The worst feeling ever is nausea, which is no laughing matter. You’ve probably had that wave of abrupt queasy feeling and wanted it to go as soon as possible. When the cause of your nausea isn’t immediately apparent, such as when your period is on schedule and you haven’t eaten anything particularly unhealthy, it can be very perplexing.
Let’s be clear: When you say you feel nauseous, you usually mean that you want to throw up or that your stomach feels queasy. According to Camilo Ruiz, DO, an internist and sleep specialist at Sleep and Internal Medicine Specialists, “it usually has to do with the body’s response to a stressor, so people start suffering retching, increased salivation, a feeling of vomiting, and queasiness in the stomach.”
One thing to keep in mind: According to gastroenterologist Thomas Vanderheyden, DO, of Michiana Gastroenterology, nausea is always brought on by an underlying bodily issue. It is a symptom or a sign of a sickness rather than an illness or condition in and of itself. He claims that after the medical issue is under control, the nausea usually also gets better.
You need to be aware of any other symptoms you may be feeling, such as lack of appetite, cramps, diarrhea, pain in the back of the throat, sweating, lightheadedness, and vomiting, in order to determine the precise reason of your nausea. All of these could serve as indicators of the main cause of your nausea.
It’s time to think about whether one of these common problems is the cause of your frequent nausea.
Dr. Caren Behar is the medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health and a clinical professor in the department of medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
Gastroenterologist Thomas Vanderheyden, DO, practices at Michiana Gastroenterology.
Internal medicine physician and sleep expert Camilo Ruiz, DO, practices at Sleep and Internal Medicine Specialists.
1. You take painkillers.
According to Caren Behar, MD, an internist at NYU Langone Health, nausea is a frequent side effect of some medications, but especially over-the-counter painkillers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, sometimes known as NSAIDs (think: aspirin, Motrin, Advil). She says that anti-inflammatories can result in ulcers or gastritis since they directly irritate the stomach lining. You may experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or reflux because it feels like your stomach lining is sunburned.
If your doctor advises differently, always have a snack before taking your medications since food covers your stomach lining. You should also use NSAIDs sparingly. As Dr. Behar advises, “Try to alternate between an anti-inflammatory and Tylenol if you hurt yourself. Tylenol is the only painkiller that doesn’t impact the stomach.”
Talk to your doctor about additional pain relief choices if the nausea becomes intolerable and the stomach irritation is severe.
2. You are anxious.
It’s not entirely clear why, but you could feel queasy and have stomach ache if you’re anxious or stressed—two emotions that frequently go hand in hand. Dr. Vanderheyden says that the enteric nervous system, which is unique to the gastrointestinal tract, communicates with the brain and spinal cord (our central nervous system) directly. Nerves in the gut fire when a patient is agitated or anxious, and the body and brain interpret this as nausea.
Additionally, a surge of hormones is generated when your fight-or-flight reaction activates. According to Harvard Health, these hormones then cause the contractions that make you feel nauseous by sending chemical signals to the nerves in your gut.
There are many stress-reduction techniques to try, but the CDC suggests that eating well, getting enough sleep, drinking mint or ginger tea, meditating, doing yoga, keeping a journal, and abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes are all simple ways to reduce anxiety and ease nausea. Consult your doctor and think about seeing a therapist if you frequently experience stress that makes you queasy. This will help you reduce your overall stress levels.
3. You’re pregnant.
You may be familiar with morning sickness, but one of the early indicators of pregnancy is frequently nausea, which can occur day or night. According to Dr. Behar, 75 percent of pregnant women reportedly experience nausea and vomiting. According to her, it often starts between the first nine weeks of pregnancy. If it starts later, a patient should be assessed by their doctor. Usually, the nausea goes away at 14 weeks, but it sometimes persists longer.
Despite the fact that nausea is frequent and natural during pregnancy as a result of changing hormone levels, always consult your ob-gyn before taking any drugs. Dr. Behar warns against using drugs during pregnancy since they might harm the unborn child.
Instead, experiment with ginger and consuming more vitamin B6 to reduce nausea. Rarely, a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum—severe nausea and frequent vomiting in pregnant women—can occur. Therefore, immediately consult your ob-gyn if you find it difficult to swallow, advises Dr. Behar.
4. You’ve got a headache.
If you frequently get migraines, you are aware that nausea is one of the symptoms that frequently goes along with the excruciating head pain. Vomiting and nausea are two signs of a migraine, according to Dr. Behar, but nausea itself can also be a migraine warning sign. This warning indication, also known as an aura, often begins 30 to 60 minutes before an attack, but it might persist once the migraine begins.
According to Dr. Ruiz, you might also experience weariness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, and light flashes.
You can try using over-the-counter medications like Excedrin, Tylenol, and Advil to lessen symptoms, but Dr. Behar advises that you should also keep hydrated and consume enough of fluids because dehydration can exacerbate nausea. It’s time to discuss prescription drugs or lifestyle modifications with your doctor if your migraines are severe and frequently incapacitating.
5. You’ve been poisoned by food.
According to Dr. Ruiz, food poisoning may be the cause of stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and a fever. The body is responding to stress by purging bacteria, viruses, and parasites that were present in the food you consumed.
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According to Dr. Ruiz, symptoms usually appear a few hours after consuming the infected food and linger for a few hours to several days. You should seek medical attention if the nausea persists for more than a day and you can’t keep any liquids down since you’ll require IV fluids and anti-nausea medicine, he continues.
He continues: “You should also call a doctor if you have bloody vomit or stool, severe abdominal pain, or acute dehydration symptoms including excessive thirst, dry lips, lightheadedness, or exhaustion.”
6. You have gastroparesis.
According to Dr. Vanderheyden, gastroparesis, also known as delayed gastric emptying, is a slowing down or partial paralysis of the stomach muscles that impairs regular digestion. Food stays in your stomach longer as a result. You feel sick because your stomach can’t hold in new food and contracts whenever something new enters your system.
Despite the fact that most occurrences of gastroparesis are spontaneous, Dr. Vanderheyden advises eating smaller, more frequent meals to make it easier on your stomach to pass and digest food. That being said, you must visit your doctor if you have excessive discomfort or severe nausea that is keeping you from eating since you might be given drugs to assist activate the stomach muscles and lessen nausea.
7. Your ear is infected.
You might be surprised to learn that ear infections might be to blame. Dr. Behar notes that since the semicircular canals in the ear are one of the major contributors to our body’s ability to maintain balance, inflammation in the canals may cause nausea and vomiting.
So, says Dr. Behar, if you experience ear pain or pressure along with nausea or dizziness, see your doctor. He or she will probably prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection.
8. You experience vertigo.
Any movement can produce motion sickness, but according to Dr. Behar, travelling by vehicle, boat, or airline is the most common cause. Motion can lead to an imbalance in the semicircular canals of your ear, which is comparable to an ear infection and can cause vertigo, nausea, and motion sickness.
Fortunately, the nausea normally goes away as you get out of the moving car, but Dr. Behar advises taking antihistamines like Dramamine, Zyrtec, and Claritin before a trip if you are prone to motion sickness.
9. A heart attack is happening to you.
According to the Mayo Clinic, women are more likely to encounter other symptoms in addition to chest discomfort when undergoing a heart attack. Go to the emergency department as soon as possible if you experience prolonged chest pressure and nausea.
According to Dr. Behar, symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, palpitations, and lightheadedness can all have cardiac origins. “You always have to rule out the worst,” the saying goes. “It might just be reflux or heartburn.”
According to the CDC, having one increases your risk if you have high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. It’s crucial to treat these diseases with medicine and lifestyle modifications to reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack.
10. A viral or bacterial infection has infected you.
According to Dr. Behar, you might have a stomach bug if your nausea is accompanied by vomiting, congestion, lethargy, fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, or body aches. For a precise diagnosis, you’ll probably need to visit the doctor, however nausea is a common symptom of the stomach flu, viral gastroenteritis, and COVID-19.
Sadly, stomach bugs typically have to run their course on their own, but Dr. Behar believes anti-nausea medicine can be helpful and drinking (with electrolytes!) is essential for a quick recovery. After two days, you should start to feel better, but if your symptoms are worsening or you have bloody diarrhea, you should visit a doctor right once.
So, is there anything you can do to prevent nausea?
Even while motion sickness can occur occasionally (plane turbulence comes to mind), there are several things you can take to prevent it.
Believe it or not, hydration and drinking lots of fluids are the most crucial factors, according to Dr. Behar. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should always aim for about 11.5 cups of fluid each day because feeling queasy is a common symptom of dehydration.
Do your best to avoid them whenever you can if you are aware of particular triggers that make you queasy, such as particular tastes, smells, or temperatures, advises Dr. Ruiz.
When should you see a doctor?
When your nausea interferes with your ability to carry out your everyday tasks or leaves you unable to carry out your duties at home or at work, it’s time to consult a doctor. Some common reasons of nausea may go away on their own or with OTC drugs and rest.
Dr. Vanderheyden advises patients to visit their primary care physician if they are not feeling well or if symptoms have persisted for longer than four weeks.
And you should visit the emergency department right away if you are experiencing severe pain, frequent vomiting, bloody stools, tightness in your chest, impaired vision, confusion, or any other alarming symptoms.