Feel Sick And Tired After Eating Anxiety Symptoms

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated January 20, 2022

feeling sick and tired after eating anxiety symptoms

Feeling sick and tired after eating, such as feeling fluish, aches and pains, hot and cold flashes, and generally like the flu, is a common symptom of anxiety disorder, including anxiety and panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and why it can make you feel sick and tired after eating.

Feeling Sick And Tired After Eating Common Symptom Descriptions

This symptom is often described as:

  • Feeling unusually sick and tired shortly after eating.
  • The “sick” feeling can be described as like you have a touch of the stomach flu, like you are on the verge of getting a cold, like you have cold (chills) and hot sweats (flushes), like your body feels sore and achy, or like your overall body feels unwell.
  • The “tired” feeling can feel like you are slightly tired, moderately fatigued, or greatly exhausted, and so much so that you can barely move or function.

Feeling sick and tired after eating can occur occasionally, frequently, or regularly.

It can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety symptoms or occur by itself.

It can also precede, accompany, or follow a period of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress, or occur "out of the blue" and for no apparent reason.

Feeling sick and tired after eating can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves where you feel sick and tired after eating one time and not the next.

This symptom can change from moment to moment and day to day. It can also persist during your entire struggle with anxiety disorder.

All combinations and variations of the above are common.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, or Hyperstimulation Test.

The higher the rating, the more likely anxiety could be contributing to or causing your anxiety symptoms, including feeling like impending doom symptoms.

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Causes

Medical Advisory

Talk to your doctor about all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms.

Click the link for Additional Medical Advisory Information.

1. The stress response

Anxious behavior, such as worry, activates the stress response, which prepares the body to “fight or flee.” This survival reaction is often referred to as the fight or flight response.[1][2]

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about its many changes.

Some of the stress response changes include:

  • Quickly converts the body’s energy reserves into “fuel” (blood sugar) so that we have an instant boost of energy.
  • Increases heart rate, respiration, and metabolism due to the boost in energy.
  • Stimulates the nervous system, increasing nervous system activity so that we are more sensitive and reactive to danger.
  • Heightens most of the body’s senses so that we are more aware of danger.
  • Shunts blood to parts of the body more vital to survival, such as the brain, arms, legs, and vital organs, and away from parts less vital for survival, such as the stomach, digestive system, and skin.
  • Suppresses digestion, including the secretion of saliva, so that most of the body’s resources are available for emergency action.
  • Creates a sudden urge to void the bowels in preparation to fight or flee.

To name a few.

Any of these emergency response changes to digestion can make you feel sick, especially after eating when food isn’t digested properly.

Moreover, the body can feel ill overall due to the many physiological changes caused by the stress response.

Furthermore, since stress responses tax the body’s energy resources harder and faster than normal, you can feel tired shortly after a stress response has ended.

Any combination of the above changes can make a person feel “sick and tired,” especially after eating when food isn’t digested properly.

Many anxious people feel “sick and tired after eating” due to the after-effects of the stress response.

2. Hyperstimulation

Too frequent activation of the stress response, such as from overly apprehensive behavior, can leave the body in a state of semi-stress response readiness, which we call “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are powerful stimulants.

Hyperstimulation is also often referred to as “hyperarousal,” “HPA axis dysfunction,” or “nervous system dysregulation.”[3][4]

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about the many ways hyperstimulation can affect the body and how we feel.

The Recovery Support area contains a more in-depth and technical explanation of hyperstimulation, if you are looking for more detailed information.

Hyperstimulation can cause chronic digestive system changes and drain the body of energy, causing all sorts of symptoms, such as feeling sick and tired after eating.

As the degree of stomach upset and fatigue increases, the prevalence and severity of this symptom can also increase.

Hyperstimulation is a common cause of feeling sick and tired after eating.

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3. Other Factors

Other factors can stress the body, causing and contributing to this symptom, such as:

Medication

Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can mimic, cause, and aggravate anxiety symptoms.

Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about your medication if you aren't sure if it’s playing a role in your symptoms, including making you feel sick and tired after eating.

Visit our Medication article for more information.

Recreational Drugs

Many recreational drugs can cause and aggravate anxiety symptoms. Especially those that affect the nervous system.

Visit our Recreational Drugs article for more information.

Stimulants

Stimulants bring about their stimulating effect by causing the secretion of stress hormones.

Increasing the body’s stimulation can cause and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Stimulants article for more information.

Sleep Deprivation

Going without adequate sleep can affect the body in many ways, such as:

  • Prevents the body from sufficiently refreshing itself
  • Stresses the nervous system
  • Impairs brain function
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Increases blood sugar
  • Increases moodiness
  • Increases cortisol to compensate for feeling tired (cortisol is a powerful stress hormone)

These effects can cause and aggravate anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Sleep Deprivation article for more information.

Fatigue

Fatigue can cause and aggravate many anxiety-like symptoms, such as:

To name a few.

Visit our Fatigue article for more information.

Hyper and Hypoventilation

Over and under breathing can also cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing symptoms.

Visit our Hyper And Hypoventilation article for more information.

Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar, even within the normal range, can cause anxiety-like symptoms. Low blood sugar can also aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Low Blood Sugar article for more information.

Nutritional Deficiency

Nutritional deficiencies, such as low vitamin B and D, can cause anxiety-like symptoms. Nutritional deficiencies can also aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Nutritional Deficiency article for more information.

Dehydration

Dehydration can also cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, such as:

To name a few.

Visit our Dehydration article for more information.

Hormone Changes

Hormones affect the body in many ways and can affect each other. Hormone changes can cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Hormone Changes article for more information.

Pain

Pain stresses the body, especially chronic pain. If the pain is in the high degree range, it can cause and aggravate hyperstimulation.

If you are anxious, hyperstimulated, and symptomatic, pain can aggravate them all.

Visit our Pain article for more information.

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Treatment

When other factors cause or aggravate this anxiety symptom, addressing the specific factor(s) can reduce and cause this anxiety symptom to subside.

When an active stress response causes this symptom, ending the active stress response will end this symptom.

Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and needn’t be a cause for concern.

When hyperstimulation (chronic stress) causes a sick and tired feeling after eating, eliminating hyperstimulation will end this symptom.

You can eliminate hyperstimulation by:

  • Reducing stress.
  • Containing anxious behavior (since anxiety creates stress).
  • Regular deep relaxation.
  • Avoiding stimulants.
  • Regular light to moderate exercise.
  • Eating a healthy diet of whole and natural foods.
  • Passively accepting your symptoms until they subside.
  • Being patient as your body recovers.

Visit our “60 Natural Ways To Reduce Stress” article for more ways to reduce stress.

Recovery Support members can view chapters 5, 6, 7, 14 and more for more detailed information about recovering from hyperstimulation and anxiety disorder.

As the body recovers from hyperstimulation, it stops sending symptoms, including this one.

Symptoms of chronic stress subside as the body regains its normal, non-hyperstimulated health.

But eliminating hyperstimulation can take much longer than most people think, causing symptoms to linger as long as the body is even slightly hyperstimulated.

Even so, since this is a symptom of chronic stress (hyperstimulation), it's harmless and needn't cause concern.

Since worrying and becoming upset about anxiety symptoms create stress, these behaviors can interfere with recovery.

Passively accepting your symptoms while doing your recovery work will cause their cessation in time. Passive acceptance means not reacting to, resisting, or worrying about your symptoms.

Acceptance, practice, and patience are key to recovery.

Keep in mind that it can take a long time for the body to recover from the effects of hyperstimulation. It's best to faithfully work at your recovery despite the lack of apparent progress.

If you persevere with your recovery work, you will succeed.

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Additional Comments

Hyperstimulation-caused digestive problems can take time to resolve and much longer than most people think. Once the stomach and digestive system become upset, you might need to change your diet or take other recovery actions so that they can recover.

You can read more about hyperstimulation-caused stomach and digestive symptoms here. This link also has short-term suggestions, which some people find helpful in alleviating stomach distress.

Related anxiety symptoms:

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Feeling Sick And Tired After Eating Frequent Questions

Is feeling sick and tired after eating a sign of a serious medical problem?

Generally, no. Feeling sick and tired after eating isn’t a sign of a serious medical problem. It’s a common sign of acute or chronic stress. It will subside when you eliminate your unhealthy stress.

That said, we recommend discussing all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms with your doctor to ensure there isn’t a medical cause since many medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms.

Can it take a long time to get rid of feeling sick and tired after eating?

Yes, when feeling sick and tired after eating is caused by chronic stress (hyperstimulation), it can take a long time to get rid of it since it can take a long time to eliminate hyperstimulation.

However, if you persevere with your recovery strategies, you should eliminate it in time.

Are there any short-term strategies to get rid of feeling sick and tired after eating?

Yes, some people have found relief by eating smaller, more frequent meals, taking an anti-acid, getting sufficient rest, regular deep relaxation, regular light to moderate exercise, and reducing stress.

Is feeling sick and tired after eating a common anxiety symptom?

Yes, feeling sick and tired after eating is a common symptom of anxiety. Approximately 65 percent of anxious people feel sick and tired after eating at some point because of their anxiety.

Prevalence

Approximately 65 percent of anxious people feel sick and tired after eating at some point because of their anxiety.

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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including feeling sick and tired after eating.

References

1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. "Understanding the Stress Response - Harvard Health." Harvard Health, 6 July 2020.

3. Elbers, Jorina, et al. "Wired for Threat: Clinical Features of Nervous System Dysregulation in 80 Children." Pediatric Neurology, Dec 2018.

4. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.