause the body’s levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin to change. Serotonin influences the responses of the gut. Thus, variations in the brain’s concentration of these neurotransmitters can cause signals that trigger nausea in the gut.

If you’re among the population who have irritable bowel syndrome, or other underlying health conditions like motion sickness, infections, and migraines, being stressed can trigger nausea or vomiting. 

How to Prevent Nausea From Stress

Nausea from stress or anxiety disorders can be quite unpleasant. Fortunately, you can take steps to help prevent it. From lifestyle changes to natural remedies, there are several ways you can reduce the effects of stress-induced nausea or anxiety nausea. Here are three tips to help.

#1 Stay active 

Staying active daily releases hormones called endorphins, which relax your body, reduce stress levels, and keep nausea at bay. Exercising regularly also can help boost your mood and provide an outlet for any pent-up energy or tension that could be causing your nausea. 

Exercise also helps to strengthen the immune system, making it easier for your body to fight off any underlying illnesses that might contribute to nausea. 

Certain types of exercise may be more beneficial than others in reducing stress or anxiety-related nausea, from yoga and tai chi to pilates, weightlifting, or biking.

#2 Eat a healthy diet

Eating healthy foods high in fiber and low in sugar can help reduce stress or anxiety-induced nausea. Avoiding processed foods and eating small meals throughout the day can also help reduce your risk of experiencing nausea caused by stress. 

Ensuring a diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can also help provide your body with the energy it needs to cope with stress-related nausea.

Eat small meals instead of three large meals, eat foods at room temperature, and avoid mixing hot and cold foods.

#3 Try breathing exercises or meditation

Breathing techniques help calm your body and mind, reducing the chances of feeling nauseous from stress. Deep breathing includes taking deep, controlled breaths to calm your heart and mind. With eyes closed, take a deep breath in, then another – exhale slowly after each breath. Repeat as needed.

Meditation has been proven to help with physical and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain. Start with daily guided meditation for 10 minutes. You can also use online instructions or enroll in a formal program. Gradually, work up to 20 minutes of meditation daily.

When to See a Doctor About Stress Nausea

Seek medical help if your nausea-induced stress impacts your performance at work or school or if you find it difficult to manage your daily life. You might notice a shift in your eating or sleeping patterns, experience physical discomfort, or feel withdrawn. This shows that you are suffering from too much stress.

Seek help from a mental health professional if you’re engaging in unhealthy behaviors like abusing drugs to get through the day. 

Your doctor may offer various stress-management techniques, which include therapy to help improve your stress-management techniques and medicine to help relieve your stress or chronic anxiety. 

Medical specialists can also recommend meditation, among other natural alternatives, to help you live a fulfilling life.

A Word From a MD

Stress is an emotion that can have a wide range of physical and mental effects on the body. While you may use over-the-counter medications to get relief from stress and anxiety symptoms, remember that they should not be used by those who experience frequent, chronic nausea due to stress or anxiety disorder.

And while this approach will be beneficial in the short term, it won’t last because it doesn’t address the underlying cause of the issue.

Fighting stress is a long-term problem. You should develop good coping mechanisms if you’re often stressed at home, work, school, or social settings. Your chances of experiencing stress or anxiety-related nausea will decrease once you manage your stress and other anxiety-related disorders like panic disorder.

Conclusion

Stressful situations can trigger physical reactions that lead to nausea and other symptoms. Nausea-induced stress or anxiety nausea happens when the brain releases neurotransmitters to prepare the body for fight or flight.

Some of these neurotransmitters can affect the gut flora leading to nausea and other stomach symptoms.

You can use various techniques like meditation, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet to manage stress and anxiety. 

If your stress interferes with your daily life, see a doctor to help rule out other medical conditions.

Lucy Nongari is a freelance health writer, editor, and content strategist. She has a passion for wellness and a dedication to promoting a healthy lifestyle. Lucy translates complex health and medical information into accessible and engaging content to educate, inspire, and empower people to make positive changes and take control of their
well-being.

Lucy believes in progression and empowering individuals, and that’s why when she's not writing or researching, you’ll find her mentoring teens or spending time with family.

The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: January 15, 2024
3 min read 930 Views 0 Comments
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