If you suffer from nausea, indigestion, bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea, you might have been told at some point that you have a "nervous stomach." This catchall term, like dyspepsia, is often used to describe digestive difficulties, although it is not a specific disease or diagnosis. The word "nervous" implies a link to anxiety problems, which may or may not be to blame for your tummy woes. Fortunately, there are a variety ways to calm and soothe a nervous stomach.
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Consult your physician. You will want to start by eliminating the possibility of a serious underlying condition that is causing your digestive symptoms. Giardia infection, thyroid disease, stomach emptying disorders, ulcers, gallstones and, more rarely, cancer can produce some or all of these symptoms.
Alter your diet. Restrict your intake of foods that bother your stomach, or avoid them altogether. Spicy and greasy foods tend to cause trouble for many people, so monitor how your system handles them by keeping a food diary and noting any symptoms that arise. Eating smaller, more frequent meals and refraining from overeating may be helpful. Add fibre to your diet by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Drink at least 3 to 4 glasses of water daily, and avoid caffeine or nicotine products, which may help if you experience irregular bowel habits.
Consider herbal remedies. Carminatives, aromatic herbs that relax the stomach muscles and settle indigestion, may prove useful in treating a nervous stomach. Teas or infusions made from aniseed, caraway, cardamom, cayenne, chamomile, coriander, fennel, ginger, peppermint, and thyme are often recommended to soothe an upset stomach.
Exercise regularly. Exercise can relieve depression and stress, which may be contributing to your nervous stomach. If your difficulties are due to irregular contractions of the muscles in your digestive tract, as in irritable bowel syndrome, regular exercise can help normalise them. Whether you walk, bike, swim, or do yoga, find an activity that feels good and stick with it to maximise the benefits.
Learn to relax. Stress may indeed be a contributing factor in stirring up your stomach, so you will need to find ways to address it. Meditation and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and guided imagery, can decrease stress levels quickly. Progressive muscle relaxation, in which the different muscles of the body are tensed and relaxed in sequence, is also a good way to release tension in the body. Maintaining reasonable expectations for yourself, letting go of what you cannot control, and learning to be flexible can all help decrease your general stress level.
Seek professional help for anxiety problems. Counselling can be a great help to people who suffer from anxiety, especially when it causes physical symptoms like a nervous stomach. Your helping professional will help identify what causes your anxiety and work with you to develop a treatment plan to reduce it. Biofeedback, hypnosis, or possibly medication can help get you back on track and end your nervous stomach troubles.
Tips and warnings
- If you are taking medications for another condition, you may want to consult your physician before using herbal remedies, as they may affect medication effectiveness.
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