What is Nausea?
Most people have experienced the discomfort of nausea at some point in their lives. When it occurs, your stomach feels queasy and you feel like you are going to be sick. Nausea can be caused by viruses, anxiety, migraine, certain medications or early pregnancy (x).
Accompanying Symptoms of Nausea
Nausea can strike for various reasons. It may occur after a certain meal or with a severe headache or a fever. The sensation may vary based on the cause and there are hundreds of them. Some of the more common accompanying characteristics are (x):
- Uneasiness, queasiness and discomfort in the stomach
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling faint
- Dry mouth
- Chest pain
When to Contact a Doctor
If the sensation persists, seek medical attention. Persistent, recurring or unexplained nausea or vomiting may be signs of a serious illness. Contact a doctor if nausea and vomiting occurs after eating spoiled food or taking a new medication or if you experience dizziness, chest or lower abdomen pain or trouble swallowing.
Causes of Nausea
Viruses or Infections
A viral or bacterial infection can impact the stomach, which can cause nausea. Bacteria in food can cause food poisoning, which also causes nausea and sometimes vomiting (x).
Some people have adverse reactions to certain foods, which can cause nausea. People with allergies or sensitivities to fatty or spicy foods may feel nauseous after eating (x).
Even though motion sickness is not life threatening, it can cause mild to severe discomfort, nausea and vomiting. It occurs when the brain receives conflicting messages about motion and the body’s position in space. It is actually a disturbance of the inner ear, the area of the body that affects the sense of balance and equilibrium. People may experience motion sickness in cars, airplanes or buses (x, x).
Certain Medications and Medical Treatments
Nausea is a common side effect of some medications. For example, antibiotics, aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), antidepressants and blood pressure medications may cause patients to feel nauseous (x, x). In addition, some people feel nauseous from the hormones in birth control pills (x). Patients taking medications that make them nauseous should speak to a doctor.
Some medical treatments can cause nausea. For example, chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer are common causes. If it isn’t controlled it can cause loss of appetite, dehydration, malnutrition and broken bones. Also the esophagus may tear and surgical incisions may reopen (x).
Overindulging on food may sometimes cause nausea. Avoid this feeling by eating slowly and chewing food completely.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to nausea and vomiting. It can also have more severe side effects, such as liver damage and cirrhosis, a permanent condition in which scar tissue on the liver replaces healthy tissue and interferes with its function (x).
Migraines are extreme, recurring headaches that can cause intense nausea and vomiting. They may be triggered by hormones, emotions like stress or depression, lack of sleep, low blood sugar, alcohol or medications (x).
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is an acid reflux reaction, causing the stomach contents to rise back into the esophagus and irritate it. This can lead to heartburn, nausea and vomiting in extreme cases (x).
Another major cause is stomach ulcers, which are sores that develop when the stomach lining is destroyed. They cause a burning sensation in the stomach and sometimes pain, leading to nausea and vomiting in extreme cases (x).
Anxiety can manifest as a deeply unsettling pit in the stomach and for some people, it triggers nausea and vomiting (x). Stress triggers the brain to release adrenaline and cortisol, which cause physiological changes, including rapid breathing, higher blood pressure and a faster pulse. It may also make the patient feel lightheaded and nauseous (x, x).
More than 70 to 80 percent of pregnancies cause nausea and vomiting. Typically it is called “morning sickness,” a common ailment in the early stages of pregnancy (x, x). Doctors do not know exactly what causes morning sickness. But it is most likely a result of hormonal changes, specifically estrogen and progesterone. Pregnancy may also increase odor sensitivity, which can also trigger nausea (x).
Sometimes patients cannot control the factor that causes them to feel nauseous. However, there are a variety of natural and medicinal remedies to prevent the feeling and treat it by directly addressing its causes, if possible.
Anti-nausea medications, such as travel sickness tablets or migraine medication, can prevent the feeling. Antiemetic drugs treat severe nausea and they may require a medical evaluation and a prescription (x).
Keeping the body hydrated is essential to prevent and combat nausea. If you feel nauseous, take small sips of water to stay hydrated. It is a good idea to mix electrolytes into the water or juice to replenish what the body has lost after vomiting. Safely hydrating prior to surgery — if permitted by a doctor— may even prevent the patient from feeling nauseous after the procedure. Studies have shown that hydrating before surgery may enhance recovery (x).
An unhealthy or unsuitable diet may be the cause. Avoid food allergies or sensitivities that trigger nausea. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, drink enough water throughout the day and eat slowly to let food digest.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol by binge-drinking causes severe health issues, ranging from nausea and vomiting to liver disease and ultimately death. Avoid heavy alcohol consumption for a healthier lifestyle.
Supplements for Nausea
Supplements may also help treat nausea as a symptom. However, supplements will not treat any underlying medical condition triggers it. Supplements are not a replacement for proper medical treatment. Always consult a doctor before taking supplements and make sure to follow all medical advice.
This root vegetable is available in various forms, including ground ginger, fresh ginger and ginger supplements. Ginger root extract is commonly used for digestive support and may help treat stomachaches and nausea. According to research, it may also help prevent it in pregnancy and chemotherapy (x). Take 1,000 mg of ginger root extract powder once a day.
Peppermint is a fantastic herb that helps prevent nausea, ease stomach pain and aids digestion (x, x). It is available in different forms, including fresh peppermint, extract supplements and peppermint lozenges. As a dietary supplement, take peppermint extract powder in 700 mg doses once or twice a day, preferably with food.
The Bottom Line
Nausea is a feeling of digestive uneasiness. It is often a symptom of many different conditions — motion sickness, migraine pain, inadequate diet, anxiety, heartburn, medications and pregnancy. The feeling also triggers other accompanying symptoms, such as dizziness, headache, fever, diarrhea, dry mouth and often vomiting.
However, sometimes it is not possible to treat the direct cause. But it is possible to relieve the symptom itself. Staying hydrated, making dietary changes or reducing alcohol intake may relieve the feeling. Ginger or peppermint extract supplements may also help reduce digestive discomfort. Although they may help, supplements should not replace medical treatment. Consult a doctor before taking any supplements.