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Can Anxiety Cause Nausea?

It is no secret that anxiety can cause physical symptoms. Many people experience a racing heart, sweating, trembling, and chest pain during an anxiety attack.

But can you really get nausea from anxiety?

Nausea is a common symptom of many conditions and illnesses, including anxiety. In this article, we’ll explore the gut-brain connection and ways to manage anxiety-related nausea.

Understanding Nausea From Anxiety

Before diving into the gut-brain connection, it is important to understand what anxiety and nausea are.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural reaction to danger or stress. It is our body’s way of preparing us for potential threats. However, when this response becomes excessive and irrational, it can lead to an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders affect more than 300 million people worldwide.

These disorders manifest in various forms, including:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): excessive and persistent worry about everyday situations
  • Panic disorder: sudden attacks of fear and anxiety
  • Phobias: irrational fears of specific objects or situations
  • Social anxiety disorder: intense fear while in social situations
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): recurrent thoughts and behaviours that are uncontrollable
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: extreme anxiety following a traumatic event

Nausea

Nausea is a feeling of stomach discomfort and may lead to the urge to vomit.

Common causes of nausea include:

  • Food poisoning or stomach flu
  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Migraines
  • Motion sickness
  • Pregnancy

Anxiety can also trigger nausea, and this is where the gut-brain connection comes into play.

Nausea From Anxiety: The Gut-Brain Connection

The gut houses millions of nerve cells, which communicate with the brain through a network known as the gut-brain axis

This connection allows the gut to send signals to the brain and vice versa. The gut — also called the “second brain” — plays a significant role in regulating behaviour, emotions, and mood.

In fact, the intestines produce about 90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.² When we experience anxiety, our body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can disrupt the normal functioning of the gut-brain axis.

This is why people with anxiety disorders may experience gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, and stomach aches. But there are also other factors at play.

For example, during an anxiety attack, our body activates its “fight or flight” response, which diverts blood flow away from our digestive system. This can slow down digestion and cause nausea.

Anxiety may increase the production of stomach acid, which can irritate the stomach’s lining and lead to feelings of queasiness.

What Can I Do About Stomach Problems From Anxiety?

Schedule an appointment to see a mental health professional if your anxiety is affecting your day-to-day activities. They can provide treatment options like medications or psychotherapy.

Medications

Taking medication can help manage symptoms of anxiety and potentially alleviate nausea. These may include:

  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants can reduce anxiety and improve your mood, which may help ease nausea symptoms. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) consider selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) as first-line treatments for GAD.³
  • Anti-anxiety medications: Your medical provider may prescribe an anti-nausea medication. These medications block signals from the gut to the brain that trigger feelings.
  • Anti-nausea medications: Anti-nausea medication provides relief from nausea symptoms. However, they do not treat the underlying cause of anxiety.

Always consult with your provider before starting any medication.

Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy)

Psychotherapy is effective in treating anxiety and associated symptoms.

It involves talking to a trained therapist who can help identify and address the underlying causes of your anxiety. There are some common forms of psychotherapy for anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps identify and challenge negative thoughts and behaviours associated with anxiety, including physical symptoms like nausea.

By replacing these patterns with healthier coping mechanisms, you can better manage anxiety and its impact on daily life. NICE also recommends it as a first-line treatment for anxiety.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

DBT focuses on learning skills to manage intense emotions and improve relationships.

A 2022 study revealed that DBT improved executive function in individuals diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorders.⁴

Exposure and Response Prevention

ERP is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing clients to their fears or triggers while preventing compulsive behaviours.

This treatment is effective for anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies, like deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (DTMS), ketamine-assisted healing, and nutritional therapy provide additional options for clients seeking comprehensive care for anxiety.

They can work in conjunction with anti-anxiety medications and psychotherapy to provide a more holistic approach to anxiety management.

Deep TMS

Deep TMS is a therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration to deliver effective results for clients who are suffering from:

  • Anxious depression
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Smoking addiction

This non-invasive treatment involves using magnetic fields to stimulate certain areas of the brain associated with anxiety. A 2019 study found that DTMS can help decrease the symptoms of anxiety disorders.⁵

Each session lasts about 20 minutes and typically involves multiple sessions over several weeks. Clients can quickly resume their day as usual, allowing minimal disruption while ensuring effective and timely care. Additionally, clients undergoing DTMS therapy have reported no memory loss or systemic side effects, like disorientation, drowsiness, or lethargy.

Deep TMS offers a treatment experience that is convenient and comfortable, eliminating the necessity for anaesthesia or hospitalisation.

Ketamine-Assisted Healing and Therapy

Ketamine-assisted healing has gained recognition for its potential to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression rapidly.

Recent studies have shown promising results, highlighting the effectiveness of ketamine infusion therapy in providing relief. For example, a 2018 study found that several participants in a trial reported increased social engagement in the days following ketamine infusion therapy.⁶

Your medical provider can administer the treatment by:

  • Intravenous line
  • Nasal spray
  • Nebuliser
  • Pill
  • Transdermal patch

Watch this video to learn more about ketamine and its potential use in treating anxiety and depression.

Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional therapy focuses on the impact of diet and gut health on mental well-being. Research suggests that certain dietary changes and supplementation can positively influence anxiety symptoms.

According to a 2021 analysis, the following dietary changes can help reduce anxiety:

  • Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Consuming probiotics and fermented foods for gut health
  • Taking supplements like chamomile, curcumin, L-theanine, magnesium, saffron, selenium, vitamin C, and zinc⁷

A dietitian can help create a personalised nutritional plan tailored to your needs.

9 Self-Help Tips to Cope With Anxiety and Calm an Anxious Stomach

While anti-anxiety or nausea medications and therapy may help manage symptoms, there are self-help techniques that individuals can use to cope with anxiety-related nausea.

  1. Practise deep breathing exercises or meditation to help calm the nervous system. Deep breathing exercises and meditation can help regulate the body’s stress response, reducing symptoms of anxiety and nausea.
  2. Engage in physical activity regularly to reduce stress and promote overall well-being. Exercise can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve mood by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
  3. Avoid trigger foods, like those high in fat or caffeine, to help alleviate nausea. Caffeine and foods high in fat can irritate the digestive system or make nausea worse in individuals with anxiety.
  4. Stay hydrated. Anxiety can cause dehydration due to increased sweating or vomiting. To combat this, make sure to drink water frequently throughout the day.
  5. Use aromatherapy with essential oils like ginger, peppermint, or lavender to relieve nausea and anxiety. These scents have a calming effect on the nervous system and promote relaxation.
  6. Adopt good sleep habits can help reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being. This includes getting enough sleep, keeping a consistent schedule, and creating a comfortable environment.
  7. Eat probiotic-rich foods to support gut health. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote digestive health by balancing the gut microbiome. Some examples of probiotic-rich foods include yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
  8. Connect with others for support and social interaction. Isolating yourself can worsen symptoms and create a cycle of increased anxiety. Try to reach out to friends, family, or support groups for support and social connection.
  9. Remember to prioritise self-care and take breaks when needed. Overworking can lead to increased anxiety and stress, which can worsen symptoms like nausea. Schedule time for relaxation and self-care activities.

Take Control of Anxiety and Nausea

Anxiety and nausea can significantly affect your quality of life, but with the right approach, you can manage it. By combining traditional therapies with lifestyle changes and alternative treatments, you can take control of symptoms and live your best life.

If you are looking for relief from anxiety-related symptoms like nausea, call 0203 984 7699 or complete our online contact form.

You do not have to suffer in silence. Our team of experts at APN London can help you find effective treatment options to take control of your anxiety. We are here to support you every step of the way on your journey toward a happier and healthier life.

References

  1. Appleton J. The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018 Aug;17(4):28-32. PMID: 31043907; PMCID: PMC6469458, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469458.
  2. Zhong W, Shahbaz O, Teskey G, Beever A, Kachour N, Venketaraman V, Darmani NA. Mechanisms of Nausea and Vomiting: Current Knowledge and Recent Advances in Intracellular Emetic Signaling Systems. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 May 28;22(11):5797. doi: 10.3390/ijms22115797. PMID: 34071460; PMCID: PMC8198651, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8198651.
  3. DeGeorge KC, Grover M, Streeter GS. Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder in Adults. Am Fam Physician. 2022 Aug;106(2):157-164. PMID: 35977134, https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2022/0800/generalized-anxiety-disorder-panic-disorder.html#afp20220800p157-sort2.
  4. Afshari B, Jafarian Dehkordi F, Asgharnejad Farid AA, Aramfar B, Balagabri Z, Mohebi M, Mardi N, Amiri P. Study of the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy versus dialectical behavior therapy on executive function and reduction of symptoms in generalized anxiety disorder. Trends Psychiatry Psychother. 2022 Aug 31;44:e20200156. doi: 10.47626/2237-6089-2020-0156. PMID: 35559733; PMCID: PMC10039721, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10039721.
  5. Rodrigues PA, Zaninotto AL, Neville IS, Hayashi CY, Brunoni AR, Teixeira MJ, Paiva WS. Transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of anxiety disorder. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2019 Sep 23;15:2743-2761. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S201407. PMID: 31576130; PMCID: PMC6765211, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6765211/#:~:text=TMS%20was%20approved%20by%20the,)%2C22%20and%20Anxiety%20Disorders
  6. Taylor JH, Landeros-Weisenberger A, Coughlin C, Mulqueen J, Johnson JA, Gabriel D, Reed MO, Jakubovski E, Bloch MH. Ketamine for Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 Jan;43(2):325-333. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.194. Epub 2017 Aug 29. PMID: 28849779; PMCID: PMC5729569, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5729569.
  7. Aucoin M, LaChance L, Naidoo U, Remy D, Shekdar T, Sayar N, Cardozo V, Rawana T, Chan I, Cooley K. Diet and Anxiety: A Scoping Review. Nutrients. 2021 Dec 10;13(12):4418. doi: 10.3390/nu13124418. PMID: 34959972; PMCID: PMC8706568, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8706568/#:~:text=Analysis%20revealed%20an%20association%20between,and%20a%20range%20of%20phytochemicals