Why Can't You Eat When You're Anxious?

January 20, 2022

How many times have you skipped a meal when your stomach was too full of butterflies to keep anything down? Or avoided certain foods because you knew you couldn't handle them that day? And like many other kids I knew growing up, I struggled with eating breakfast and lunch on the days I had a test or lessons I dreaded attending.

These uncomfortable, nauseating and sometimes painful sensations are typically triggered by a stress response known as the fight-or-flight response, which is the body's way of preparing us for action when it perceives danger. For some reason that "danger" was my 3 o'clock chemistry test and my body wanted to run.

During the fight-or-flight response our bodies will undergo multiple physiological, psychological and emotional changes to enhance the bodies ability to respond to a threat. These changes include suppressing digestion and producing hormones and neurotransmitters, all of which can have on impact on our appetite.

Digestion is suppressed

When digestion is suppressed and food is no longer being broken down you may experience some pain or discomfort, especially if you deal with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This discomfort makes it difficult for you to listen to any other signals your body is trying to tell you, such as when you need to eat, so skipping a meal may not be something you're even aware of.


High levels of anxiety can trigger the release of hormones such as cortisol, which boosts the production of stomach acids. This will speed up digestion and create a sensation of fullness, which will significantly reduce your appetite. However these stomach acids can also cause stomach ulcers, making it even harder to develop an appetite.

Another hormone that gets released is corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), which affects the digestive system and leads to the suppression of appetite.


Anxiety is also correlated with irregular levels of serotonin; a neurotransmitter which stabilises our mood and ensures communication between the brain and nervous system. The lack of stability and communication may falsely tell the body that it doesn't need to eat when it  really does.

Try anxiety safe foods

Eating when you're anxious isn't easy but not getting enough nutrients and energy can also exacerbate your anxiety and lead to further health problems. Below are a list of foods that help to settle the stomach and calm the mind, and for people that struggle to eat when they're anxious I truly recommend giving them a go!

Try these foods when you're anxious

When you're anxious and are struggling to eat, what are some thing that you find helpful? Let me know on Instagram or by dropping me an email: hello@feelmo.com

Post by a member of the Feelmo team.

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