“Undigested” Emotions and Acid Reflux

100_4931 (2)Earlier this week I was experiencing some gastric problems, neck pain, and chest tightness, so I looked up the symptoms of a heart attack for women; two of them are pain in arm(s), neck, or jaw and stomach pain. I wasn’t feeling too much distress, yet I wondered if I should check out the possibility of a heart attack. I called my doctor’s office, and they instructed me to go to the ER. The EKG and lab tests were normal. The diagnosis was acid reflux. I suspected that and wished that I had not gone to the ER; however, I’m thankful to know that my heart is fine.

After going home, I researched acid reflux and found evidence that “undigested” emotions can worsen acid reflux. You can read more about it in an article by Nurse practitioner Marcelle Pick. She says,

Women with acid reflux often report that symptoms worsen during times of increased stress. Stress can impact our bodies in multiple ways. . . We know that production of cortisol, the stress hormone, inhibits your digestion. And your immune system isn’t as strong during times of stress either, leaving it less equipped to fend off the infectious agents you come into regular contact with in your food and drink. Both of these things can increase the likelihood of acid reflux.

So ask yourself, “What’s eating me?” Is there a loss you need to grieve or forgiveness you need to grant? Is your job stressful or are your finances a wreck? The answers may not come easily, but a thorough investigation of your emotional state may help your system “digest” the emotions that are stuck and making you sick.

The next afternoon as I was thinking about what I might have for dinner, the picture of an old cookbook popped into my memory. I envisioned the silver-gray background of the cover and the black letters that spelled out the words: “The Joy of Cooking.”  I remembered the joy that I’d had years ago, paging through the cookbook, learning techniques, and experimenting with new recipes. Silently then, I tuned in to my thoughts: There’s no joy anymore for me–no joy at all! I hate cooking! I hate eating! I don’t want to follow that stupid list of ‘acceptable’ foods for another day—not for another meal. “That’s interesting,” I said to myself, “with that amount of inner anger, it’s no wonder I’m having indigestion.”

While I admittedly have some work to do in overcoming my food-related anger, the purpose of this post is not to discuss my dietary issues but to illustrate the connection between emotional and physical health—in particular, the connection between what we eat and how we feel.

It’s a bit embarrassing for me to admit that after writing a book that includes chapters on resolving anger, resentment, and revenge, I may have unresolved anger issues connected with food. On the other hand, recognizing the problem gives me another opportunity to practice the principles that I wrote about in Emotional Freedom. I’m excited about discovering “what’s eating me” and gaining more freedom—from both physical pain and emotional dysfunction.  I’m sure that God will give me clarity.