Nausea: Causes, Associated Conditions, and When to See Your Doctor

Nausea is the uncomfortable feeling you get in your stomach that sometimes leads to vomiting. It has many causes and will usually pass, but if the cause is a medical one, you will experience chronic nausea. Read on to learn about this common condition.

8 minute read

Last Updated July 8, 2020

Nausea: Causes, Associated Conditions, and When to See Your Doctor

Nausea is the uncomfortable feeling you get in your stomach. It feels as though you’re going to vomit, but it may not be accompanied by vomiting. It can be a precursor to vomiting, but it can also be a sign of a serious health condition. 

You can also feel nauseous as a result of eating food that has gone bad, drinking too much alcohol, or exercising on a full stomach. Nausea from these causes will pass, but if the cause is a medical condition, you will experience chronic nausea. 

Causes of Nausea

Some people have stomachs that are more sensitive than others, so nausea can be triggered by several causes. In many cases, nausea is a temporary feeling that will pass. The most common causes of temporary nausea include:

♦ Infection: Infections such as the flu or gastroenteritis can cause pain and an upset stomach. Often these conditions come with emotional stress too, which contributes to nausea.

♦ Motion sickness: Riding in cars or on boats can make some people nauseous. This happens as a result of your brain not being in sync with your senses as they move around. You will feel dizzy too, and in some cases may vomit. 

♦ Medications: Drugs and therapies used for the treatment of cancer are known to cause nausea. Certain over-the-counter drugs can cause this too depending on how sensitive you are to the ingredients. To avoid nausea with medications, be sure to read the labels first and discuss taking them with your doctor, especially if you are already taking other medications.

♦ Pain: Mild levels of pain can be tolerated, but more severe pain can cause you to feel nauseated. Serious diseases or pain-related conditions such as pancreatitis and kidney stones are known to cause nausea as a symptom.

♦ Foods: Spicy foods and high-fat foods cause nausea as well as those you may be allergic to or have an intolerance for. 

♦ Pregnancy: Morning sickness is a common symptom for pregnant women as a result of hormonal changes. This is often nausea only, but in some cases, you may vomit too. This typically passes by the second trimester.

Conditions Associated with Nausea

While many cases of nausea are temporary and can be easily treated, continual bouts of nausea may be a sign of a more serious health problem. 

♦ Heartburn/GERD: Heartburn or acid reflux is common with GERD. Stomach acid flows back through the esophagus resulting in a sour taste in the mouth and a burning sensation in the chest. Acid and burning pain can also trigger nausea.

Heart attack: A heart attack will cause chest pain and difficulty breathing, but they can cause nausea too. Nausea alone is not a symptom of a heart attack, but when paired with the other symptoms, this could be the cause. 

♦ Meningitis: Nausea is common with meningitis, and it comes along with a stiff neck and a severe headache. Your headache and nausea will get worse with exposure to light and sounds, and nausea will not go away until the stimuli are removed.

Intestinal blockage: If your bowels become blocked, you cannot have a bowel movement. This can cause bloating, and pain as fecal matter accumulates. Any undigested food that gets halted in the stomach can cause nausea. It will pass once the blockage is removed, and food can travel through the digestive tract. 

Ear problems: Ear infections can cause inflammation and nausea if the bacteria or virus reaches the middle ear. This part of your ear plays a role in balance, and when infected, it can cause vertigo (dizziness and nausea).

Liver cancer: Nausea is one of the first signs of liver damage or liver disease. It is often attributed to something else, and the diagnosis can get missed. The nausea results from the buildup of toxins in your system. A damaged or diseased liver is unable to detoxify your body as efficiently as it should, which allows toxins to accumulate. 

If you experience nausea along with a severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, and difficulty breathing, it is important to get medical attention immediately. If you feel you may have been poisoned seek medical attention right away. 

If nausea persists, and you are unable to keep fluids down, you run the risk of dehydration and should get to your doctor right away. 

Treating Nausea

The treatment for nausea depends on the cause. Motion sickness, for example, will be treated with medications that prevent nausea when you are traveling. You can take medications for nausea caused by GERD and indigestion too. 

Staying hydrated will minimize nausea so long as you can keep the water down. Frequent sips of clear liquids or sports drinks are best. Once it is time to reintroduce foods, start with the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast), which is gentle on the stomach.

There are also several natural treatment options you can try to reduce your nausea. Since medications can sometimes cause nausea, trying these natural options can relieve nausea associated with your condition.

Natural Treatment for Nausea


There are also several natural treatment options you can try to reduce your nausea. Since medications can sometimes cause nausea, trying these natural options can relieve nausea associated with your condition.

Eat ginger or drink ginger tea
♦ Peppermint aromatherapy
♦ Control your breathing because slower breaths reduce nausea
♦ Acupuncture
♦ Vitamin B6 supplement
♦ Avoid large meals
♦ Eat more protein in place of fats and carbohydrates
♦ Avoid strong smells
♦ Exercise, specifically low-intensity exercise like yoga

There are also additional natural ingredients to try for nausea related to a heart condition. A heart attack is commonly known to cause nausea among women, and the ingredients below are natural ways to prevent heart attack. By promoting heart health, the risk of a heart condition is reduced.

Niacin: An essential vitamin that reduces cholesterol and blood pressure.
Chromium: A heart-healthy mineral that reduces cholesterol and supports weight loss. Obesity is a common cause of heart disease and GERD, which can both cause nausea.
Red yeast rice: This ingredient reduces cholesterol and blood pressure. It also lowers blood glucose, which can damage blood vessels when uncontrolled. 
Pine bark extract: An antioxidant plant compound that lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
Lion’s mane: A mushroom with healing properties that reduces inflammation.
Capsicum extract: A fruit extract that promotes healthy circulation by stimulating blood vessel dilation.

When to See Your Doctor

Since many cases of nausea are the result of medication side effects, eating something bad, or an infection, they will pass without too much damage or disruption caused. 

With chronic nausea being linked to more serious health conditions, it is important to see your doctor if the nausea is recurrent and lasts longer than a few days. If other symptoms are also present, and there is no clear cause, have your doctor run tests to identify the underlying cause. With treatment, nausea will be more manageable.

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