Nausea – More than a Belly Ache

There are several explanations for the occasional bouts of nausea. Food poisoning, overeating and motion sickness are common reasons for feeling nauseated. But when nausea persists without explanation or reason, it could mean something more.

Nausea can be a symptom of a very large array of disease states ranging from acute appendicitis to gall stones. What helps a physician to hone in on the probable reason for your nausea depends on the presentation. For example, if the nausea comes on suddenly with persistent stomach cramping and is accompanied by fever, bowel changes and anorexia, the nausea is likely to be due to acute appendicitis. While if the presentation were nausea with severe sudden attacks of upper right quadrant or epigastric pain, particularly after ingesting fats, would lean more toward gall bladder insufficiency.

The top five reasons for nausea that I come across in practice for nausea include:

Gastric Ulcers

Ulcers can develop in the lining of the stomach creating symptoms of nausea. Stomach ulcers develop when the lining is chronically irritated and eroded away. Chronic use of medications including NSAID’s, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are the most common offenders.

Preventing stomach upset from medications can be done by ensuring they are taken exactly as directed. Taking certain medications on an empty stomach can irritate the lining and thus creating nausea, therefore, some medications are to be taken with food to help prevent nausea from developing.


Nausea of pregnancy, commonly referred to as morning sickness, affects up to 85% of women. Nausea typically starts by 4-6 weeks gestation, peaks at weeks 8-12 and resolves by the 20th week. While morning sickness is the most common, nausea can hit any time of day or be consistent through the day. Although the exact reason nausea afflicts pregnant women is not known, changes of hormones play a role.

Eating small meals through the day is an easy way to abate morning sickness. This will help to keep blood sugar stable and prevent hypoglycemia, which can trigger nausea. Stick to foods that are easier to digest like smoothies, oatmeal, applesauce and potatoes and avoid greasy fatty foods, spicy foods and highly caffeinated drinks like coffee. Make sure to not wear tight fitting clothing around the midsection, this can restrict proper digestion and perpetuate nausea.

Although nausea in pregnancy is normal, if you start to experience continual vomiting, dry eyes, dry mouth, feeling extremely fatigued and are unable to keep any food down this can be a sign of something more serious and immediate medical attention is needed.


Many of us experience anxiety through our life for one reason or another, which is completely normal. Preparing for an exam, big event like a wedding or going on a job interview can start to create symptoms of anxiety. When this feeling of anxiousness starts to become chronic and affects our daily lives is when it is no longer healthy.

Anxiety can manifest itself in several ways, one being nausea. Chronic anxiety can keep one from eating the proper amount of food as they are perpetually feeling nauseated. This also affects the way we digest our food which means what we do it is not being properly assimilated and absorbed further creating nausea.

Treating the underlying cause of anxiety driven nausea is to find ways to manage the anxiety. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to halt anxiety when it starts to come on. Seeking the advice of a trained counseling professional can assist in learning ways to cope with your anxiety triggers.


Ideally, you want to have at least one formed easy to pass bowel movement a day. While what is normal can vary from person to person, when one becomes constipated it can create abdominal discomfort. Without properly eliminating the bowels, our entire gastrointestinal transit slows down, and as we ingest more food and are not eliminating properly nausea can result.

Diets low in vegetables and fruit, both high in fiber, are usually to blame for constipation. Inadequate fluid intake and lack of exercise can also lead to constipation. Certain medications and overuse of laxatives can also be to blame so it is important to let your physician know what you are taking.

Food intolerance

Sometimes the foods we eat can be the cause for nausea. For example, those who are lactose intolerant, or are sensitive to dairy, know that if they eat diary products they can become nauseated. Foods that trigger nausea can differ from person to person and are best pinpointed with an elimination diet or food intolerance testing.

Elimination diets are just as they sound, you eliminate the common offending foods from the diet and then reintroduce them back one at a time while you monitor for a reaction. If nausea comes back when one particular food is reintroduced into the diet it would be best to avoid. Food intolerance testing is a blood test that can help to determine how your bodies immune system reacts to a particular food. Determining if food intolerance exists through elimination diets or blood work are both ways in which to pinpoint if the foods you commonly eat could be the culprit for chronic nausea.

Nausea can be a symptom of a variety of underlying conditions. It is important you speak with your physician about your particular symptoms.

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