There are a lot of reasons why you feel like throwing up. Use this guide to rule out common causes of nausea.
·October 20th, 2021
Nausea may be caused by many health conditions, including gastroenteritis, food poisoning, pregnancy, neurological disorders, and digestive disorders.
It also may result from alcohol you drink or medications you take.
See a healthcare provider if nausea is severe, persistent, or lasts more the 24 hours. If not, you may be able to treat your nausea with dietary modification, rest, or other complementary therapies.
Nausea isn’t the most enjoyable sensation – after all, feeling like you’re about to vomit is never a good time. It’s understandable, then, that most people who feel this way want to find relief from nausea as fast as possible.
Nausea is remarkably common, showing up often in primary care settings and emergency rooms. But that doesn’t mean it’s always so straightforward. Sometimes, what we assume is nausea caused by food poisoning can turn out to be a symptom of something else, which is why it’s important to check in with a primary healthcare provider if nausea is severe, accompanied by vomiting, and/or lasts more than 24 hours.
A qualified medical professional is best equipped to assess the reason why you feel nauseous – and how to stop it, fast.
Why do I feel nauseous?
Nausea, in and of itself, is not a disorder. Instead, it’s a symptom. To make nausea stop, it’s important to identify the underlying cause of a case of queasiness. Some of the most common causes of nausea may include (but are not limited to):
This condition, most commonly referred to as a “stomach bug” is a catch-all term for a viral infection spread by coming into contact with the bodily fluids of another infected person.
Approximately 179 million episodes of acute gastroenteritis occur each year in the United States, most of which can be treated at home. However, severe cases result in roughly 600,000 hospitalizations each year.
Another common cause of nausea is the introduction of bacteria or pathogens such as Salmonella spp. (11% of cases), Clostridium perfringens (10%), and Campylobacter spp. (9%). Because these bacteria are usually transmitted through contaminated food, these cases are referred to as “food poisoning.”
Small amounts of these bacteria can cause a substantial reaction; nausea is your body’s way of saying there’s something in there that it wants to expel.
Many prescription, over-the-counter and herbal medicines list nausea as a side effect, and this is in line with what patients report experiencing. Nausea seems to be more common when more than one medication is taken at the same time, but individual drugs – especially those used for chemotherapy, hormonal birth control, or as antidepressants – can be the sole culprit.
Both alcohol intoxication and alcohol withdrawal can cause nausea. So can a hangover the day after drinking. That’s because alcohol irritates the esophagus, stomach, and intestines, causing inflammation (and therefore nausea).
Alcohol also increases the production of gastric (stomach) acid, which can further this inflammation. For some people, even one drink can cause an upset stomach – either immediate or delayed – and the more a person drinks, the more likely nausea will manifest.
As many as 80 percent of pregnancies involve some degree of nausea. This is commonly referred to as “morning sickness,” though it can and does occur at any time of the day. Pregnancy-related nausea most commonly starts around week 6 of pregnancy and goes away by week 14, though as many as 10 percent of pregnant people report experiencing nausea the entire duration of their pregnancy.
Inside the ear is what is known as the vestibular system, which regulates balance and eye movements. Some disorders of the vestibular system (such as infections, abnormal growths, or trauma to the ear, brain, and/or spine) can cause dizziness, which in turn has been found to cause nausea.
Nausea occurs in as many as 90 percent of people who experience migraines. Though many people think of migraines as a severe headache, it is possible to have a migraine without experiencing pain. A migraine might also trigger light or sound sensitivity, which can increase nausea.
Because nausea occurs with so many different conditions, it’s important to check in with a qualified medical professional, especially if the nausea is:
Lasting more than 24 hours
Or the symptoms of nausea are accompanied by:
A fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or more
These symptoms can indicate a severe problem that should be addressed immediately.
A health professional can run several tests to identify the underlying cause of nausea using several criteria.
For the most accurate diagnosis, it is important to be honest about your experience, including other symptoms that you might be experiencing, activities (such as eating or alcohol use) that may have triggered your nausea, or medications you are taking.
If you are a sexually active woman of childbearing age, tell your doctor, as there may be a possibility that you could be pregnant. Even if you are using a form of birth control, a simple urine test may be needed to rule out pregnancy.
How long does nausea last?
There is no standard answer to the question of how long nausea lasts, because it truly depends on the cause. In cases of food poisoning or viral illness, for example, nausea usually lasts just a day or two, but occasionally can persist as long as 10 days.
A chronic condition will usually have chronic nausea as well. That’s why it’s important to get a definitive diagnosis with a physical exam from a qualified medical professional.
How to treat nausea
Nausea does not always require intensive treatment. Many simple cases can be resolved with over-the-counter medication, rest, complementary therapies, and/or certain foods to settle the stomach. These foods may include clear liquids (such as water, broth, soda, or fruit juice) or simple, bland foods such as crackers, bread, rice, or bananas.
Some natural and homeopathic remedies, such as ipecac or ginger tea, or forms of aromatherapy, may also be helpful. A few studies have identified acupressure as a potential aid in the treatment of nausea as well.
If nausea persists, prescription medications may be an option for helping to quell symptoms while treating the underlying cause. A consult with a Registered Dietitian or nutritionist may also be helpful in identifying foods that trigger or worsen nausea.
Though nausea can be severe at times, the good news is that for many people, it is temporary and brief. However, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis, so that treatment (and relief) can come quickly.
If you think you may be experiencing nausea, the right provider can help you build a personalized plan to support your wellbeing. Connect with a credentialed expert who serves your area here.