What is the Connection Between Anxiety and Indigestion?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2019
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Anxiety and indigestion are two common conditions which often occur together. The ailments are related in two ways. Anxiety often causes stomach upset which can result in indigestion for many patients. The opposite is also true. Severe and chronic indigestion due to gastrointestinal problems can also eventually cause anxiety. Both conditions are generally treatable once underlying causes are found and therapies are begun.

One major reason why anxiety often happens together with indigestion is because when the body becomes anxious, the stomach begins to produce more acid. This can cause heartburn and may also slow digestion leading to additional stomach problems like gas or bloating. Once these painful symptoms are present, anxiety can worsen due to the discomfort. This often creates a cycle which requires medication to alleviate in the beginning. Anxiety medications can include anti-depressants and often continue long-term, depending on the reason for the anxiety.

Another connection between anxiety and indigestion is that chronic heartburn and stomach pain can lead to anxiety. This is because it is stressful feeling uncomfortable or sick, especially if the reasons are not known. The heart also pumps blood faster when stomach acid is higher, leading to sensations which resemble anxiety. In this situation, the underlying cause of stomach pain should be determined and treated.


Aside from medications, there are many things patients can do to minimize anxiety and stomach upset. Exercise is beneficial for both conditions because it helps speed up digestion and releases “feel good” hormones into the bloodstream. Cardio exercise also decreases the chances of obesity, which is a risk factor for both indigestion and anxiety for various reasons. It is generally recommended that healthy individuals get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise three times per week. More is even better and may help increase the positive results.

Anxiety and indigestion can also be treated by eating smaller meals more often and by consuming the right types of foods. This not only reduces the risk of heartburn and stomach discomfort, but keeping the body running on foods rich in vitamins and minerals is a good way to fight anxiety. Some foods have even been shown to reduce depression by increasing certain chemicals in the brain. These may include dark chocolate, habanero or jalapeño peppers, and salmon.

Additional remedies for anxiety and indigestion are taking a daily vitamin, drinking enough fluids, meditation and deep breathing, and herbal remedies. Anything that reduces stress may also help because it will alleviate anxiety, thus making any lingering indigestion pain more bearable. Anything a patient finds enjoyable can be used as a stress reducer. In some cases prescription medications may be needed.

Patients should not attempt to treat anxiety and indigestion at home without first speaking with a doctor. There are various conditions which can cause both symptoms, all of which should be treated if they last for more than two weeks. Untreated anxiety can lead to severe depression, panic attacks, or even suicidal thoughts or feelings. Indigestion could signal and underlying health problem which may require treatment.


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Post 5

@Heavanet-- A medical checkup should clarify that. If the stomach symptoms are due to an infection or ulcers, it will show up in medical testing. If all of the tests come back clear, it's probably psychological.

My friend is the same as your sister. She was actually nauseated and vomiting for days before her wedding because of the anxiety. There was nothing wrong with her otherwise.

On the other hand, I had indigestion and acid reflux for months a few years ago. No one believed me when I told them, they thought it was psychological. But it turned out be a stomach bug. My symptoms disappeared after taking antibiotics.

So it's important to see a doctor and get a check up. Because these symptoms can be very confusing, especially when they occur together.

Post 4

@fBoyle-- That's a good question. The reason may be due to nerves.

There is a major nerve in the body called the vagus nerve that runs through the stomach. Perhaps feelings of stress and anxiety trigger a mechanism in the body where the vagus nerve is effected. The nerve might cause symptoms of indigestion like excessive acid production in the stomach, cramps or nausea.

That's why sedative treatments, including some herbal teas like chamomile, soothe the stomach as well as the nerves.

Post 3

But why does the stomach produce more acid when a person is experiencing anxiety symptoms?

Post 2

Heavanet it sounds like your sister has several health concerns that she needs to discuss with her family doctor to determine the best treatment options available for both. My guess is that regardless of which of her problems came first, dealing with her indigestion will calm her anxiety and vice versa. However, a doctor can help get to the root of both of her health issues, rule out anything serious, and find the best treatments to make her feel much better.

Post 1

My sister has both anxiety and stomach symptoms, and has been experiencing both for several weeks now. Does anyone have any ideas about the best way to determine which came first, and which to treat?

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