Off and on nausea


How do I manage it?

Avoid eating…

If you’re vomiting, it goes without saying that it’s best to wait for the vomiting to stop before trying to eat or drink anything.

If you’re nauseous, it’s best to avoid eating these types of foods:

  • Anything fatty, greasy, or fried

  • Foods that are very sweet, such as candy or cookies

  • Spicy foods

  • Foods with strong odors

  • Foods that are hard to digest or have a large amount of fiber (such as raw vegetables, read meat)

  • Foods with a large amount of fiber can slow your stomach down and possibly worsen vomiting

Foods to try eating…

For nausea, sometimes these foods can help because they are easy to digest and swallow:

  • Ice chips

  • Clear liquids (water, apple juice, tea)

  • Soft foods (foods you can cut with just a fork, like boiled potatoes or noodles)

  • Toast, crackers, pretzels

  • Boiled or baked chicken without skin

  • Yogurt

  • Candied ginger (studies show that ginger can reduce nausea for some people)

Sometimes these changes can help with nausea or vomiting:

  • Eat several small meals (no larger than the palm of your hand) throughout the day, instead of 3 larger meals.

  • Avoid eating in places that are stuffy, very warm, or have cooking odors.

  • Sip liquids throughout the day.

  • Eat foods at room temperature or lower, rather than hot foods.

  • For people with motion sickness and migraines, lying down after eating (with the head at least 12 inches above the feet) can help. For most people, though, lying down after a meal can make symptoms worse.


Common names:

  • Dramamine™
  • Antivert™

Antihistamines are most often used for allergies, however some have also been found to reduce nausea caused by motion sickness.

Phosphorylated carbohydrate solution

Phosphorylated carbohydrate solution works by calming the stomach muscle contractions that can cause vomiting

Common names:

  • Emetrol™
  • Nauzene™
  • Nausea Control™

Proton Pump Inhibitors

  • When nausea and vomiting are related to heartburn, proton pump inhibitors can help.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) stop the release of acid in the stomach.
  • Most PPIs are available over the counter, but a few still require a prescription.

Common names:

  • Prevacid™
  • Prilosec™
  • Zegerid™
  • Protonix™
  • Aciphex™
  • Nexium™


Sometimes ginger can help calm nausea:

  • Ginger tea: Buy ginger tea bags or make it from ginger root. To make it, peel ginger root and cut a few slices. Simmer it in hot water for about 30 minutes.
  • Fresh ginger: Peel and chew on a small piece of fresh ginger.
  • Supplements: People can take a 250 mg ginger supplement 3 times a day with a meal.


Do not take phosphorylated carboyhydrate if you are diabetic or have hereditary fructose intolerance.

  • Lansoprazole – Prevacid™
  • Omeprazole – Prilosec™ Zegerid™
  • Pantoprazole – Protonix™
  • Rabeprazole – Aciphex™


PPIs should not be taken by people with serious liver disease or low levels of magnesium.

What is Nausea?

Nausea usually indicates the need to vomit, but it usually goes away by itself.

Nausea is a term that describes the feeling that you might vomit. People with nausea have a queasy feeling that ranges from slightly uncomfortable to agonizing, often accompanied by clammy skin and a grumbling or lurching stomach. Nausea almost always occurs before dry heaving or vomiting, although you can experience prolonged nausea without ever having to vomit.

Nausea is a common symptom that may accompany many diseases and conditions.

Common causes of nausea include drug side effects, food poisoning, motion sickness, pregnancy, and drinking too much alcohol. Sometimes intense or unpleasant smells induce feelings of nausea.

Nausea is often accompanied by symptoms of gastrointestinal distress such as diarrhea. Intense pain, as with a migraine headache or injury, can also cause nausea. People who have a head injury often feel nauseous and dizzy afterward.

Nausea commonly occurs in those with infections ranging from influenza to gastroenteritis. In general, vomiting is more worrisome than nausea alone, although vomiting often brings temporary or permanent relief from an upset stomach.

Nausea Symptoms

Nausea is an unpleasant although usually painless symptom.

The most common symptom that occurs with nausea is vomiting. Symptoms that are also associated with nausea include dizziness, faintness, dry mouth, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and decreased urination.

Serous symptoms that may accompany nausea include chest pain, confusion, lethargy, rapid pulse, breathing difficulty, excessive sweating, and fainting.

Nausea Prevention and Treatment

Treatment for nausea depends on the underlying cause. In most cases, nausea resolves by itself, especially if relieved by throwing up.

Treatment may include plenty of fluids and a clear liquid diet. Severe nausea may require treatment with medications.

If you feel nauseous, you are probably not interested in food or drink, although sometimes light, plain foods such as such as bread and crackers can make you feel better. Avoid any foods that have strong flavors, are very sweet, or are greasy or fried, and these may make nausea worse or even induce vomiting.

Natural remedies for nausea include ginger, ginger and peppermint tea, and bland foods which can help settle your stomach. Some people find relief from nausea by applying gentle pressure with the thumbs to the inside of the wrists.

If you are prone to nausea but otherwise healthy, avoid activity after eating and try to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Avoid riding in the backseat of cars of you are know you get motion sickness. If you feel a wave of nausea coming on, try to take deep, cleansing breaths and don’t think about vomiting, which can make nausea worse.

This Is Why Being Anxious Makes Some People Puke

A few weeks ago, Marissa De La Cerda, a 21-year-old writer from Chicago, was hitting the deadline to turn in an article for her internship when a source she spoke to for the story began calling and texting her, telling her that he didn’t want the story to run anymore.

“I was sitting at a restaurant with my friend and I started to have an anxiety attack because I was nervous about what my supervisor would say and about all these other factors,” she tells me. “I felt the pit of anxiety in my stomach and I threw up. Not a lot, but still—I just couldn’t handle the anxiety.”

De La Cerda, who was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at age 15, says she’s experienced anxiety-induced nausea and vomiting since she was around 12 or 13 years old. “I remember just always feeling very anxious and getting this pit of anxiety in my stomach that would eventually result in me feeling like I had to puke or actually puking,” she says.

It’s a feeling I can personally relate to. During the first week of my freshman year of college, I drank nothing but water and ate only packages of instant miso soup, in an attempt to quell my near-constant nausea and urge to vomit. That feeling of being on the verge of being sick wasn’t because I was “cool” enough to be binge drinking at frat parties—but because the acute anxiety I was going through was enough to make me feel like puking 24/7, especially if I tried to eat anything solid. On one hand, starting college was exciting. On the other, I had just moved clean across the country, and my stomach was churning at the thought of so much change.

Sign up for Coping , Tonic’s weekly newsletter about anxiety, depression, and dealing with it all.

I didn’t end up vomiting that week but, for better or worse, Marissa and I are intrinsically linked by our anxious puke urges. But which comes first, the chicken or the egg? A 2002 study published by the Center for Advancing Health that looked at 62,000 participants in Norway with gastrointestinal issues (like nausea and heartburn) found that those who had major complaints of nausea were more likely to experience anxiety and even depression. In fact, 41 percent of those who suffered from nausea were found to also have an anxiety disorder.

More from Tonic:

Drew, a 33-year-old who lives in Brooklyn (and who asks that his last name not be used in this article since the upcoming mentions of cannabis could compromise his job), tells me that as a kid in Minnesota, he would get really excited and anxious about going to the Mexican restaurant Chi-Chi’s for his birthday—so much so that when he got there, he’d cram down three tacos, and immediately throw it all up. “If you were to name a restaurant operating in the Twin Cities in the mid-to-late ’90s, there’s a fair chance I puked in it,” he says.

Joking that he’s “had a stomach ache since the third grade,” Drew adds that growing up, he never ate breakfast or lunch because he was so anxious at school over being away from home and being in new situations with new people that it killed his appetite. Later on, his stomach pains got so bad that he mistook them for an ulcer and went to his college health clinic, where he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. “Once I started getting treated for that and also started seeing a therapist, the nausea and anxiety abated a bunch, but I still get it when I’m really stressed,” he says.

While nausea and vomiting can be experienced along with hypothyroidism, they aren’t generally thought to be common symptoms, and are usually rarely caused by the condition, says psychotherapist Ken Goodman, who’s a spokesperson with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). This implies, as Drew thought, that the stomach issues are more likely associated with anxiety.

For Drew, Marissa, myself, and the other estimated 40 million Americans who experience anxiety, it’s common to feel nausea, as well as other physical symptoms, Goodman says. “ range from nausea to lightheadedness, a racing heart, pressure in your chest, and labored breathing,” he adds. “ can make you feel like you’re having an out-of-body experience.”

Goodman—who also founded Quiet Mind Solutions, an anxiety-combatting audio guide—says that for some of us, anxiety can manifest as nausea and vomiting because of the connection between the brain and the gut. Whenever you go through emotional distress, it’s reflected somehow, whether you get panic attacks, clam up and shut down, or, like me, feel deeply unsettled in the pit of your stomach. Anxiety can often take shape in the form of gut issues, he says, and heighten any gastrointestinal problems you might already have.

“Any stomach distress, like ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome—that’s all exacerbated by anxiety,” he says. “Anxiety can cause your body to tighten up anywhere between the mouth, the windpipe, and all the way down , so it can feel like you can’t breathe, or you’re getting sick.”

Plus, anxiety causes you to go into fight-or-flight mode, in which your body responds to a perceived threat by ringing the alarm to the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that then releases hormones that prime you to either run from the danger or fight against it. And those hormones, according to Goodman, can send some of us running to the bathroom to retch. “Adrenaline and cortisol are hormones that are released that can cause some people to feel lightheaded, and cause other people to feel nauseous,” Goodman says.

For those people who do have the anxious voms, relief can be found in different ways. Drew says his nausea and throwing up subsided as he treated his anxiety in therapy, but it didn’t go away completely, and he still had to find other ways of treating the symptoms.

“I used to self-medicate with weed and had great success reducing nausea and increasing my appetite, but unfortunately over time, it also started increasing my anxiety,” he says. “Now, there are CBD gummies everywhere, and I’ve found that helps with relaxation and nausea without the added anxiety.”

De La Cerda has had useful experiences in therapy that have helped to curb both her nausea and anxiety altogether. “Therapy has taught me a lot of skills to help combat some of the stronger symptoms and when I feel like I’m going to puke, I just try really hard to remain present and breathe.” Goodman says that if you’re vomiting every time you’re anxious, and it’s interfering with your life (or just getting plain annoying), talking to a doctor or mental health professional might be a good way to start addressing the problem—even if it doesn’t go away completely.

“If you experience nausea with your anxiety, that might be something that will continue,” he says. “But the frequency of the vomiting might decrease, and you may have better control over it.” Either way, it’s normal for your body to experience symptoms of anxiety, whether it’s anxious vomiting, anxious pooping, or nervous, excessive sweating. And as I’ve learned, understanding why your body is reacting the way that it does can go a long way in making those symptoms a little less scary, and in helping you manage them.

“Nausea is very common, and like all symptoms of anxiety, it should never prevent you from doing what you want to do,” Goodman says.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of Tonic delivered to your inbox.

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

What is nausea?

Nausea isn’t an illness, but a symptom, or something you feel. It often comes before you vomit (when you throw up the contents of your stomach through your mouth). You might also experience dry retching (heaving as if you were going to vomit, but with nothing leaving your stomach).

See your doctor if your nausea doesn’t go away, or if you need help managing nausea when you are pregnant.

If you suddenly feel nauseous after you’ve eaten, it could be caused by gastritis (an inflammation of the lining of the stomach), an ulcer or bulimia. If the nausea comes on 1 to 8 hours after you’ve eaten, it could be due to food poisoning. Sometimes food poisoning can take even longer to make you feel nauseous.

Most pregnant women will experience nausea during the first trimester (first 12 weeks) of their pregnancy.

It is common to feel nauseous if you are in intense pain, have a head injury, or you are experiencing a lot of emotional stress.

Nausea can sometimes be a symptom of something more serious, such as cancer or an ulcer. Seek urgent medical attention if you also have symptoms such as chest pain, confusion, a high fever, a stiff neck, blurred vision, severe pain in your stomach or a severe headache.

Nausea and vomiting

Often nausea is accompanied by vomiting. See a doctor if you vomit consistently for more than 2 days (24 hours for children under 2 or 12 hours for infants), or if you vomit a lot for more than 1 month.

If you are vomiting, it’s important to avoid dehydration so try to keep taking sips of water.

What causes nausea?

Children usually get nausea due to a virus, food poisoning, an allergy (especially to milk), motion sickness, eating or coughing too much, a blocked intestine, or when they have a fever.

In adults, nausea is usually caused by:

  • gastroenteritis
  • being pregnant
  • a migraine
  • labyrinthitis
  • motion sickness
  • some medicines
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • a blockage in the bowel
  • treatment for cancer
  • an inflamed gallbladder

Nausea treatments

The best thing to do if you feel nauseous is take small sips of water or herbal tea. Sipping cold or frozen drinks may help to relieve the symptoms. Sometimes nibbling on some ginger or dry cracker biscuits can help you feel better.

Other remedies that work for some people include acupressure and acupuncture or wearing a travel sickness band.

Your doctor may prescribe medicine such as an antihistamine or an antiemetic (medicine to stop you vomiting). If you are pregnant, they will choose a medicine that is safe for your baby.

How to prevent nausea

If you feel nauseous often, it’s best to avoid things that bring on the nausea, such as strong smells or fatty or spicy foods. Try to eat at times when you don’t feel nauseous and avoid having an empty stomach. Eat small meals and then rest with your head elevated while you’re digesting your food.

It’s important to keep drinking fluids since becoming dehydrated will make you feel even more nauseous. Take small sips frequently and try to eat and drink at separate times.

Rest as much as you can, and avoid standing up or getting out of bed too quickly.

You can buy medicine from a chemist to prevent motion sickness. It’s also a good idea to travel facing forward and avoid reading or watching a screen when you’re in a car. If you are on a ship at sea, it may help to look at the horizon.


Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 31, 2019.

  • Health Guide
  • Disease Reference
  • Care Notes
  • Medication List
  • Q & A

What Is It?

Nausea is a general term describing a queasy stomach, with or without the feeling that you are about to vomit. Almost everyone experiences nausea at some time, making it one of the most common problems in medicine. Nausea is not a disease, but a symptom of many different disorders. It is caused by problems in any one of three parts of the body, including:

  • Abdominal and pelvic organs — Many different abdominal conditions can cause nausea. Common abdominal causes of nausea include inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) or pancreas (pancreatitis); a blocked or stretched intestine or stomach; gastroesophageal reflux (GERD); irritation of the stomach, intestinal lining, appendix or pelvic organs; inflammation of the kidney; and gallbladder problems. The most common abdominal illnesses that result in nausea are viral infections (gastroenteritis). Nausea also can be caused by constipation and normal menstruation.

  • Brain and spinal fluid
    Nausea is common with migraine headaches, head injury, brain tumors, stroke, bleeding into or around the brain and meningitis (inflammation or infection of the membranes covering the brain). It can be a symptom of glaucoma, resulting from pressure on the nerves at the back of the eye. It sometimes is a brain reaction triggered by pain, significant emotional distress or exposure to unpleasant sights or odors.

  • Balance centers in the inner ear — Nausea can be related to vertigo, a dizzy sensation of spinning, moving or falling when you are not moving. Common conditions that cause vertigo include motion sickness (triggered by repeated movements in different directions inside a car, boat, train, plane or amusement ride), viral infections of the inner ear (labyrinthitis), sensitivity to position change (benign positional vertigo) and certain brain or nerve tumors.

Nausea also is a common side effect of some body chemical changes:

  • Reproductive hormones — About 50% of women experience morning sickness during the first few months of pregnancy, and it is a common side effect of birth control pills.

  • Medications — Many medicines (including prescription, over-the-counter and herbal medicines) commonly cause nausea as a side effect, especially when more than one medication is taken at the same time. Chemotherapy drugs and antidepressants are among the medicines that frequently cause nausea.

  • Low blood sugar — Nausea is common with low blood sugar.

  • Alcohol use — Both alcohol intoxication and alcohol withdrawal, including a hangover, can cause nausea.

  • Anesthesia — Some people experience nausea while awakening from surgery and recovering from anesthesia.

  • Food allergies and food poisoning — In food poisoning, small amounts of bacteria in contaminated food produce irritating toxins that cause nausea and abdominal cramps.


Nausea is difficult for many people to describe. It is a very uncomfortable, but not painful, feeling that is felt in the back of the throat, the chest or the upper abdomen. The feeling is associated with distaste for food or an urge to vomit. When the body prepares to vomit, the following sequence may occur:

  • The muscular ring between the esophagus and stomach (esophageal sphincter) relaxes.

  • The abdominal muscles and diaphragm contract.

  • The windpipe (larynx) closes.

  • The lower portion of the stomach contracts.

When a person vomits, the stomach contents are expelled through the esophagus and mouth.

As a result of these body actions, when you have nausea you experience retching. Retching is repeated rhythmic contractions of respiratory and abdominal muscles that occur without your control. You may or may not vomit. Profuse sweating sometimes accompanies nausea.


Because nausea occurs for such a wide variety of reasons, your doctor will seek clues to the cause of nausea in your medical history, including your medication use. It is especially helpful for you to report other symptoms that you might be having, or activities (such as eating) that trigger your nausea. If you are a sexually active woman of childbearing age, tell your doctor whether there is a possibility that you could be pregnant, the date of your last menstrual period and any type of birth control you use.

Your doctor will examine you. The exam may include blood pressure testing, an abdominal examination, neurological examination or other tests, depending on your recent symptoms and other medical history. Blood tests may be done. For any woman who could be pregnant, a pregnancy test should be done. If you have had a recent head injury, you may require a brain imaging test, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan.

Expected Duration

The cause of nausea will determine how long it lasts or how often it occurs. When the cause can be traced to spoiled food, motion sickness or a viral illness, nausea is usually short lived and should not be a cause for concern. In most cases, the queasy feeling lasts no more than minutes to a few hours and usually goes away on its own within 24 hours.


Some causes of nausea are not easily prevented. While the cause of your nausea is being determined, you can minimize episodes of nausea by following some basic guidelines:

  • Eat small meals every few hours so your stomach won’t feel full.

  • Try to avoid bothersome odors such as perfume, smoke or certain cooking smells.

  • If you have had nausea for weeks to months, consider keeping a food diary to help identify foods that cause nausea.

  • Avoid eating any food that smells or appears spoiled or has not been refrigerated properly.

  • If you are prone to motion sickness, avoid reading in a moving vehicle. Also, try to sit in the part of the vehicle with the least movement (near the wings of an airplane or in the center of a boat). Ask your doctor about taking anti-nausea drugs before traveling.

  • Avoid alcohol.

If you take medications for nausea, including over-the-counter types, avoid drinking alcohol which may make you more ill. Always read the label before taking anti-nausea medication, because some motion sickness medications can cause significant drowsiness.


Nausea does not always require treatment, but sometimes treatment is helpful. There are several things you can do on your own to help, including:

  • Drink beverages that settle the stomach, such as ginger ale or chamomile tea.

  • Avoid caffeinated colas, coffees and teas.

  • Drink clear liquids to avoid dehydration (if vomiting is associated with nausea).

  • Eat small, frequent meals to allow the stomach to digest foods gradually.

  • Eat foods that are bland and simple for your stomach to digest, such as crackers or unbuttered bread, rice, chicken soup and bananas.

  • Avoid spicy foods and fried foods.

Some over-the-counter medications can help to relieve nausea, including:

  • Chewable or liquid antacids, bismuth sub-salicylate (Pepto-Bismol) or a solution of glucose, fructose and phosphoric acid (Emetrol). These medicines help by coating the stomach lining and neutralizing stomach acid.

  • Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or meclizine hydrochloride (Bonine, Dramamine II). These medications are helpful for treating or preventing motion sickness and are thought to block receptors in the brain that trigger vomiting.

If you continue to feel nauseated, several prescription medications are available to help relieve nausea. Most anti-nausea medicines have drowsiness as a side effect. Women who are pregnant, or who think they might be pregnant, should be evaluated by a physician before taking any drug, including over-the-counter medicines.

When To Call A Professional

You should call your doctor if nausea lasts for more than three days. You should contact your doctor sooner if your nausea is associated with:

  • Recent head injury

  • Severe headache

  • Severe abdominal pain

  • Vomiting blood

  • Extreme weakness

  • High fever (over 101° Fahrenheit)

  • Blurred vision or eye pain

  • Confusion or stiff neck


The outlook depends on the cause of the nausea. Most people recover completely within a few hours or a day.

Learn more about Nausea

Associated drugs

  • Nausea/Vomiting

External resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Center for Infectious Diseases
Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30333

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

Symptoms & Causes of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

In this section:

  • What are the main symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome?
  • What are some other symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome?
  • What are the phases of cyclic vomiting syndrome?
  • How do the symptoms vary in the phases of cyclic vomiting syndrome?
  • When should I seek medical help?
  • What causes cyclic vomiting syndrome?
  • What may trigger an episode of cyclic vomiting?

What are the main symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome?

The main symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome are sudden, repeated attacks—called episodes—of severe nausea and vomiting. You may vomit several times an hour. Episodes can last from a few hours to several days. Episodes may make you feel very tired and drowsy.

Each episode of cyclic vomiting syndrome tends to start at the same time of day, last the same length of time, and happen with the same symptoms and intensity as previous episodes. Episodes may begin at any time but often start during the early morning hours.

The main symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome are sudden, repeated attacks—called episodes—of severe nausea and vomiting.

What are some other symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome?

Other symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome may include one or more of the following:

  • retching—trying to vomit but having nothing come out of your mouth, also called dry vomiting
  • pain in the abdomen
  • abnormal drowsiness
  • pale skin
  • headaches
  • lack of appetite
  • not wanting to talk
  • drooling or spitting
  • extreme thirst
  • sensitivity to light or sound
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea
  • fever

What are the phases of cyclic vomiting syndrome?

Cyclic vomiting syndrome has four phases:

  • prodrome phase
  • vomiting phase
  • recovery phase
  • well phase

How do the symptoms vary in the phases of cyclic vomiting syndrome?

The symptoms will vary as you go through the four phases of cyclic vomiting syndrome:

  • Prodrome phase. During the prodrome phase, you feel an episode coming on. Often marked by intense sweating and nausea—with or without pain in your abdomen—this phase can last from a few minutes to several hours. Your skin may look unusually pale.
  • Vomiting phase. The main symptoms of this phase are severe nausea, vomiting, and retching. At the peak of this phase, you may vomit several times an hour. You may be
    • quiet and able to respond to people around you
    • unable to move and unable to respond to people around you
    • twisting and moaning with intense pain in your abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting can last from a few hours to several days.

  • Recovery phase. Recovery begins when you stop vomiting and retching and you feel less nauseated. You may feel better gradually or quickly. The recovery phase ends when your nausea stops and your healthy skin color, appetite, and energy return.
  • Well phase. The well phase happens between episodes. You have no symptoms during this phase.

When should I seek medical help?

You should seek medical help if

  • the medicines your doctor recommended or prescribed for the prodrome phase don’t relieve your symptoms
  • your episode is severe and lasts more than several hours
  • you are not able to take in foods or liquids for several hours

You should seek medical help right away if you have any signs or symptoms of dehydration during the vomiting phase. These signs and symptoms may include

  • extreme thirst and dry mouth
  • urinating less than usual
  • dark-colored urine
  • dry mouth
  • decreased skin turgor, meaning that when your skin is pinched and released, the skin does not flatten back to normal right away
  • sunken eyes or cheeks
  • light-headedness or fainting

If you are a parent or caregiver of an infant or child, you should seek medical care for them right away if they have any signs and symptoms of dehydration during the vomiting phase. These signs and symptoms may include

  • thirst
  • urinating less than usual, or no wet diapers for 3 hours or more
  • lack of energy
  • dry mouth
  • no tears when crying
  • decreased skin turgor
  • sunken eyes or cheeks
  • unusually cranky or drowsy behavior

What causes cyclic vomiting syndrome?

Experts aren’t sure what causes cyclic vomiting syndrome. However, some experts believe the following conditions may play a role:

  • problems with nerve signals between the brain and digestive tract
  • problems with the way the brain and endocrine system react to stress
  • mutations in certain genes that are associated with an increased chance of getting CVS

What may trigger an episode of cyclic vomiting?

Triggers for an episode of cyclic vomiting may include:

  • emotional stress
  • anxiety or panic attacks, especially in adults
  • infections, such as colds, flu, or chronic sinusitis
  • intense excitement before events such as birthdays, holidays, vacations, and school outings, especially in children
  • lack of sleep
  • physical exhaustion
  • allergies
  • temperature extremes of hot or cold
  • drinking alcohol
  • menstrual periods
  • motion sickness
  • periods without eating (fasting)

Eating certain foods, such as chocolate, cheese, and foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG) may play a role in triggering episodes.

Medically reviewed by Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH

Nausea and cancer are often related in that nausea can be a side effect of treatment, but can nausea be a symptom of cancer itself?

If there is a tumor that lives in the colon, esophagus, stomach, or somewhere else in the bowel, it can cause a bowel obstruction. A bowel obstruction means that something — in this case, a tumor — is blocking the intestines and preventing solids and liquids from passing through to the colon. This can result in nausea or vomiting, according to Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, director of clinical research in the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber.

Can nausea be a symptom of cancer?

Nausea and vomiting can also occur if there are tumors on the lining of the abdominal cavity, called the peritoneum, which can impair motility of the intestines and prevent food from being properly digested. This can be a common scenario in patients who also certain types of cancers, such as:

  • Lung cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Appendix cancer

A tumor in the brain can also increase pressure in the brain, which can induce nausea and vomiting.

There are two types of brain tumors: Primary brain tumors, which form inside the brain, and secondary (metastatic) brain tumors, which originate somewhere else in the body. When cancer spreads from its original site to the brain, it’s known as brain metastasis. Lung, breast, melanoma, and kidney tumors are examples of cancer types that are more likely to spread to the brain, according to Ng.

It’s important to note that nausea can be caused by many different health problems, such as:

  • Gallbladder disease
  • Food poisoning
  • Heart attacks
  • Ulcers

Nausea can also be caused by different kinds of cancer treatment, like chemotherapy and radiation — but due to improvements in drugs that treat nausea, many patients won’t experience these symptoms, or will only have mild discomfort.

“The anti-nausea drugs that we have these days are very good at managing treatment-related nausea,” Ng says. “The extreme sickness from cancer treatment that has often been portrayed in movies and TV shows is no longer the reality.”

Feeling nauseous can be super stressful. Once the feeling hits, you probably start tracing your food choices over the last few days or, if pregnancy is a possibility, you might be thinking about your last cycle. But if you know you’re not pregnant, and you didn’t eat anything funky, you might find yourself asking, “Why do I feel nauseous?”

Turns out, plenty of other things can make your stomach churn that have nothing to do with babies or bad food. Here are six unexpected things that might result in feeling nauseous—plus what you can do to make it go away stat.

1. You’re feeling stressed or anxious.

Even though stress is an emotion, it causes a cascade of physical changes in your body. Including in your gut, which is highly sensitive to negative feelings, explains Randy Wexler, M.D., an internist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Your gut is lined with nerves that work to expand and contract to push food through your digestive tract. But when you’re stressed or anxious, your brain sends signals to those nerves that cause additional contractions. All those contractions mess up your gut’s normal rhythm, which can leave you feeling nauseous. And you don’t have to be majorly upset to feel the effects. Even minor stress can leave you feeling nauseous, Dr. Wexler says.

Pausing to take a few deep breaths can help you feel calmer, which could help ease your nausea. Another option: Sip a cup of ginger tea or chew on a piece of candied ginger, says Kristine Arthur, M.D., an internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. The spicy root has properties that are thought to ease nausea.

2. You might be hungry.

When you’ve gone several hours without eating, your blood sugar can get too low. (Especially if the last thing you ate was mostly carbs, like a plain bagel or cookies.) That can leave you dizzy and nauseous like you’re going to pass out, says Dr. Arthur.

The fix? Eat something that’s high in carbs—like a glass of fruit juice, a piece of fresh or dried fruit, or bread. “Candy will also work if healthier options aren’t available,” Dr. Arthur says. Getting sugar into your system will bring your blood sugar back up to normal, so you start to feel better. (Steer clear of foods that are high in fat or protein. They won’t raise your blood sugar and can actually slow the absorption of carbs.)

3. You might need to drink some water.

Feeling nauseous might just be your unsettled stomach telling you to swig more H20. And we’re not talking about day-in-the-desert-without water dehydrated. For some people, even mild dehydration could mess with your stomach, Dr. Wexler says.

You’ll probably know if your nausea is caused from dehydration if you also feel, well, really thirsty. So if that’s the case, drink up. Usually, plain water is fine, says Dr. Wexler. But if you have signs of severe dehydration—like fatigue, dizziness, or confusion—seek medical attention right away.

4. It might be your medications.

Plenty of medications—even supplements and over-the-counter meds—can leave you feeling nauseous. Sometimes, popping an over-the-counter pain reliever (like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or an NSAID) on an empty stomach can actually cause you to feel nauseous. Without some food in your belly to act as a buffer, the components of some pills can be irritating to the lining of the stomach, Dr. Wexler says. Supplements like vitamins C, E, and iron can have a similar effect.

Everything You Should Know About Nausea

Nausea can stem from a variety of causes. Some people are highly sensitive to motion or to certain foods, medications, or the effects of certain medical conditions. All these things can cause nausea. Common causes of nausea are described below.

Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause your stomach’s contents to move back up your esophagus when you eat. This creates a burning sensation that causes nausea.

Infection or virus

Bacteria or viruses can affect the stomach and lead to nausea. Foodborne bacteria can cause an illness known as food poisoning. Viral infections can also cause nausea.


Taking certain medications — for example, cancer treatments like chemotherapy — can upset the stomach or contribute to nausea. Be sure to carefully read the medication information for any new treatments you may be taking.

Reading this information and talking to your doctor about any medications and treatments you’re receiving can help you minimize medication-related nausea.

Motion sickness and seasickness

Motion sickness and seasickness can result from a bumpy ride on a vehicle. This movement can cause the messages transmitted to the brain to not sync up with the senses, leading to nausea, dizziness, or vomiting.


Overeating or eating certain foods, such as spicy or high-fat foods, can upset the stomach and cause nausea. Eating foods you’re allergic to can also cause nausea.


Intense pain can contribute to nausea symptoms. This is true for painful conditions such as pancreatitis, gallbladder stones, and or kidney stones.


Ulcers, or sores in the stomach or the lining of the small intestine, can contribute to nausea. When you eat, an ulcer can cause a burning sensation and sudden nausea.

Nausea is also a symptom of several other medical conditions, including:

  • benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  • ear infection
  • heart attack
  • intestinal blockage
  • liver failure or liver cancer
  • meningitis
  • migraine

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *