Your stomach and intestines can sometimes send out smoke signals in an attempt to draw your attention to greater health issues, but you may not know how to read the signs. One of these signs is feeling nauseous.
Nausea can best be explained as that queasy feeling in your gut (or sometimes in your throat) that makes you feel like you’re about to throw up.
Now generally, nausea is thought to function as a protective mechanism, warning your brain to avoid potential toxic ingestion. In other cases, nausea could be signaling some deeper, more serious issue.1,2
Or if you’re sensing a bit of stomach wonkiness, you may wonder if your feelings of nausea mean you’re pregnant, stressed, or if you can no longer tolerate spicy foods. And while some of those concerns could be culprits, none of those things may be the case.
So Then, Why Are You Feeling Nauseous?
Do you feel sick most of the time, but are unable to explain it? Nausea may indicate a medical condition.
You may not believe it, but there are an array of reasons your stomach can feel nauseous that have nothing to do with the stomach flu, pregnancy, or any of the other usual suspects.
Read on to explore what might have caused certain bouts of pain, nausea, and symptoms of stomach discomfort. And discover more about how patients can prevent nausea and find treatment options to help when dealing with an upset stomach.
What Are Some of the Most Common Causes of Nausea?
In population studies, more than 50 percent of adults reported at least one episode of nausea within the preceding 12 months, with women reporting more episodes than men. And in a large population-based study of nearly 63,000 individuals, 12.5 percent reported nausea as a ‘minor or major complaint’ in the last 12 months. The prevalence of nausea was three times higher in women than in men.3
So, what is causing all of these instances of severe or even mild nausea and upset stomach? Well, the following is a select list of several common causes of nausea (footnoted above):
- Disorders of the gut
- Functional dyspepsia
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Gastrointestinal tract disorders
- Infectious causes (eg: Stomach flu)
- Eating disorders
And the list goes on.
Luckily, there are ways to test what caused nausea. For instance, testing certain bodily activities, like heart rate, skin blood flow, body temperature, and hormone levels can sometimes help detect what stimulus is being processed by the brain and causing nausea, to begin with.4
So, let’s look more closely at the reasons patients may be feeling nauseous and explore some options for preventing nausea.
Am I Feeling Sick Because of Stress?
First, you might want to ask yourself you’re feeling any stress about your life lately. If you’ve taken on too much at work or are having trouble at home, it could explain a little bit about why you’re feeling sick.
Your emotional life can be quite intense, and that intensity can have a significant effect on your body — especially your stomach.
Nausea: The Dynamic Threshold
And in order to understand the physiology of nausea, and how stress might bring it about, it’s important to look at the idea of the dynamic threshold. Turns out, every person has a threshold for nausea that changes minute by minute.
So, at any given moment, your personal threshold for nausea can change depending on the interaction of any number of inherent factors with more fluctuating psychological states of stress, anticipation, and expectation.5
For example, for some people who feel nauseous, every meal is a torment that causes stress and frustration. In these cases, the stomach will revolt against the idea of food by causing nausea or even a loss of appetite. This can leave you feeling weak, and you may even be dealing with weight loss.6
As you can see, even though stress is an emotion, it is capable of causing a chain reaction in your body.
How Does Stress Affect Your Gastrointestinal Tract?
Well, your gut is coated with tons of nerves that move the food you digest through your gastrointestinal tract.
But if you get stressed out, your brain can mess with the messages it sends to those nerves.
The harder those nerves try to push in an effort to move food through your system, even if the food isn’t there, the more nauseous you’ll end up feeling. And it doesn’t take a ton of stress to make you feel this way.
So, what can you do to counteract some of the stress and help reset your gut in this situation?
For starters — take a deep breath. Work on calming yourself down. Recent studies have shown that controlled breathing could actually be quite effective when it comes to learning to control nausea.
What Foods Should You Avoid When You’re Feeling Nauseous?
Well, if you’re nauseous, there are certain foods you’ll want to avoid. Of course, some of these foods are on the Plant Paradox always-to-be-avoided list. But especially when you’re feeling the severe effects of an upset stomach, you’ll want to stay away from the following:
- Anything breaded, greasy, and fried
- Sweets, candy, or cookies
- Spicy foods
- Foods with pungent odors
- Hard to digest foods (tomatoes, cucumbers, legumes)
- Peanuts and sunflower seeds
What Do I Eat to Prevent Nausea?
Now, believe it or not, being hungry can actually make you feel like throwing up. So, can eating prevent nausea? Perhaps.
If you go about your day without stopping for a meal, your blood sugar levels can plummet. And if the last thing you ate was carb heavy, like a muffin or cereal, the likelihood of low blood sugar gets higher. The result? Nausea and feeling sick.8
So, what can you do to help yourself in this situation?
Eat up! Try and up your sugar intake with some dark chocolate (72% or higher), green mango, or a couple of bites of in-season fruit. A little spike of sugar will help reset your blood sugar levels and curb the common symptom of nausea in this case.
You can also try eating the following foods/drinks to help when you feel nauseous because they’re pretty easy to swallow and digest:
- Unsweetened ginger tea
- Ice chips
- Coconut yogurt
Can Water Help Prevent Feelings of Nausea?
In a word… yes!
Feelings of nausea aren’t always a sign that you need a doctor or medical attention. Sometimes, your body is just trying to show you the signs of dehydration. You may need to drink more water.
Your body needs H2O constantly so your cells can create the proper proteins to help your gut do its job. If your gastrointestinal tract is dehydrated, and can’t do its job correctly, it may leave you feeling nauseous.
An upset stomach and feelings of nausea are common symptoms of dehydration. Other signs of dehydration are as follows:
So, if you happen to notice mild nausea or any severe signs of dehydration, drink up. You may even want to call your doctor or seek medical attention should your symptoms persist.
Does Persistent Mild Nausea Need Medical Attention?
If you’re concerned about your nausea, by all means, see a doctor. Your doctor may tell you you’re fine… but in some cases, nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of more serious issues, so it’s worth checking out.
Again, gastrointestinal infections, lectin poisoning, and food poisoning are just a couple of the usual suspects. Even if you’re experiencing mild nausea, but it’s persisting… you should seek medical attention and talk with your doctor.
Because there are many possible causes of chronic nausea, a comprehensive examination should be executed.10
Why Does Pregnancy Cause Feelings of Nausea?
Now, this is pretty cool, although you might not think so at first, but wait for it… wait for it…
Approximately two-thirds of pregnant women experience nausea or vomiting during the first trimester of pregnancy. These symptoms are commonly known as morning nausea or morning sickness.
Some scientists have hypothesized morning sickness actually protects the embryo by causing pregnant women to physically evacuate, and consequently stay away from foods that contain toxic chemicals, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol.11
So, in the case of nausea during pregnancy, the body could actually be doing everything in its power to protect the embryo. That’s the cool part! Nature at its best.
But let’s dig a little deeper…
About hCG: Pregnancy Hormones and Nausea
Now, human chorionic gonadotropin (otherwise known as hCG) is the pregnancy hormones that happen to be secreted by the placental syncytiotrophoblast cell layer (the layer of membranes responsible for establishing nutrient circulation between the embryo and the mother).
hCG is important for many reasons, but primarily because it is linked to the growth of the fetus and various placental, uterine, and fetal functions.
Oddly, the higher the level of hCG hormones, the more instances of nausea early in many pregnancies.
You see, pregnancy nausea and vomiting are known to affect between 50–90% of pregnant women. In fact, nausea is commonly the earliest symptom of pregnancy.
So, though it may be extremely uncomfortable, and even in the case of severe morning sickness, perhaps pregnant women can accept nausea during pregnancy as a potentially positive sign. It’s a stretch, sure.12
Easing Nausea During Pregnancy
However, if you’re still looking to try and find some level of comfort and relief from symptoms during this time of physical irritation, perhaps you could try a few of these tricks:
- Eat multiple smaller meals during the day, instead of three square meals.
- Stay away from stifling, crowded, or hot locations.
- Drink as much water as you can.
- Stick to cooler foods.13
Does Ginger Really Work to Help Relieve Nausea?
It may seem like a myth just waiting to be busted, but if your mom ever gave you ginger ale for an upset tummy, she wasn’t wrong to try it. You see, though ginger ale typically doesn’t contain enough ginger to effectively settle an upset stomach, ginger itself is often advocated as a helpful treatment for nausea. And according to recent studies, it works.14
Most people think of the ginger you eat as a root, but that’s actually not quite right. Officially, the ginger you eat is the rhizome part of the Zingiber officinale plant. The rhizome is the stem piece the roots grow from.
So, the compounds that make ginger so helpful are called gingerols. These are the bits that give ginger its sweetly spiced flavor and aroma.
Of course, ginger tea can be a great way to get your ginger when you’re struggling with stomach pain or mild nausea symptoms. And it’s quite easy to make.
How to Make Ginger Tea
- Simply peel the rhizome and slice off a few slivers of ginger (raw).
- Let them rest in hot water for about 20-25 minutes.
- Now, ginger does have a bit of bite, but you’ll likely acquire a taste for it quickly if you don’t already love it.
And if tea isn’t your thing, you can actually just shave off a piece of raw ginger and chew on it for a bit. Of course, you don’t want to eat the whole thing, but just chew on it, and let the juices calm your symptoms.
The Answers to Why am I Feeling Nauseous All the Time but not Throwing Up?
When it comes to feeling nauseous all the time but not throwing up, pay close attention to the signs your body is giving you. And if you try a few of the home remedies listed here and they aren’t helping, head to your doctor and seek medical attention.
Remember, your body could be asking you for help.