Roemheld syndrome: an often overlooked cause of anxiety
We speak of Roemheld syndrome when a lot of gas accumulates in the stomach and intestines of people and subsequently symptoms like those of an anxiety disorder are observed. These can be, for example: Hot flashes, shortness of breath, shortness of breath, palpitations, anxiety, dizziness, sleep disturbances or palpitations, also called extrasystoles.
Roemheld syndrome is named after its discoverer, the internist Ludwig von Roemheld. At the beginning of the 20th century, he made an exciting observation: He found out that people who frequently complain of flatulence and belching also have to deal with an above-average number of symptoms that otherwise only occur in anxiety patients. In his search for the causes of this strange phenomenon, he discovered an important and, to this day, often overlooked explanation for why anxiety can seemingly arise out of nowhere for no reason.
What happens in the abdomen in Roemheld syndrome?
Imagine that you have eaten a food that is known to cause flatulence. The excessive accumulation of air in the gastrointestinal tract now causes the diaphragm to be pushed upward, putting pressure on the heart directly or indirectly. In somewhat more sensitive people, this can cause a wide variety of heart complaints. Some complain of pain similar to angina pectoris, others report heart palpitations, and even brief fainting spells are occasionally observed.
What helps against Roemheld syndrome?
It is relatively easy to find out whether you also suffer from Roemheld syndrome. Because in this case, less flatulence and less belching quickly lead to significantly less anxiety. However, this is only true if you have not already been using psychotropic drugs for a long time to combat a supposed anxiety disorder instead of treating Roemheld’s syndrome properly. Because in this case, it could be that your brain has been so unfavorably networked by the wrong treatment that an anxiety disorder has actually developed in the meantime. But don’t worry, even for this case there is now a method with which you can quickly go through life again free of anxiety. You will find more about this below. Otherwise, our tip is: For the sake of your health, forget your good manners and burp and fart to your heart’s content. That way, flatulence won’t have a chance to build up so much internal pressure that your diaphragm presses on your heart. If you can’t bring yourself to do this out of consideration for family members or work colleagues, you can also change your diet instead to ensure less flatulence and thus less anxiety.
A change in diet can stop Roemheld syndrome
Avoid everything that bloats for 14 days as a test. If you are really affected by Roemheld’s syndrome, you should be able to notice a significant reduction in your anxiety symptoms just by changing your diet.
You can find a list of foods that cause flatulence particularly frequently and a second list of foods that hardly cause flatulence a little further down in this blog article. But since the first list is quite long and balanced eating also has a lot to do with quality of life, I still have 4 tips for you, with which you can also extremely reduce flatulence, even if you do not reduce your diet quite so drastically.
These 4 tips help with Roemheld syndrome
Tip 1: Avoid gluten
As a test, first do without ONLY all gluten-containing products for 7 days, i.e.: everything made from the following grains:
Many people suffer from an unrecognized gluten intolerance. This is also due to the fact that the blood tests available for this only detect whether you develop antibodies against gluten. How your body and brain otherwise react to this protein, however, is NOT tested. Fortunately, you can easily test this yourself: Observe for a few days whether and how quickly you become tired after eating and whether your ability to concentrate decreases. How does your performance compare, for example, on days when you eat only vegetables and perhaps a little fish or meat, to days when you also reach for the breadbasket?
For my part, I notice a serious difference here. Although I love fresh bread, I am nowhere near as concentrated and productive after such meals as I am on days when I abstain from foods containing gluten. Incidentally, my digestion is also much more relaxed on such days.
Tip 2: Eat in the right order
Eat individual foods in the right order and separately if possible – and always leave a little break between courses. Take, for example, a juicy piece of honeydew melon wrapped in Parma ham. I personally love this combination, but for many people it is a guarantee of bloating and stomach problems. Why is that?
If you were to eat the melon alone, it would be completely digested after 30 minutes at the latest. But if it is eaten together with ham, the situation is completely different. The latter takes much longer to be digested and thus blocks the rapid digestion of the melon. Due to the longer retention time, the fruit begins to ferment in the stomach and the resulting gases push the diaphragm upwards. This in turn leads to the aforementioned Roemheld syndrome in sensitive people, along with its unpleasant side effects.
Eating in the right order means eating foods with a high water content first! Therefore, do not enjoy fruit as a dessert, but rather as an appetizer. Then give yourself a little break and only then consume the protein and fat-containing foods. You will see that your flatulence will be significantly reduced.
Tip 3: Caraway and ginger as digestive aids
In addition to using cumin as a spice, it is also very helpful if you take a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger before meals – both significantly reduce susceptibility to flatulence. If that’s too spicy for you, you can also help yourself with ginger tea. Fennel tea and a tea blend of anise, fennel and caraway are also known to counteract large gas accumulations.
Tip 4: Ensure regular exercise
Exercise or at least go for a walk regularly. This strengthens the diaphragm muscles and the stronger they are, the harder it is for the gases in the gastrointestinal tract to exert pressure on your heart. Ideally, of course, you should combine all 4 tricks, then you will only have to give up a very few really strong flatulent foods such as beans, leeks or certain sweeteners.
As a reward, you will be tired much less often, and who knows, maybe a little more exercise alone, combined with a new eating pattern, will be enough to rid you of your anxiety attacks.
These are the foods you should avoid with Roemheld syndrome
- Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas.
- Vegetables: onions, leeks, spring onions, white cabbage, red cabbage, sauerkraut, kohlrabi, wild garlic
- Fruits: bananas, pears, apples, kiwi, oranges, plums, cherries, apricots, dried fruits
- Cereal products: Bread and rolls (also whole grain!) cereal flakes, muesli, pastries, whole grain rice.
- Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, fatty cheeses
- Meat: goose, duck, fatty roast pork
- Sausage: salami and all types of sausage with a lot of fat
- Drinks: carbonated drinks, fruit juices, alcohol (exception: red wine in moderation is allowed)
- Sugar and sweeteners: household sugar, fructose, lactose, sorbitol, xylitol.
- Also: nuts, seeds, mushrooms, hot spices, yeast and any form of fast food.
These foods you can eat without problems
- veal, chicken and turkey (without fat and skin)
- boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes (no fries!)
- simple soups and broth
- well-cooked vegetables (e.g.: tomatoes, carrots, spinach)
- low-fat curd cheese
- still water, ginger tea, fennel tea, anise tea, cumin tea.
Roemheld syndrome often misdiagnosed as anxiety disorder
The fact is: Many an anxiety patient would have been cured long ago if the true cause of anxiety and panic had been recognized in time instead of the diagnosis “anxiety disorder”. But even if at first “only” Roemheld’s syndrome was responsible for the hot flashes and the strange feeling in the chest, another problem arises over time. For it is precisely these complaints that not infrequently trigger the fear that one might have suffered a heart attack. And the more often this is repeated, the more the fear actually becomes neuronally anchored in the brain. If shortness of breath, hot flashes or even a feeling of tightness in the chest were initially only symptoms of Roemheld’s syndrome, over time they are additionally triggered psychosomatically. Namely by an anxiety disorder, which is due to the fact that one has worried too often about one’s state of health.
If anxiety has already become a daily companion, it is advisable to do something about it as soon as possible. This is the only way to prevent Roemheld’s syndrome from developing into a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). By the way, this does not necessarily have to be done with the help of a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. It is also possible to actively do something about anxiety disorders with the help of our online video course “THE ANXIETY CURE”. If you’re interested, I’ll link you to the first episode of the 52-part course for free HERE.
Be sure to talk to your doctor if you suspect Roemheld syndrome!
Anyone who does nothing about excessive intestinal gas for too long will keep thinking about whether something else is behind the pain in the stomach and intestines. Every feeling of fullness and even a temporary shortness of breath then almost inevitably causes those affected to question their physical and, if necessary, also their mental state of health. Therefore, talk directly to your doctor about your suspicion that you may not have an anxiety disorder, but only Roemheld syndrome. The sooner you have clarity here, the sooner you can take the necessary steps, in one direction or the other.