Can Anxiety Cause Nausea: Causes, Coping, & Prevention

By

Katie Rapkoch, CHPC

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Published on

June 05, 2024

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Updated on

June 05, 2024

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Robert Stevens

Anxiety

So, you’ve had that stomach-turning, heart-racing, palm-sweating type of anxiety one too many times, have you? The kind where you get nervous about an upcoming event, like when you have to speak publicly or have a first date, and it turns into heartburn, bloating, gas, or nausea? Well, you are not alone, and it is completely treatable!

In this article, we will discuss anxiety-related nausea, how it happens, what to do when it hits, coping mechanisms for long-term management, and how retraining your brain can help. re-origin is a neuroscience-backed brain retraining program that can help you manage your anxiety-related nausea by changing the way your brain responds to symptoms. In fact, our members have seen a 26% reduction in anxiety in their first six weeks of the re-origin program.

If you are interested in hearing more about our program, join our free live info call today.

What Is Anxiety-Related Nausea?

Anxiety is a normal response to a stressful situation, as stress can often trigger the Fight-or-Flight response in the body. When you feel anxious, your body produces a cascade of stress hormones that prime you to fight, run away, or freeze exactly where you are. These hormones often slow down digestion, creating a backup in the stomach and intestinal tract, which could lead you to experience anxiety-related nausea.

How Can Nausea Be Caused By Anxiety?

How Anxiety Affects Your Body

Stress and anxiety affect all systems in your body. When you are anxious, your muscles become tense, your heart rate and respiration rates increase, you start producing stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine, and you feel “butterflies” in your stomach. These butterflies are due to hormone production and a disruption in the brain-gut connection, often due to Fight-or-Flight. This slows down digestion and can cause gas, bloating, constipation, and nausea. If the anxiety is severe enough, vomiting may occur.1 Anxiety-induced nausea is common but definitely treatable.

Anxiety Disorders That Could Cause Nausea

Most anxiety disorders can cause nausea if left untreated. These disorders include, but are not limited to:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety
  • Performance anxiety
  • Panic disorder or panic attack
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Phobias

What Does Nausea Caused By Anxiety Feel Like?

Nausea caused by anxiety initially produces the sensation of having “butterflies” in your stomach. It may progress to bloating, gas, heartburn, stomach cramping, vomiting, or diarrhea.2 If you are in a stressful situation and begin to feel these signs of anxiety-induced nausea, try taking some deep breaths or drinking a glass of cold water to interrupt the process. You can use one or more of the anxiety coping methods listed below to further manage the feeling.

Ways To Make Anxiety-Related Nausea Stop

Anxiety-related nausea can be alarming and uncomfortable, so be kind to yourself as you choose a coping mechanism to manage it. 

Anxiety Coping Methods

Question Your Thought Patterns

Curiosity is one of the most powerful coping techniques for disarming anxiety. If you find yourself stuck in a pattern of anxiety, instead of judging your experience, try getting curious about what is going on. Allow yourself to pause and question if your thoughts are actually true- “Would this thought hold up in a court of law?” If you cannot “prove” your thought with facts, it is likely not true; you can take a deep breath and let it go. 

Practice Focused, Deep Breathing

Focused, deep breathing can move the brain from a sympathetic state (known as “Fight or Flight”) to a parasympathetic state (known as “Rest and Digest”).3 Aim to exhale longer than you inhale for maximum benefits- A great place to start is by inhaling for a count of four seconds, followed by exhaling for a count of six seconds.

Use Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy works by stimulating your sense of smell. When this happens, your brain produces the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which improve your mood and help you feel calm. One of the most popular ways to use aromatherapy to cope with anxiety is to place a couple of drops of aroma in a diffuser and let it run for an hour or so. Make sure to turn it off if you plan to leave the house.

Grounding Techniques 

Connecting with your body by focusing your feet on the ground is a great way to calm your nervous system and decrease anxiety symptoms. If you want to take it one step further, go outside and plant your bare feet in the grass or dirt. Recent scientific evidence has proven that coming into contact with the earth can decrease anxiety and pain and improve sleep.5

Journaling

Journaling is also a helpful tool in putting anxious thoughts down on paper so they no longer cloud your mind. Consider journaling at the end of the day to release any anxious or negative thoughts that have built up. This technique can calm your mind and  help you sleep more soundly.6

Identify And Learn To Manage Your Triggers

Taking the time to identify your anxiety triggers can be extremely beneficial. With this information, you can decide which triggers you can eliminate from your life and try to manage the anxiety triggers that are impossible to avoid. Focus on what you can control, like your own thoughts and actions around triggering situations.

Try To Socialize

Turning to loved ones or support groups during times of anxiety may greatly impact your overall well-being. Being part of a community and spending time with loved ones boosts the feel-good hormone oxytocin and  gives us a sense of belonging, purpose, and support.7 All of these are fundamental needs of being human, so lean on loved ones or join a support group (or a re-origin Momentum Group) to help better cope with anxiety!

Welcome Humor

Laughter is a powerful way to produce feel-good hormones, serotonin, and endorphins and decrease anxiety-related nausea. It can also improve immune function, relieve pain, and increase personal satisfaction, all of which will help decrease instances of long-term anxiety!8 When you join re-origin, you will gain exclusive access to our laughter workshops!

Make Sleep A Priority

Getting a good night’s sleep allows for the proper functioning of our prefrontal cortex, which is considered our rational thinking brain. When we sleep well, our prefrontal cortex is “online,” thus allowing us to manage our emotions, make better decisions, and regulate our moods more effectively.9 If you struggle with anxiety at night that limits your sleep quality, check out our article: How to Calm Anxiety at Night: 7 Tips to Get to Sleep.

Stick To The Treatment Plan

Consistent practice is vital for progress! While it can feel tempting to try various treatments to see “what works,” often that will keep you from fully committing to one type of treatment. Instead of spreading your energy thin, try to focus all of it on one kind of treatment for 30 days. Then, based on your progress, you can decide whether to mix it up or stick to it long-term.

What To Do When Nausea Hits

If You’re Vomiting

If you experience vomiting due to anxiety, try taking slow, deep breaths. Take small sips of a glass of water, and if possible, small bites of something bland like saltine crackers or bread to help your digestive system.2 Be gentle with yourself and try not to force yourself to feel better. It will pass.

Long-Term Ways To Help

In the long term, do your best to eat healthful, nourishing meals and avoid a high-fat diet. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. These two techniques may minimize physical symptoms when they occur.

When You Should See A Doctor For Anxiety-Related Nausea?

If your anxiety-related nausea keeps you from living your normal life, it may be time to see a doctor or mental health professional.

How To Prevent Nausea From Anxiety

Prevention of nausea from chronic anxiety can be a helpful tool in your toolkit. Aim to focus on these three things to manage stress on a consistent basis for maximum effects.

Exercise And Move Around

Physical activity has been proven to produce feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. The production of these hormones decreases heart rate and blood pressure, increases feelings of motivation and happiness, boosts energy, and improves your physical health. 

Keep in mind that you do not have to work out for an hour every day to feel the effects. Consider going for a short, brisk walk in the morning, dancing to your favorite song, or even stretching your body before getting out of bed. Any amount of movement has benefits to help treat a person’s anxiety!

Try To Meditate For 10 Minutes

Routine meditation can regulate the nervous system and help you separate yourself from feelings of anxiety and nausea. Over time, the practice can decrease heart rate and blood pressure, clear brain fog, improve focus, and improve overall mood.

Many forms of meditation can help with anxiety management. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Grounding exercises
  • Relaxation techniques (including progressive muscle relaxation)
  • Breathing exercises (with an emphasis on deep breathing)
  • Mindfulness meditation

If you are new to meditation, consider using an app that provides guided meditation. This will help you feel more confident in your practice and improve your ability to focus on the present moment.

Start Eating A Healthier Diet

A diet rich in whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy grains, can be vital in managing overall mental health. Avoiding processed foods may also decrease the risk of nausea during instances of anxiety. If you’d like to explore what diet may work best for you and your body, consider working with a nutritionist.

Try Peppermint

Peppermint has a calming and analgesic effect. Because of this, you can try peppermint oil, tea, mints, or gum to treat nausea, pain, and even general anxiety.10

Types Of Treatment For Anxiety

Talk Therapies

Working with a therapist can be a helpful tool in managing feelings of anxiety and stomach symptoms without medication. A third-party perspective can help you look at your anxious thoughts differently and gain a deeper understanding of the root cause of those thoughts. Consider finding a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to challenge anxious feelings, minimize negative thoughts, and improve overall mental well-being.

Prescription Medications

Medication can be effective in minimizing symptoms of anxiety. If you have tried various coping techniques and continue to struggle, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Consider speaking to your primary healthcare provider or a psychiatry specialist to determine whether medication may be right for you.

Neuroplasticity Exercises

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change throughout a person’s lifetime. This ability of the brain to change means you can learn new things, recover from illness and disease, strengthen parts of your brain that may have lost function, and even minimize the effects of nausea-induced anxiety! In our self-directed brain retraining program, we provide you with science-backed tools and information that will help you change the way you think about both your nausea and anxiety. When you change the way you think, you change the way you behave. And when you change the way you behave, nausea and anxiety will start to lose their intensity.

Contact re-origin Today Try Our Brain Retraining Program To Fight Anxiety

re-origin has helped numerous people overcome feelings of anxiety and improve their health and well-being. In fact, our members saw a 26% reduction in anxiety in their first six weeks of the re-origin program. If you’d like to learn more about how our program can change your brain, join our free live info call today. Or, learn more about anxiety and take a anxiety self-assessment test.

References

  1. Stress effects on the body. (2023, March 8). https://www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body
  2. Pietrangelo, A. (2023, February 8). Anxiety Nausea: What you need to know to feel better. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/anxiety-nausea#causes
  3. Komori, T. (2018). The relaxation effect of prolonged expiratory breathing. Mental Illness, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.4081/mi.2018.7669
  4. HealthMatch staff & HealthMatch Pty Ltd. (2022b, August 24). Anxiety relief using essential oils. HealthMatch. https://healthmatch.io/anxiety/essential-oils-relieve-anxiety#how-essential-oils-help-with-anxiety
  5. Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012). Earthing: health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth’s surface electrons. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/291541
  6. Scullin, M. K., Krueger, M. L., Ballard, H. K., Pruett, N., & Bliwise, D. L. (2018). The effects of bedtime writing on difficulty falling asleep: A polysomnographic study comparing to-do lists and completed activity lists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(1), 139–146. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000374
  7. The importance of community and mental health. (n.d.). https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2019/The-Importance-of-Community-and-Mental-Health
  8. Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. (2021, July 29). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
  9. Sandoiu, A. (2019, November 6). Deep sleep may help treat anxiety. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326926#Deep-sleep-protects-against-anxiety
  10. Peppermint. (n.d.). Mount Sinai Health System. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/peppermint#:~:text=Peppermint%20(Mentha%20piperita)%2C%20a,and%20anxiety%20associated%20with%20depression.

By

Katie Rapkoch, CHPC

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