Do you suffer with an anxious stomach? It’s that feeling of being bloated and a bit uncomfortable when you’ve got to deal with a situation that’s making you a bit anxious. It might be a phone call you don’t want to make, maybe you’re going for an interview, or perhaps it’s a difficult situation at work that you’ve got to deal with. Whatever it is it ends up manifesting itself in your stomach. This is an entirely NATURAL reaction. Our brains, remember, are connected to our guts. So if you are feeling stressed, if you’re feeling anxious, it will reflect itself in the gut.
This reaction harks back to caveman times. If we were in danger, then our ‘fight or flight’ kicked in; in caveman times our anxiety came from lions or beast attacking us. Our digestive system would shut down, our muscles would fire up, and we’d run away and get to safety; and then all would be good and everything would start working normally again! Unfortunately we don’t tend to run away anymore from our stressful situations. We just keep going, and going, often feeling anxious or stressed for days on end. So what happens, is our body is anxious, worried and distressed for longer periods and this often manifests itself into what I call an anxious stomach.
I used to get it quite a lot, I’d have sleepless nights if I had to deal with something really awful at work, I’d feel really bloated and didn’t want to eat anything. However, what we have to remember is that regardless of how our stomach and our brain feels, our bodies still need the same nutrients to work efficiently. Actually, it probably needs better nutrients, because we need to be on top form for whatever it is that we’re dealing with. We want that brain fired up on all cylinders so we can deal with things effectively. So, we really need to make sure we area fueling our body and our brains as best as we possibly can.
One of the big things that I would recommend, even if you don’t normally have any issues with wheat is to avoid it whilst you have an anxious stomach, and particularly processed wheats products such as bread and pasta. You need to be kind to your gut, it is under stress already: you want to be feeding it some simple foods, simple carbohydrates and protein and lots of vegetables, not masses of fruit because that can be quite acidic but lots of veggies. Maybe a nice piece of fish, or some chicken with some seasonal veg, if you are vegan then make sure you add some lentils or chickpeas to your vegetables, I personally find that a plant based diet suits me if my stomach is feeling a bit ‘off’ as I find it easier to digest. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that you really want to eat and that you will enjoy, as that will encourage you to eat! For me it might be something like a baked sweet potato with some cheese because that would be something I know I would enjoy.
Just eat small portions so that you not having to digest a lot, and that will help with the bloating. If you want a dessert or if you are still hungry later then a sweet smoothie is a good option, I make a lovely raspberry and cacao that I often have mid evening which settles my stomach and makes sure I don’t wake up hungry in the night. In the morning, if you wake up and this is the day of the big event whatever the anxious event is you must eat. So again smoothies are great in these circumstances; it’s a good way to get those vital nutrients in, try a banana smoothie with some fruit in it, made with semi-skimmed milk, and if you are vegan then almond milk and try adding a spoonful of oats to give you some protein and help keep you full. If all you can face is a banana, then have that. I love eggs, so I might have a boiled egg. Just make sure you have something, again something that you enjoy. But think about it. Not a croissant! That’s not going to give you the nutrients you need, find something that’s going to be good for you.
When you are eating, do not sit there talking about the problem that you’ve got, your poor stomach will be doing somersaults and you will be getting all worked up and your digestion will shut down again because you are back in that ‘fight or flight’. Have a moment of calm, take some time to eat the food and be in the moment, let this be an opportunity to be calm. Chew your food properly, and enjoy the food that you have taken the time and care to prepare for yourself.
Before the event, whatever it is, practice some deep breathing. Just breathe in fully, hold it for a couple of counts, breathe out fully. Do that four or five times, if you can, again it will ground you. It will centre you.
Don’t have caffeine you really don’t need caffeine; you are already firing on all cylinders. We don’t need to add to that. And try not to drink alcohol. It’s often something that we gravitate to, telling ourselves we are going to have a terrible day tomorrow so we are going to drink some wine tonight. But it really won’t do you any good, tonight or tomorrow. It is, however, very important to stay hydrated, drink plenty of water and herbal teas can help: camomile is good to relax you, both mint and ginger can aid digestion and ease bloating.
Just try and eat a nice clean food avoid the alcohol avoid the caffeine and avoid the wheat. Remember this isn’t forever. This is just while we’re dealing with this situation. Think about how your body is already stressed how your stomach is already stressed. And be kind to it.
Tips to take away
Avoid wheat and refined carbs such as bread and pasta
Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol
Drink plenty of water or herbal teas
Take time to enjoy your food, be in the moment
Eat small nutritious tasty meals
Practice deep breathing to calm you
Smoothies and juices are great ways to get extra nutrients
Remember to be kind to yourself and your anxious stomach