What Causes Nausea?

Nausea refers to the uneasiness you feel in the stomach, usually just before vomiting. It can be felt as profound stomach discomfort or simply as a feeling of wanting to vomit. Nausea is usually felt just before vomiting and there are many causes of nausea, many of which can often be prevented. Nausea and vomiting are not any diseases, but they are usually a symptom of many conditions. So what causes nausea and what can you do about it? Let’s take a look.

What Causes Nausea?

What Causes Nausea?

Nausea can be caused by many reasons. People who are extremely sensitive to motion or to certain medications, foods, or even the effects of some particular medical condition, nausea can be caused by all of these factors. Some of the common causes of nausea are discussed below:

Infection or a Virus

Viruses or bacteria are known to have an almost immediate effect on your stomach, leading to nausea. Many food-borne bacteria are known to cause a condition known as food poisoning and nausea is one of the most common symptoms of the same. There are also many different types of viral infections that can also cause nausea.

Heartburn or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

Heartburn or GERD are conditions that typically cause the contents of your stomach to come back up or reflux back up your esophagus when you eat or sometime after you have had a meal, especially a big meal. This gives rise to a burning sensation that can cause nausea in many people.

Motion Sickness and/or Seasickness

One of the most common reasons for experiencing nausea is if you suffer from motion sickness and/or seasickness. Both these conditions result from bumpy rides on a vehicle. The movement is what causes the messages transmitted to the brain to simply not match up with what your senses are feeling. This causes nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

Certain Medications

It is possible that you are taking certain types of medications that are causing a stomach upset or contributing to your nausea. In particular, cancer treatment like chemotherapy is known to cause nausea. Before taking any new medications, make sure that you carefully read the information leaflet that accompanies the drugs. Reading this information or discussing with your doctor about whatever treatments you are receiving, will help you reduce the occurrence of medication-related nausea and vomiting.


It could be possible that your diet is causing your nausea. Eating certain foods such as high-fat foods or spicy foods, or overeating can lead to a stomach upset, causing nausea. If you frequently experience nausea due to your diet, you should consider eating healthier foods. Additionally, consuming foods that you are allergic to can also give rise to nausea.

Stomach Ulcer

Ulcers or sores in your stomach or even on the lining of your small intestine are known to cause nausea. This happens because whenever you eat something, a stomach ulcer causes a burning sensation and sudden nausea to occur.

Intense Pain

It has been observed that intense pain can also cause nausea. This is especially true for conditions that cause severe pain, such as gallbladder stones, kidney stones, and pancreatitis.

Nausea can also be a symptom of many other conditions, such as:

  • Early stages of pregnancy – it has been observed that nausea is likely to occur in at least 50-90 percent of all pregnancies.
  • Emotional stress, especially intense fear
  • Overeating
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Stomach flu
  • Heart attack
  • A reaction to a strong smell or odor
  • Brain tumor
  • Brain injury or a concussion
  • Some types of cancer
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Appendicitis
  • Bulimia or any other psychological diseases
  • Gastroparesis – a condition that causes slow emptying of the contents of the stomach, usually prevalent in people having diabetes
  • Meningitis
  • Migraine headaches
  • BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo)
  • Ear infection
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Liver cancer or liver failure

The causes of nausea usually differ based on age. For example, in children it is common for them to experience nausea due to a viral infection, mild allergy, motion sickness, coughing, blocked intestines, overeating or overfeeding, and other conditions that cause a child to have a high fever.

Sometimes, it is possible to determine the cause of nausea based on the timing. If you experience nausea shortly after having a meal, then it could be due to food poisoning, gastritis, an ulcer, or even bulimia. Experiencing nausea within one to eight hours of having a meal could also indicate food poisoning. There are some food-borne bacteria, such as salmonella, that, however, take longer to induce symptoms such as nausea.

How to Treat Nausea?

Well, the treatment for nausea depends upon what is causing nausea. If you are experiencing nausea due to motion sickness, then just by changing your seating position to the front seat of the car may relieve your discomfort. There are also some medications that help relieve motion sickness, such as dimenhydrinate (brand name Dramamine).

Applying a scopolamine patch is said to relieve seasickness.

If you take medications to treat the underlying cause of nausea, you will also experience relief from the discomfort. For example, taking stomach acid reduces for treating GERD or taking a pain killer for an intense headache will help your nausea.

It is important that you keep yourself hydrated to help minimize the occurrence of dehydration after your nausea settles. Eating bananas, rice, toast, and applesauce will also keep your stomach more settled if you are experiencing nausea.


Avoiding the known triggers for nausea will help you prevent the onset of nausea in the first place. You can try by avoiding the following:

  • Sea voyages
  • Heat and humidity
  • Strong smells and odors such as cooking smells or certain perfumes
  • Flickering lights that can be a potential trigger for a migraine headache
  • If you suffer from motion sickness, then try taking an anti-nausea medication before a journey.
  • Making healthy changes to your eating habits, such as eating smaller and more frequent meals can also help relieve and reduce nausea symptoms. Also, avoid doing any intense physical activity right after taking a meal.

If all else fails, you should consult your doctor to find out the underlying cause of your nausea.

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 16, 2019

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