Acid Reflux or Anxious Reflux?
What is the number one health concern affecting Americans? Is it obesity? Heart disease? What about acid reflux? In Macon as well as the rest of the country more and more people are succumbing to one health complication in particular, and you might be surprised to hear the answer—then again, you might not be.
Stress and anxiety are the number one mental illnesses affecting Americans, and some experts argue they are the most common ailment of any kind at the moment—a statistic that is hard to argue based on the number of Americans who are stressed but haven’t sought support for the issue. Just under 20 percent of the adult population in the United States has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and over 46 million people in the U.S were given Xanax prescriptions in 2010—the leading psychiatric medication.
A 2009 study estimated that nearly 50 percent of the U.S population probably suffers from anxiety disorders, though not all are officially diagnosed. This would put the number of anxious adults in the U.S higher than the number of obese adults.
The Anxiety Problem
The problem is that a lot of people are suffering from anxiety without ever knowing about it. Anxiety manifests itself in many different ways. Some people emotionally eat to cope with anxiety while others experience chest pain and difficulty breathing. Migraines also commonly develop due to excess stress. Many people overlook the connection between acid reflux and anxiety, but research shows that this is a valid issue that needs to be considered.
We talk about feeling butterflies in our stomachs when we are nervous. As it turns out, those butterflies might be contributing to further feelings of discomfort. One team of researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham found that stressful tasks like doing mental math on a computer increased participants’ blood pressure, pulse rates and symptoms of acid reflux. If increased anxiety levels are contributing to worsened acid reflux symptoms, then learning to cope with your anxiety and manage your stress might be able to reduce the severity of acid reflux attacks.
Here are a few ways that you can manage your stress to better manage your heartburn:
- Journal: When you are experiencing the first signs of stress and anxiety, whether that is sweaty palms, shortness of breath or worrisome thoughts, take out a pen and paper and write down what is worrying you. By getting it out quickly you might be able to move on and calm down.
- Take a deep breath: Deep breathing exercises help you restore control over the situation and can help you prevent your heart from racing too fast.
- Shake it off: Physically getting up and moving around can often relieve anxiety. Exercise is a well-known stress management tool, so when you are first feeling anxious it might be useful to engage in some activity to shake it off.
It is unlikely that anxiety is the sole cause of your acid reflux, but if you are coping with chronic heartburn and experiencing frequent anxiety then learning to manage your stress might be able to reduce your reflux symptoms.