Nausea: What Causes It and What You Can Do

Whatever you want to name it. Feeling “sick to your stomach,” “under the weather,” or as if you’re about to “spout” (any fans in the house?). The truth is that they’re all synonyms for the same dreadful sensation: nausea.

Being nauseated for whatever cause is one of the worst emotions you can have, and while vomiting might ease your gut discomfort or wooziness (at least momentarily), it doesn’t always indicate your underlying sickness is gone.

Whether you become queasy every time you sit in the passenger seat of a car or only when you take specific drugs, learning how to comfort yourself and when to call for help is crucial.

Nausea is a very common symptom of a variety of health problems, and while it’s not always caused by a serious condition, it’s still worth seeking treatment if you’re feeling sick.

Nausea Meaning

  1. (pl. -nias) a feeling of extreme sickness and discomfort, with or without vomiting, usually due to some form of food poisoning or other illness: she was suffering from nausea after the meal.
  2. the feeling of being sick to one’s stomach; queasiness; queasiness: I feel nauseous just thinking about it. nausea n.-v. (nausea-v.)

What Causes Nausea?

While nausea can be the result of a wide array of illnesses and medical conditions, there are some common triggers:

Heartburn: If you have heartburn or acid reflux (the burning sensation you feel in your esophagus), nausea is likely to follow. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid that’s been churning for hours or days tries to escape into the esophagus.

The body responds by producing bile to help neutralize it so the acidic stomach contents can move back down and out of the esophagus. This process is triggered by eating certain foods, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and stress.

If you’re experiencing heartburn but also feel nauseated or sick to your stomach, this could be because the two symptoms are related. When you eat certain foods (breads, dairy products), drink alcohol (beer or wine), smoke cigarettes (don’t!), or are under stress, your body releases more stomach acid than usual and your esophagus becomes irritated.

This irritation causes heartburn and leads to nausea as well — which makes sense since both symptoms stem from an excess of stomach acid in your digestive tract! Once you’ve eliminated these triggers from your diet and lifestyle habits, then any lingering discomfort should subside.

If you have , nausea might be a side effect of the illness itself rather than a symptom of its cause; however, if it’s due to food poisoning caused by bacteria such as , then it will likely keep recurring until you seek medical treatment for the condition itself. However, if it’s caused by a virus such as , then it will end once the virus is cleared from your system.

Medication: If you take medication for any reason, such as for high blood pressure or diabetes , and your doctor has advised against eating certain foods (such as citrus fruits), drinking alcohol (such as beer) or smoking cigarettes (such as cigarettes), then you may experience nausea when you do these things.

If you take medication for any reason, such as for high blood pressure or , and your doctor has advised against eating certain foods (such as citrus fruits), drinking alcohol (such as beer) or smoking cigarettes (such as cigarettes), then you may experience nausea when you do these things.

Hormone fluctuations: As we age, our hormones can fluctuate in various ways that can lead to nausea and vomiting . For example, estrogen levels drop during menopause . This can result in vomiting and other symptoms of menopause .

In addition, estrogen levels rise during pregnancy and breastfeeding . This can also cause symptoms of pregnancy and breastfeeding — though not to the same extent — including vomiting .

Other common causes of nausea and vomiting include medications that affect hormones such as birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).

If you’ve had , you may experience nausea after the treatment. This is because some radiation treatments involve exposing your digestive tract directly to the radiation.

You may feel nauseated because the treatment has disrupted your normal digestive processes. Surgery: If you have had surgery on a certain part of your body, it’s possible that anesthesia may cause nausea or vomiting due to its effect on your stomach’s ability to contract.

If you have had surgery on a certain part of your body, it’s possible that anesthesia may cause nausea or vomiting due to its effect on your stomach’s ability to contract. Stomach problems: If you have any stomach problems, they can affect your ability to tolerate food and drink.

This is sometimes called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you have GERD, vomiting is a common symptom of nausea caused by the condition. In addition, it can be caused by other conditions such as a tumor or infection in the lower part of your digestive tract.

If you have any stomach problems, they can affect your ability to tolerate food and drink. This is sometimes called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you have GERD, vomiting is a common symptom of nausea caused by the condition.

In addition, it can be caused by other conditions such as a tumor or infection in the lower part of your digestive tract. Surgery: Sometimes surgery itself can cause nausea and vomiting (post-surgical nausea and vomiting ).

For example, if you’ve had surgery to remove some of the lining of your esophagus (such as for esophageal cancer ), then after the operation it’s possible that fluid builds up in this area causing nausea and vomiting.

The same applies if you’ve had surgery to remove some part of your lower digestive tract — such as with an ileostomy or colostomy — because this can cause nausea and vomiting due to the loss of food and fluid that you normally get from there.

Sometimes surgery itself can cause nausea and vomiting ( ). For example, if you’ve had surgery to remove some of the lining of your esophagus (such as ), then after the operation it’s possible that fluid builds up in this area causing .

The same applies if you’ve had surgery to remove some part of your lower digestive tract — such as with an ileostomy or colostomy — because this can cause nausea and vomiting due to the loss of food and fluid that you normally get from there.

Stomach problems: Sometimes a stomach problem may be a symptom of another condition, such as pancreatitis. In this case, it’s possible that medication used to treat these conditions may trigger nausea or vomiting.

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Certain medications can make you nauseated or vomit . These include , certain types of , some , , , and many other . If you’re taking one of these medications, check with your doctor about how much caffeine or alcohol should be added to your diet while on them.

This will help reduce any negative effects on eating at least one full meal per day. Anemia: Anemia can cause nausea and vomiting — especially if you’re experiencing an iron deficiency, which is common among pregnant women.

Anemia can cause nausea and vomiting — especially if you’re experiencing an iron deficiency, which is common among pregnant women.

Morning sickness: Morning sickness may be a sign of pregnancy, but it can also be caused by other health problems such as an infection in the digestive tract (gastroenteritis ), a pancreatic problem (pancreatitis), or eclampsia (a rare but dangerous condition that’s associated with high blood pressure).

If morning sickness continues for more than two weeks after giving birth, talk to your doctor about whether you have a hormone imbalance that’s causing it.

Nausea Complications

Nausea and vomiting can be dangerous if you’re dehydrated. If you’re vomiting, drink a full glass of water every 15 minutes.

If you’re nauseated, get up and move around as often as possible to reduce your chances of falling down or injuring yourself.

If you have nausea and vomiting that doesn’t seem to be associated with any other symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the cause.

This is especially important if the nausea and vomiting are severe or persistent. Seek medical attention right away if:

You’re pregnant and have severe or persistent nausea and vomiting, or if you’ve been vomiting for more than a few hours. You have severe abdominal pain (with or without nausea) or diarrhea.

You have severe abdominal pain (with or without nausea) or diarrhea. You have blood in your vomit .

You have blood in your vomit . You’ve recently had surgery on your stomach. This can cause weakness of the digestive system that can lead to nausea and vomiting due to food getting backed up into the stomach, which can cause serious problems.

When to seek medical help

Seek medical attention right away if you have any of the symptoms listed above.

  • You have severe abdominal pain (with or without nausea) or diarrhea.
  • You have severe abdominal pain (with or without nausea) or diarrhea.
  • You’ve just had surgery on your stomach.
  • You’re having nausea and vomiting that doesn’t seem to be associated with any other symptom.

This can happen after a gastric bypass , which changes the size of the stomach, or after a laparoscopic gastric banding procedure .

In some cases, it can also happen after an endoscopy (a procedure in which a tube is inserted through the mouth into the esophagus), where an instrument called a gastroscope is used to diagnose conditions such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease ).

It can also happen after bariatric surgery , which involves using either gastric bypass or banding to reduce food intake and weight gain that may lead to obesity .

This can happen after a , which changes the size of the stomach, or after a laparoscopic gastric banding procedure .

In some cases, it can also happen after an endoscopy (a procedure in which a tube is inserted through the mouth into the esophagus), where an instrument called a gastroscope is used to diagnose conditions such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease ).

It can also happen after . You’re having nausea and vomiting that doesn’t seem to be associated with any other symptoms.

You’re having nausea and vomiting that doesn’t seem to be associated with any other symptoms. You have severe abdominal pain (with or without nausea) or diarrhea.

Nausea Treatments

If you have nausea and vomiting that’s not associated with any other symptoms, you may be able to treat the problem at home.

You can help relieve some of your symptoms by eating small, frequent meals. Eat smaller portions of high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables, which are easily digested.

Eating smaller meals is also helpful if you’re having pain in your abdomen . Eating smaller amounts of food means less time for the food to move through the digestive system. This will help relieve pain from stomach upsets.

Some people find that drinking a large glass of water or sports drink before each meal helps with nausea and vomiting . You can also try taking an antacid (such as calcium carbonate) if your nausea is caused by heartburn or indigestion.

You can buy antacids over-the-counter without a prescription at pharmacies and grocery stores. Antacids contain sodium bicarbonate , which is used to treat acid reflux in the stomach. Some people find that taking an antacid after each meal helps them feel better because it neutralizes stomach acids that may be irritating their intestines (gastrointestinal tract).

However, there are no studies showing that taking antacids regularly is helpful for treating nausea or vomiting . Talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications if you have heartburn or indigestion, especially if you don’t have heartburn or indigestion.

Preventing Nausea

If you have any of the symptoms above, you can take steps to prevent nausea and vomiting.

You can take an antacid before each meal but not after. This will help keep acid in your stomach so that it doesn’t go into your intestines.

Take the antacid at least 30 minutes before eating, and at least 2 hours after eating a meal if this is a problem for you. If your nausea and vomiting are caused by heartburn or indigestion, talk to your doctor before taking an antacid.

You can also avoid foods that cause nausea and vomiting by avoiding:

Raw or undercooked meat : You can’t see bacteria or parasites in undercooked meat, but they’re still there. These bacteria and parasites could make you sick with food poisoning .

Avoid undercooked ground beef (beef burgers), raw seafood (such as oysters), raw shellfish (such as scallops), uncooked eggs, unpasteurized milk from cows that aren’t fed antibiotics to prevent disease, unpasteurized juices from fruits or vegetables (such as apple juice), unpasteurized milk from goats or sheep , and unwashed fruits or vegetables . When in doubt about whether something is safe to eat, don’t eat it.

Conclusion

Nausea and vomiting are common in pregnancy. They are caused by changes in the body that may be related to pregnancy or may be unrelated to it. Nausea and vomiting can make you feel uncomfortable, but they aren’t dangerous.

The best way to treat nausea and vomiting is with over-the-counter medications (such as antacids) if your nausea and vomiting aren’t caused by heartburn or indigestion. If your nausea and vomiting are caused by heartburn or indigestion, talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.

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