When you know you have anxiety, there are many symptoms you expect. You expect to feel very tense. You expect to have a lot of nervous thoughts. You expect a rapid heartbeat, nausea, and shaking. But you may not expect that anxiety can cause gas problems.
Not only can anxiety lead to gas problems/bloating - the gas problems themselves can actually lead to symptoms that cause further anxiety. While being gassy is generally nothing to worry about, recognizing the cause of your gas problems is important for ensuring you're not overwhelmed by your anxiety symptoms.
Gas Problems = Anxiety?
Food intolerances, digestion issues - these can all cause gas problems, and certainly cannot be ruled out without a doctor. But anxiety also tends to lead to its own gastrointestinal issues, including gas. If you want to reduce the buildup of this gas, take my anxiety test now.
Anxiety and Gas
Different types of anxiety may contribute to different types of gas, or the extent that the gas affects you. If you've never had your anxiety tested before, click here to take my free anxiety test. You'll be able to find out if you're more prone to disorders that contribute to the creation of gas.
There's no way to pinpoint the exact cause of your gas without tests, but it is very likely to be caused by any or all of the following:
- Air Swallowing During anxiety attacks, it's not uncommon to start swallowing too much air. You're not necessarily doing this intentionally - you may simply be swallowing saliva and swallow air as a result, or you may simply be breathing too quickly and some air is going down the wrong tube - but once the air is inside your body, it starts to cause pressure and needs to be released.
- Oxygen Release Similarly, those with anxiety and panic attacks are more likely to suffer from hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is when there is too much oxygen in your blood. Eventually that oxygen needs to be dispelled, and gas may be the result.
- Digestion Issues Anxiety causes stress on your gastrointestinal system. That stress may cause you to stop processing food efficiently, often processing it too quickly or too slowly. That can cause the bacteria in your body to produce excess gas, which leads to bloating. Irritable bowel syndrome may also be caused by or aggravated by anxiety, and this too can lead to similar gas issues.
Another issue that is difficult to rule out is that anxiety may not be creating the gas, but may in fact be causing you to react irrationally strongly to it. Every day, many of the foods we eat cause excess gas, and yet most people don't experience severe anxiety as a result.
How Gas Can Cause Anxiety
No matter what causes your gas, gas itself can actually lead to further anxiety. Overwhelming gas can cause both stomach pains and chest pains, and - depending on where you are - you may experience additional anxiety by trying not to pass that gas in public.
Many people with panic disorder and other severe anxiety problems respond very strongly to some of the symptoms of gas, often with more anxiety that, unfortunately, causes more gas.
How to Reduce Gas Problems From Anxiety
Once the gas is inside of your body, the only thing you can do is safely let it out. Find a place where you're comfortable and do your best to belch or flatulate. Once the gas is out, the symptoms of that gas and the anxiety that you experience as a result should decrease with it.
Those whose gas may be caused by their digestive tract may benefit from eating healthier meals with fewer gas causing ingredients. Dairy, for example, often causes gas, and when you're suffering from anxiety that gas can become much worse.
You can also talk to your doctor about food intolerances and anti-gas medications to see if there is anything you can try to prevent gas from affecting you. Some people have something called gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux, and that can cause both gas and other symptoms of anxiety.
In order to avoid hyperventilation and air swallowing, you'll need to slow down your breathing. By the time you've experienced symptoms of gas, you likely have already hyperventilated or are in the process of hyperventilating. But if you notice that you're breathing faster and starting to experience gas problems, try to slow down your breathing:
- Breathe in slowly, at a speed which lasts 5 seconds.
- Hold for a few seconds.
- Breathe out slowly, at a speed that lasts about 7 seconds.
This should reduce the amount of oxygen you swallow and hopefully lessen the severity of your hyperventilation gas.
Finally, if you truly want to prevent feeling gassy, you need to make sure that you're addressing your anxiety issues. I've helped thousands of people that were suffering from intense anxiety, and I start them all off with my free anxiety test. It's a test that looks at your symptoms, provides you with a report, and allows you to learn what treatments work best.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.