Should I See A Gastroenterologist About My Upset Stomach
If youve been experiencing unpleasant digestive symptoms for 2-4 weeks, it might be time to see a doctor. Perhaps youve tried some of the recommendations listed above but arent getting relief, or maybe you have an underlying feeling that something just isnt right. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends that patients should see a doctor if their digestive upset lasts for more than two weeks. You should also see a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following in addition to stomach discomfort:
- diarrhea that lasts for more than two days
- frequent vomiting or vomit that looks like it contains blood or coffee grounds
- pain in the chest, neck, jaw, or arm
- unexplained weight loss
The Biochemical Changes That Occur In Times Of Stress Have Significant And Immediate Impact On Gut Function
A family of peptides called corticotrophin releasing factors are responsible for coordinating the bodys response to stress, and CRFs have a potent effects on the gut through modulation of inflammation, increase of gut permeability, contribution to visceral hypersensitivity, increased perception to pain, and modulation of the gut motility. This hormone affects the hypothalamic-pituitary axis to eventually stimulate the secretion of cortisol from the adrenal glands.
Not only does stress affect the physiological function of the gut, but it has also been shown to actually cause changes in the composition of the microbiota, possibly due to the changes in neurotransmitter and inflammatory cytokine levels. Research in mice has found that exposure to stress led to an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria while simultaneously reducing microbial diversity in the large intestine of the stressed mice. Furthermore, this disruption of the microbiota increased susceptibility to enteric pathogens.
Chronic exposure to stress may lead to the development of a variety of gastrointestinal diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux disease , peptic ulcer disease, IBD, IBS, and even food allergies. Experimental studies have shown that psychological stress slows normal small intestinal transit time, encourages overgrowth of bacteria, and even compromises the intestinal barrier.
Anxiety And Panic Attacks
- Numbness and tingling in hands and fingers
People experience different types of anxiety, and their symptoms may vary. Some people feel sick to their stomachs and retch when they have anxiety. You can usually identify what event or situation triggered your anxiety.
A panic attack is sudden severe anxiety. Symptoms are often mistaken for those of a heart attack.
Just as there are many forms of anxiety, there are many types of treatment for it. The main types include psychotherapy and behavioral changes, such as exercising, keeping a journal, and meditating. Anti-anxiety medications may be necessary for some people.
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Stomach Pain And Long
Because of the extra acid in your stomach and the changes to the way your body processes nutrients, the stomach pain from anxiety can be a problem if left untreated. Ulcers are just one example. Some people experience heartburn from anxiety, and others eat less often, giving their body fewer nutrients.
The stomach pain from anxiety and stress is rarely dangerous, but it is still important to treat it, because the effects on your long-term health when it is left untreated may be harder to manage.
In General What Conditions Do Gastroenterologists Treat
Gastroenterologists can evaluate for and treat a wide variety of conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease , gastroesophageal reflux disease , celiac disease, peptic ulcer disease, obesity and more. GI doctors also routinely perform screenings for colon cancer.
My area of specialty is in prevention and early detection of cancers such as colorectal, gastric and pancreatic cancer. I enjoy helping patients, especially those with a family history, understand their risk for cancer while offering genetic testing, screening and more.
Overall, its important for patients to openly discuss stress and GI symptoms with their doctors. Primary care doctors can help manage stress and treat symptoms, but in some cases it may be necessary to see a gastroenterologist to evaluate for other conditions.
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Check With Your Pediatrician
When a child develops a pattern of physical symptoms before school, or other potentially stressful moments, experts recommend that you visit your doctor to rule out medical concerns. But if the child gets a clean bill of health, the next step is to help the child make the connection between their worries and their physical symptoms.
We help them understand in a very child-friendly way that sometimes our body can actually give us clues into what were feeling, explains Ms. Greenspan.
Parents can start by validating their childs experience and reframing it in a more helpful way. Instead of telling kids theres nothing wrong with them, the goal is to tell them that what theyre feeling is worry.
We give it a name, adds Dr. Domingues. We help them connect it to an emotion and label it.
And after some practice kids are able to identify it, she adds. Yes, my stomach hurts and, oh yeah, I remember thats because Im feeling worried. And after learning some skills to help them calm down, I think they feel a sense of control. And that helps.
Keep Stress From Causing An Upset Stomach
Stress can cause stomachaches, diarrhea, and other digestive problems, but stress management can keep them under control.
If you get butterflies in your stomach when you have to give a speech, drive through white-knuckle traffic, or argue with your spouse, youre not alone: Stress can exact a very real physical toll on your digestive system. Your gut is extremely sensitive to stress and your overall emotions. And conversely, the right stress management techniques can help soothe an upset stomach.
The Link Between Your Gut and Your Emotions
The physical reason why emotions and stress can lead to stomachaches and other digestive problems is because the gut is highly sensitive and full of nerves, just like the brain.
“There is definitely a connection between the brain and the gut,” says Francisco J. Marrero, MD, a gastroenterologist with the Digestive Disease Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “The gut is called the little brain it’s the largest area of nerves outside the brain.”
Upset Stomach: Even Little Stresses Affect the Little Brain
Stress and nerves often have very noticeable physical symptoms that focus around the digestive tract.
“Any time you’re in a stressful situation, a lot of people will get butterflies in their stomach or may get diarrhea,” says Dr. Marrero. “It gets better when they get out of that stressful situation.”
Upset Stomach: Getting a Handle on Stress
To reduce stress and manage digestive problems on your own, try these stress management tips:
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When Should You See A Doctor For Gastrointestinal Problems
Mild or occasional digestive problems due to stress are common. However, this doesnt mean that you should dismiss these symptoms.
Tell your doctor about symptoms such as nausea, stomachache, cramps, or diarrhea. The more your doctor knows about your health, the better the quality of care you receive.
These symptoms could indicate a manageable digestive problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome. The American College of Gastroenterology states that 10 to 15 percent of U.S. adults have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome however, only five to seven percent of adults have been diagnosed with IBS.
Talk to your doctor if you experience stress-related digestive problems. Your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist.
Brief History Of Experiments
We can thank two patients, who had very rare accidents, for our early understanding of what happens to the stomach when were anxious and stressed.
In 1822, 19-year-old Alexis St Martin suffered a gun-shot wound to the stomach. He survived, but developed a permanent hole in his stomach that refused to heal. This hole extended to the outside skin of his abdomen.
While undoubtedly awful for Alexis, army doctor William Beaumont saw a unique opportunity. Beaumont used the hole as a window into the process of digestion, conducting experiments to better understand the inner workings of the gut, which included the impact of Alexis emotional response on the stomach. When Alexis became angry, for instance, Beaumont noticed his digestion was impaired.
Further observations were carried out by doctor Stewart Wolf on another patient, Tom Little. In 1894, when he was nine years old, Tom drank something that severely damaged his oesophagus. He had a hole created in his stomach for feeding. As with Alexis, Wolf observed Toms stomach under periods of emotional stress. He found fear would make Toms stomach turn white and a period of depression could virtually stop digestion.
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Coping Techniques And Resources To Help Kids Thrive
With functional abdominal pain, there isnt necessarily a definite treatment or medication that will cure kids discomfort.
Its more about helping these kids learn coping techniques and identify the triggers that exacerbate their symptoms, said Pattamanuch. Children may need more screening for depression or anxiety from a mental health professional. There are helpful clinics at Seattle Childrens for this.
Some kids may be referred to the Biofeedback Clinic, where they can learn relaxation techniques to decrease the intensity of their pain. They may also be referred to the Pain Medicine Clinic where they could undergo an in-depth assessment to help manage their pain.
Aside from these resources, Pattamanuch often works with kids on simple techniques they can practice at home and implement into their daily lives to alleviate their recurring abdominal pain and discomfort. These include:
While all kids have unique needs, some may require medication to help with their symptoms. However, Pattamanuch says theres careful consideration when offering this treatment.
When needed, we have some medications we can prescribe to help relax the gastrointestinal tract, but often they arent useful because theyre not addressing the root cause of the issue, said Pattamanuch. Its most beneficial for kids to learn how to get in-tune with their psychological triggers and try to address those issues first and foremost.
Can Stress Cause Stomach Pain
Anxiety and stress are closely related. But they are technically different conditions. It is possible to experience a significant amount of stress without experiencing anxiety. Yet the causes of stomach pain from stress are similar. Muscle tension, digestive issues all of these are also caused by stress and may contribute to stomach pain.
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Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety
In fact anxiety is associated with a host of physical symptoms, including headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, along with a racing heart, shakiness or sweating symptoms older people experience when theyre having a panic attack.
All these physical symptoms are related to the fight-or-flight response triggered when the brain detects danger. All of them have a purpose, notes , a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. When she talks to kids about anxious headaches or stomach aches, she explains the role of each. For instance, she says, your stomach hurts because your digestive system is shutting down to send blood to other areas of your body. You dont want to be digesting food at that moment because youre trying to either flee danger or fight danger.
Dr. Domingues assures children that these symptoms are not harmful theyre just their emergency system responding to a false alarm. But its important to understand that kids arent necessarily inventing their symptoms, and the danger may feel very real to them. Dont assume a child who spends a lot of time in the nurses office at school is doing it intentionally to get out of class. Her acute anxiety may be causing her pain.
Headaches and stomach aches related to anxiety are still real feelings, and we want to take them seriously, says Ms. Greenspan.
How To Develop A New Stress Response
Many of us respond to stress in a dysfunctional way, Dr. Roizen notes. We hope the problem, or stressor, will go away, then treat ourselves to ice cream, simple sugars and carbs, or red meat, he says. But sweet foods or foods with lecithin, cholines and carnitine will change good gut bacteria to bad, increasing your gut distress and causing a vicious cycle response, he says.
Or maybe you deal with stress in other dysfunctional ways, like shopping, drinking or gambling in order to soothe yourself. Then you have a bigger stress response afterward.
Handling stress in a functional way begins with the awareness that youre under stress. Then you can deal with stress in a few different ways, says Dr. Roizen.
1. Solve the problem
If financial problems are stressing you out, you can set up a budget that helps you make ends meet. Or you can cut up that problem credit card. Then arrange to have your 401K contribution auto-deducted from your paycheck.
If a relationship is difficult but necessary, figure out how to ease the tension. Seek counseling if necessary, for a marriage or family member. Or if its a coworker, maybe learn ways to go along with a joke . Or include a third colleague or friend in your encounters. If the relationship is personal, find a passion you both share to enjoy.
2. Refocus your mind
When a stressful situation is unavoidable , you can breathe deeply or meditate through it.
3. Eliminate the stressor
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How To Stop Chest Pain From Anxiety & Stress In 60 Seconds
Chest pain. Its so scary.
But its less scary if you know its caused by anxiety or a panic disorder.
When most of us suddenly feel our chest hurts, were certain that were dying.
That the chest tightness is a sign that youre going through a heart attack.
That your anxiety disorder is really killing you. Now.
But before you panic any further take a deep Breath.
Anxiety and chest pain are good friends.
Heres how to know if your chest pain is caused by anxiety, and how to stop it in less than a minute. O.k?
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Knots In Stomach
First and foremost, you need to discuss with your health care provider, he will make a physical examination of the abdomen as well as he may order a few investigations.
He needs to ascertain whether the cause is psycho-somatic, there is a lump which could be a hernia, a lipoma, a hematoma or a tumor mass.
- Primarily, you need to deal with your stress. Cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation techniques and deep breathing yield brilliant results.
- Check what is wrong in your daily diet steer clear of all refined and denatured foods. Incorporate loads of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, certain foods are mood enhancers and helps battle stress very well. These are: spinach, eggs, cashews, walnuts and whole wheat bread.
- As a quick fix, you can use these home remedies to allay the discomfort in your tummy caraway seeds, fennel seeds, mint, ginger and yogurt. All these are amazing tonics for the GI tract and fight off flatulence, bloating, nausea and abdominal discomfort.
- Hernia requires surgical repair.
- Lipomas do not need any kind of treatment they are non-malignant.
- Hematomas tend to resolve on their own and occasionally need surgical intervention.
- In case of a tumor mass, you need a multidisciplinary approach to manage the case well.
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Should I Be Getting Screened Regularly For Colon Cancer Or Other Gi Tract Cancers
As of 2021, the United States Preventative Services Task Force and major GI medical societies recommend that adults at average risk for colorectal cancer are regularly screened beginning at age 45.
People who have a family history of colorectal cancer or other GI tract cancers, including stomach or pancreas cancer, or a history of GI conditions like inflammatory bowel disease may need routine cancer screening earlier than age 45.
Talk your primary care physician about your risk and ask if you should get tested.
Stress Also Plays A Major Role In The Health Of One Of Our Most Important Organ Systems: The Gut
The word stress is a broad term, and can refer to any real or perceived threat to the homeostasis of an organism, eliciting adaptive responses to help maintain internal stability and ensure survival.
The gut is especially vulnerable to the presence of chronic stress, demonstrating stress-induced changes in gastric secretion, gut motility, mucosal permeability and barrier function, visceral sensitivity and mucosal blood flow. There has also been evidence to suggest that gut microbiota may respond directly to stress-related host signals.
Ive spoken extensively before about the brain-gut axis and its role in health. As Ive mentioned before, the intestinal mucosa is infiltrated by the myenteric plexus, which is a network of nerve fibers and neuron cell bodies that are influenced by signaling from the brain. In this sense, the gut is an integral part of the nervous system, so the brain can easily effect gut function. We anecdotally recognize our brain-gut connection as a gut feeling, which can range from butterflies in the stomach to full-on anxiety-induced nausea.
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Feeling Of Knot In Stomach: Causes And How To Get Rid Of It
Butterflies in the stomach, gut-wrenching and knots in the stomach are the usually used phrases for an uncomfortable sensation in the tummy. These expressions are used when anxiety, rage, grief, euphoria and other emotions set off queasiness in our gastrointestinal tract.
The brain has a marked influence on the stomach. Also, your distressed GI tract can be as much the cause as the product of stress.
Stress makes your body more susceptible to infection as well as inflammation. Infection and inflammation in the gut give rise to discomfort, pain, nausea, flatulence, diarrhea and other symptoms.
In case you are exposed to an ongoing stress which is triggering frequent GI derangement, treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis and relaxation techniques will definitely help.