What to Do About "Nervous Stomach"
Although having a "nervous stomach" isn't considered a specific diagnosis or a recognized disease, some doctors may use the term to describe a variety of symptoms that may be attributed to stress, tension and anxiety, including indigestion, bloating, gas or a change in bowel habits. In some cases, having a nervous stomach is used to describe symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or spastic colon. If you have a "nervous stomach" and have chronic bouts of diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain, ask your doctor what the term means in your specific case and what diagnostic tests might be available to determine an exact cause of your problem and what you can do to alleviate the condition.
Because flare-ups of IBS are often triggered by stress, medication or food, there are some steps you can take to help reduce their severity and tame your nervous stomach. For example:
- Keep a journal of when you experience a nervous stomach attack and what you ate or drank before the attack. Also write down any feelings you were experiencing or activities you were involved in before your stomach started acting up so you can chart a pattern in your stomach attacks and avoid those triggers in the future.
- Eating more fiber-rich foods, including whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables, can help keep your bowel habits regular. However, they can also increase abdominal cramping and gas. Try gradually increasing your intake of high-fiber foods to determine which foods you can tolerate.
- According to the Mayo Clinic, eating meals at the same time of day will help you maintain regular bowel habits. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help reduce bouts of diarrhea, while eating larger meals with increased amounts of fiber can help prevent constipation.
- Drinking plenty of water, at least three to four glasses a day, can help you maintain a healthy digestive system.
- Avoiding some common stomach irritants, such as caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, chocolate and colas, as well as reducing your intake of dairy products, including milk and cheese products, may also reduce symptoms.
- Practicing relaxation techniques when you're feeling stressed, may help calm a turbulent stomach. Try some deep breathing exercises, meditation or yoga to become calmer. Maintaining a regular exercise program of at least 30 minutes most days of the week can also help relieve stress.
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