Nausea

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at November 20, 2015
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Nausea is an unpleasant but common physical symptom often associated with a qualmish, or sickly, stomach. It creates a feeling of discomfort or unease in the body that is usually centralized to the upper area of the abdomen. It is commonly accompanied by an involuntary need to throw up, though vomiting is not always guaranteed to follow the onset of this symptom. An individual can experience nausea without puking.

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Definition & Facts

Nausea refers to the pesky sensation in the upper abdominal area that typically comes with having a squeamish stomach or right before vomiting. It is a common symptom among those with digestive problems, allergies, and pregnant women, though it can effect anyone.

It can be quite debilitating, especially when the symptom persists. Individuals experiencing nausea may temporarily lose their ability to work, engage in fun activities, or even eat. Nausea is often present before vomiting occurs, but it does not always mean vomiting will happen.

Nausea can occur on its own without the action of expelling one's food, though regurgitating does typically relieve the discomfort of nausea quite rapidly.

Causes

Many factors can lead to this uneasy feeling, some of which can be helped. Common causes of nausea include overeating, infection, and irritation of the stomach lining or the throat.

The disheartening symptom can also be brought on by an obstruction of the bowel due to constipation, dysmotility of the upper gut, and as a result of certain toxins such as opioids, which stimulate receptors in the brain and leads to the uneasy feeling in the belly.

Drinking too much alcohol has also long been known to create the feeling of nausea, as does pregnancy, specifically during the early stages. Other common causes include nausea induced by motion sickness, the presence of migraine headaches, gallstones, and gastroenteritis.

When to see a doctor

Nausea is often a symptom that will disappear just as quickly as it appeared. However, this symptom is not typically recurring or persistent, so anyone experiencing long bouts of nausea should contact their physician right away to rule out more serious health conditions.

A phone consultation with a qualified healthcare professional is also strongly recommended when nausea and/or vomiting occurs after eating rich or possibly spoiled food, after beginning new medications, when it lasts 48 hours or longer, or when it follows extreme dizziness.

If the nausea and/or vomiting occurs in conjunction with any other symptoms, such as jaundice of the skin or the eyes, pain in the chest or lower abdomen, trouble swallowing or urinating, dehydration or unusually extreme thirst, drowsiness and/or confusion, persistent abdominal pain, or an unusual fruity breath odor, a physician should be notified and seen right away.

Treatment & Therapy

Fortunately, nausea can be treated fairly easily from home with a wide range of options, though diagnosis should be based upon the severity, frequency, and longevity of the symptoms, along with other factors which could indicate a more serious health matter.

In the most common and less severe cases, sometimes all it takes to make nausea subside is stepping outside for a bit of fresh air. Consuming crackers, olives, or sucking on a sour lemon are among the most popular and widely known home remedies used today, since these foods assist in relieving the symptom by absorbing the excess acid and fluid in the stomach and bringing about speedy results.

Coke® syrup has also been used to treat nausea, though clear sodas such as Sprite® and Ginger Ale® are more widely thought to relieve symptoms of nausea. Vomiting is perhaps the quickest and most effective way of relieving this uncomfortable manifestation, but because it can lead to severe dehydration, individuals should take extra care to consume plenty of clear liquids (juices, weak teas and some sports drinks) to ensure the fluids and minerals that were lost during vomiting are adequately replaced.

After puking, dry, bland foods such as saltine crackers and toast should be re-introduced gradually to an individual's diet in order to prevent overwhelming the stomach.

If none of these methods help to relieve the nausea, there is also biofeedback (a form of therapy that uses exercise and deep relaxation to control the symptoms of nausea), acupuncture (for nausea related to pregnancy, surgery, and chemotherapy for cancer patients), acupressure (for nausea caused by gastrointestinal issues), nutritional therapy (which includes rehydration, lactaid, and the consumption of bland, liquid foods), herbal treatments (including teas such as chamomile, lemon balm, ginger, and peppermint), homeopathy treatment, aromatherapy (the inhalation of oils like lavender and peppermint), and the use of allopathic treatments, such as the medication Bonine®, which is used to alleviate motion sickness.

Dramamine® is another medication that can be used for nausea prevention, though it only cures nausea brought on by motion sickness. For those who need help with nausea caused by surgery or chemotherapy, there is Zofran® and Kytril®.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

Though nausea can strike anyone at almost any time, there are some simple measures one can take in order to prevent the onset of this unsettling symptom. For basic nausea prevention that can be used on a daily basis, make sure to always purchase and prepare fresh foods only.

Eat meals slowly and avoid consuming large amounts of grease or spicy foods. By not overeating, wearing extremely tight-fitting clothing, or engaging in arduous physical activity immediately following a meal, one can also greatly decrease their chances of feeling nauseous later. There are also other types of nausea prevention, though they should be administered depending on the type of nausea being experienced and its cause.

Common prevention practices used for stress-related nausea include massage, yoga, meditation, and other deep relaxation techniques. Individuals who suffer from motion sickness can take an anti-nausea medication prior to traveling, while other approaches like sitting in the front seat, focusing on the horizon, and traveling once the sun goes down are other well-known methods utilized by people susceptible to nausea caused by motion sickness.

If boating, avoid watching the land as the vessel begins its departure away from the dock, as this practice has contributed to many passengers becoming seasick.

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