Gas and Anxiety: How Are They Related?

Anxiety causes very characteristic physical symptoms, but are you aware of the relationship between gas and anxiety? Keep reading.
Gas and Anxiety: How Are They Related?

Last update: 19 March, 2023

Anxiety is a psychiatric pathology characterized by excessive fear of an event that doesn’t represent a real danger. This disorder is associated with different symptoms, such as tremors or hair loss. However, anxiety can also cause other unusual manifestations. With this in mind, keep reading to discover the relationship between anxiety and gas.

Multiple studies show that anxiety is one of the most prevalent psychiatric illnesses worldwide. The number of people affected will depend on the region, however, it’s estimated that up to 28% of the population suffers in developed countries suffers from anxiety.

Psychiatric disorders generate somatization, that is, the development of physical symptoms through the psychological substrate. Somatization is the mechanism by which conditions such as anxiety produce gas, diarrhea, or other digestive disorders.

The main symptoms of anxiety

Excessive fear is the main symptom of anxiety. People with this disorder tend to find themselves constantly restless and worried about the proximity of a certain event.

The fear they suffer stimulates the autonomic nervous system, which leads to the appearance of the following signs:

  • Tremors
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing

Anxiety can also cause symptoms to appear in other systems. Gastrointestinal signs appear in up to 75.3% of those affected, mainly indigestion and gas, but anxiety may also produce diarrhea or constipation.

A man sitting on a couch, looking anxious.
Anxiety affects different body systems due to excessive activation of the nervous system. In that regard, there’s a relationship between gas and anxiety.

Before discussing the relationship between gas and anxiety, it’s important to consider the innervation of the gastrointestinal tract. Control of bowel movements is provided by the myenteric plexus, which is part of the autonomic nervous system. The myenteric plexus is related to the central nervous system, so they can affect one another.

People with anxiety have an alteration in the concentrations of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. This substance fulfills many functions within the body, one of them being the control of intestinal peristalsis. In this regard, a decrease in serotonin will reduce bowel movements.

The slowing down of peristalsis will cause the intestinal microbiota to act for a longer period of time on food, favoring the appearance of gases. In addition, studies show that anxiety is related to the appearance of a condition called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The clinical manifestations of IBS can vary in each person, therefore, there will be patients with a predominance of diarrhea and others with constipation. Among the symptoms of IBS with a tendency toward constipation, gas, bloating, and indigestion stand out.

The relationship between gas and anxiety is also due to the eating habits of those affected. Anxious people tend to eat faster, so they swallow large amounts of air that will later remain in the intestine.

Anxiety increases the intake of foods high in fat and carbohydrates, leading to an increase in gas production. Anxious people also tend to move around a lot and even increase the amount of daily exercise they perform. The increase in body movements affects peristalsis, which explains the appearance of gases through this kinetic pathway.

How to reduce gas in cases of anxiety?

The best way to reduce the appearance of gas is by treating anxiety, so it’s essential to seek medical attention. Anxiety disorders are very varied; the specialist will study each case in particular to choose the best therapeutic approach. In general terms, the approach combines anxiolytics and psychological therapies.

At the same time, there are also over-the-counter medications that reduce the appearance of gas. People can take activated charcoal or simethicone. However, it’s always important to consult with the treating physician before taking any drug.

People with anxiety can reduce the appearance of gas by making simple changes when it comes to eating. Some of the recommendations that may be helpful are the following:

  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks.
  • Don’t eat foods that are difficult to digest.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Avoid chewing gum and candies.
  • Reduce the intake of fried foods and fast food.
An anxious woman eating junk food and watching TV at night.
Anxious behaviors lead to a diet rich in gas-generating products, such as ultra-processed foods and fast food.

Gas and anxiety are closely related to each other. Anxious people present various alterations of the nervous system that generate the appearance of gastrointestinal symptoms. In addition, they have certain compulsive behaviors when it comes to eating, which increases air intake and gas production.

The presence of abdominal gas, as well as the expulsion of belching and flatulence, can be triggers for multiple anxiety disorders. Fortunately, there are different medications capable of controlling these symptoms. In addition, small changes during mealtime are very useful to reduce their impact on daily life.

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Los contenidos de esta publicación se redactan solo con fines informativos. En ningún momento pueden servir para facilitar o sustituir diagnósticos, tratamientos o recomentaciones provenientes de un profesional. Consulta con tu especialista de confianza ante cualquier duda y busca su aprobación antes de iniciar o someterse a cualquier procedimiento.