Most people have experienced nausea, that queasy feeling that often comes on suddenly. While nausea is not usually serious, it can be acutely uncomfortable.
“Nausea is an uneasiness of the stomach that is often accompanied by an urge to vomit,” says Erin Lester, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Solana Beach. “Anyone can experience nausea, and the symptoms are straightforward. You feel like you’re going to vomit, although you may not actually do so.”
Pregnancy is one of the most common causes of stomach upset, often morning nausea, although the condition may occur at any time of the day. Often triggered by changing hormones, nausea during pregnancy is not usually a reason for concern, although it may be bothersome.
Other causes of nausea unrelated to pregnancy include:
When you’re stressed or anxious, your gut’s normal rhythm of digestion is disrupted, which can leave you feeling nauseated. Taking deep, calming breaths can help you feel calmer and reduce the nausea. Sipping a cup of ginger tea or chewing on a piece of candied ginger may also help, says Dr. Lester. The spicy root has properties that are thought to ease nausea.
Even mild dehydration can cause stomach upset, so if you feel thirsty, don’t ignore it. Drinking a glass of plain water may be all you need to make your nausea go away. If you have symptoms of severe dehydration, such as fatigue or dizziness, see a doctor right away.
If you haven’t eaten for a few hours, you may have low blood sugar, causing you to feel nauseated and even dizzy. Eating something, particularly carbohydrates, will bring your blood sugar back to normal so you’ll start feeling better.
Many medications, including supplements and over-the-counter medicines, can lead to a queasy stomach. It will usually help if you eat something small before taking your medications.
“The best way to treat nausea without an identifiable cause is to stop anything that might be causing irritation to the stomach lining. Avoid alcohol, spicy foods and smoking,” explains Dr. Lester.
When you do experience the occasional upset stomach, simple home remedies can offer relief. Try these tips:
- Drink clear liquids
- Eat bland foods, such as saltine crackers or plain bread
- Avoid fried, greasy or sweet foods
- Eat slowly
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals
- Do not mix hot and cold foods
- Drink beverages slowly
- Avoid activity after eating
- Avoid brushing your teeth after eating
Try the following (regardless of age) to stop vomiting:
- Drinking gradually larger amounts of clear liquids
- Avoiding solid food until the vomiting episode has passed
- Temporarily discontinuing all oral medications, which can irritate the stomach and make vomiting worse. Before discontinuing prescribed medications, check with your doctor.
If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to your primary care physician.
“Your doctor is there to help you,” says Dr. Lester. “In the majority of situations, nausea can be treated easily at home and does not indicate a more serious underlying condition, but always check with your primary care physician if you have any doubts.”