What is nausea? When people feel nauseated, it means they feel as if they’re about to vomit. Along with the urge to throw up, they also might have other symptoms including an excessive amount of saliva in their mouth, flushing and breaking out in a sweat. Some people even feel like their heart is racing a million miles a minute. Vomiting, on the other hand, is how the body empties the stomach of all contents. The abdominal muscles that control the stomach contract repeatedly, forcing whatever is in the stomach to go out through the mouth. While that experience is not such a pleasant one, it helps prevent the body from absorbing toxins that are present in the food canal. In this way, the act of vomiting provides a certain level of protection to the body. While most instances of nausea cease after a few hours or even a day, other types of chronic nausea, where a person feels nauseous all the time, require a visit to the doctor.
What Causes Nausea?
There are many situations that can cause a person to feel nauseous, and the type of nausea relief depends on the specific cause. Here is a typical list of very general causes of acute nausea, meaning a bout of nausea that a person is currently experiencing as opposed to nausea that has lasted a long time:
- Fear, stress, anxiety
- Eating disorders, such as overeating
- Too much alcohol
- Food poisoning
- Intolerance or allergic reaction to food
- Early pregnancy
- Migraine headache
- Medicines or medical treatments
- Stomach “bug,” or gastroenteritis
Other causes of nausea can include more serious situations where the stomach muscles are not functioning properly. These are more likely to produce chronic bouts of nausea that extend over the period of weeks, months or even years.
For each type of nausea, there are a variety of ways to relieve the uncomfortable feeling. The form of relief can differ from person to person depending on the past medical history and age. Children, for instance, would not get the same treatment as an adult or more elderly people. In general, remedies include:
- Avoiding caffeine found in cola, coffee and tea
- Drinking fluids to settle the stomach, such as chamomile or mint tea or ginger ale
- Eating frequent but small meals
- Sticking to bland foods such as bread, rice, crackers bananas and chicken soup
- Staying away from fried or spicy foods
According to the list of causes above, here are a few of the possibilities for relief.
Fear, Stress and Anxiety
Nausea caused by fear is usually short-term due to a temporary situation. The best solution is to relax and let the body calm down. Anxiety and stress, however, can represent a chronic situation that deserves careful evaluation. It is important to find the cause of stress, and possibly get professional help. While working on the cause of stress or anxiety, a physician can prescribe medication to relieve the symptoms.
Some cases of nausea can be the result of eating too much. Packing a large quantity of food into the stomach over a short period of time makes it difficult for the digestive system to process it properly. Rather than eating too much, others who are recovering from surgery or have a weakened digestive system can also experience the same symptoms. Some of the natural ways of relieving nausea after eating too much is to eat some starchy food (without grease) to normalize the stomach’s contractions. Peppermint is known to relieve nausea as well as aromatherapy using citrus essential oils, such as mandarin and lemon, or lavender.
People suffering from nausea due to a hangover are better off learning to limit their drinking. If that fails, they can try to cleanse the stomach by drinking a solution of soda water. It can be mixed using one tablespoon of soda for each litre of room temperature water. Drinking one or two litres of soda water, it may cause the person to vomit, thereby relieving nausea.
When spoiled food that contains bacteria is eaten, it can cause symptoms of food poisoning. Some of the bacteria are Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella, Listeria and Campylobacter. The symptoms, including abdominal cramping and pain, fever nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, can be very serious and lead to severe dehydration. Staying hydrated is the first rule, but that can be difficult for someone throwing up and with diarrhoea. Beginning with small doses, fluids that contain electrolytes should be administered. Fluids can be increased as the person begins to hydrate. Foods and drinks to avoid while suffering from food poisoning include all dairy products, fatty or greasy foods, alcohol and caffeine. If these simple remedies don’t relieve the symptoms, a doctor should be consulted. This is especially true for youngsters, who can become dehydrated more quickly than adults.
Food Allergies or Food Intolerance
Eating food that doesn’t sit well with a person can indicate some sort of food allergy or intolerance. One of the symptoms of this can be nausea. The best thing to do here is to isolate the primary cause of the symptoms and avoid that in the future. If changing the diet or types of food doesn’t help, a physician can perform tests that will identify the cause and suggest a form of relief.
Early Weeks of Pregnancy
As exciting as those early weeks and months of pregnancy can be, they can also cause morning sickness or extreme bouts of nausea. Unfortunately, those symptoms are not isolated to the morning hours but seem to be more prevalent upon waking up and getting out of bed. Nausea in pregnant women can occur any time of the night and can even last all day. It typically begins in the second month of pregnancy and twitters out by the end of the first trimester. While the exact cause for the nausea is not known, it is possible that it is related to the hormone estrogen. As the woman’s body goes through many hormonal changes in those early weeks, the levels can be the cause of nausea. Low levels of vitamin B6 can also result in nausea. While nothing will prevent nausea, there are a few things a woman can do to help lessen it. She should avoid smells and foods that trigger her symptoms and drink as much as possible (cold beverages in particular) between meals. Nausea causes her to not want to eat, but she should eat small portions of bland food divided constantly throughout the day so that there is always something in her stomach.
Migraines are intense and painful headaches that are accompanied by a pulsing or throbbing sensation in one specific area of the head. They can be caused by increased pressure within the skull that affects the cerebrospinal fluid. Those who suffer from migraines are extremely sensitive to light and sound and feel nauseous. Vomiting and diarrhoea can also be experienced with migraines. Nausea cures that will calm the symptoms include inhaling some fresh air, either by going outside or, if it’s too bright, opening windows. Clothes that are loose-fitting often help as well. While it’s important to drink and stay hydrated, too much water at one time can increase nausea. A doctor can prescribe medications to reduce feeling nauseated.
Medicines or Medical Treatments
Someone taking particular medicines or receiving medical treatments might wonder, “Why do I feel nauseous?” That is particularly true with pain medications from the opioid family, such as oxycodone, morphine, codeine and hydrocodone. Those drugs are known to cause people to become nauseated and vomit. Other over-the-counter drugs can have the same effect. Medicines that have iron or potassium as an ingredient, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, can irritate the stomach. They can also slow down movement in the intestines which might cause bloating. This is true even for a simple aspirin. Feeling nauseous after taking these medications is not symptomatic of an allergy, but is the body’s natural reaction to the drug. It usually helps to take these medications with a small amount of food. Taking a spoon or two of an antacid product along with the drug can also reduce symptoms of nausea. While the relief may not be felt immediately, the symptoms usually pass within a week.
The stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, is an infection in the intestines that usually causes abdominal pain and cramping, runny diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting. The sickness usually goes away by itself, but it’s important to avoid dehydration. However, for the elderly, infants, or people who have immune systems that are suppressed, it can be very serious. No matter how nauseous a person feels, it’s vital that they drink fluids to replace those lost through diarrhoea and vomiting. It’s best to avoid eating foods that are loaded with fats or sugars because they can increase the symptoms. If the symptoms do not disappear, a visit to the doctor to assess dehydration may be in order.
Additional Causes of Nausea
There are many reasons for nausea, and many of them do require medical intervention. For instance, inflammation of organs can cause nausea and vomiting. The gall bladder can have gallstones, which cause severe pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen that may be constant for several days. With pancreatitis, there is pain in the upper abdomen. If appendicitis is setting in, it can also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Diabetics are particularly at risk for these types of complications.
With a condition called gastroparesis, the stomach muscles are unable to properly function due to nerve damage. The stomach doesn’t empty properly, so illnesses such as gastro-oesophagal reflux disease (also known as GERD), dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome or peptic ulcer disease can cause nausea and vomiting. The only relief in these instances is by taking anti-emetic medications such as lorazepam, diphenhydramine or prochlorperazine.
Cancer is often treated with chemotherapy, which can cause the patient to become nauseated. This often depends on the types of drugs and chemicals being used as well as the patient’s age, gender, anxiety levels and if the person usually vomits during an illness. Besides chemotherapy, malignant tumours in the brain or cancer of the liver can also cause nausea and vomiting as the disease progresses. With brain tumours, the patient might experience severe nausea and/or vomiting in the mornings. Other symptoms include the gradual loss of sensation or movement in a leg or an arm, loss of balance, disorientation, confusion and memory loss. Preventative medicines can help control nausea and vomiting.
When to Seek Professional Help
While only a few of the causes of nausea are listed here, there are many, many more. Illnesses such as vertigo or motion sickness from riding in a car, flying in an aeroplane or seasickness on a boat can be equally symptomatic. With symptoms of nausea that persist, a physician can run tests that will help pinpoint the cause. In general, if nausea continues for more than two or three days, a doctor should be contacted. Earlier professional treatment should be sought in cases of:
- Recent injury to the head
- Headache that is severe
- Sharp abdominal pain
- Blood in the vomit
- Extreme weakness
- Elevated fever of 101 degrees or more
- Eye pain or blurred vision
- Stiff neck and confusion
Whether it’s caused by gastrointestinal problems, metabolic abnormalities, a malfunctioning central nervous system, neurologic problems or an endocrinologic imbalance, the physician can find the proper cure that will help relieve the symptoms. If it is the medication itself that is causing the unpleasant symptoms, the doctor can prescribe different medications that might not cause nausea. Again, the way a person reacts to various medications is very individual and the remedy that works for one person may not work for someone else.