On Your Health

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Remedies for Taming Nausea

Nausea is the worst. Even the word can conjure the feeling. Originating in the early 15th century, nausea is from the Greek word naus which means ship. Nausea in its most literal definition means ship-sickness, or seasickness. 

Churning tummy, cold sweats, the fear that something may happen…an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, often quickly followed by one thing or another, or both. Symptoms might include queasiness, heaviness, tightness and a feeling of indigestion that doesn’t ease. Nausea is nobody’s friend, and it’s a good idea to have a plan in place before it strikes.

To help you plan, we share causes of nausea, at home treatments and the warning signs that your nausea may require medical attention.

What causes nausea?

Unfortunately, lots of things. It’s both a condition unto itself and a symptom or byproduct of other things. 

Common causes that are not due to underlying medical conditions.

  • Motion sickness from driving or flying
  • Seasickness from boating or snorkeling
  • Taking medication on an empty stomach
  • Eating too much
  • Eating too little
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Heat

Medical conditions that cause or worsen nausea.

  • Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Heart attack
  • Foodborne bacteria, otherwise known as food poisoning
  • Viruses, like the good old fashioned stomach flu
  • Medical treatments like chemotherapy
  • Eating a food you are allergic to
  • Intense pain. Painful conditions like kidney stones, pancreatitis or gallstones can add to or cause nausea symptoms.
  • Ulcers. When you eat, an ulcer or sore in the lining of your stomach/small intestine, can cause a burning pain and a sudden burst of nausea.
  • Ear infection
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Pregnancy/morning sickness

If you’re experiencing nausea and along with other symptoms, it could be a warning sign that something serious is afoot, so listen to your body and call 911 or go to your closest emergency room. Although rare, in certain situations, nausea with or without vomiting may mean you’ve got a serious, possibly life-threatening medical crisis on your hands.

Nausea accompanied by the following requires the consideration of prompt medical attention.

  • High fever and a stiff neck
  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal cramping or pain
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Blurry vision
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Vomit that either smells like feces or has fecal material in it

Someone may need to get you to the hospital or urgent care if you experience the below.

  • You have signs that you’re dehydrated like dry mouth, excessive thirst, dizziness, light-headedness or dark colored urine.
  • Your vomit is green, bloody or looks like coffee grounds.
  • In addition to nausea and vomiting you have pain, or a severe headache, especially if such a headache is something you have not experienced before.

You will be well-served to schedule a doctor’s visit if you experience the following.

  • Nausea and vomiting lasts more than 12 hours for babies; 24 hours for young children or more than two days for teens and adults
  • Your nausea has come and gone for a month or longer
  • In addition to nausea and vomiting, you’ve lost weight unintentionally, with no explanation

Treatments for nausea

There are hundreds of reasons you might feel nauseated, and there are nearly as many treatments for nausea. They range from the tried-and-true to some very inventive methods. Here’s a good round up of options.

Over the counter motion-sickness medication. Dimenhydrinate, the active ingredient in Dramamine, or meclizine, found in Rugby Travel Sickness can help when nausea is caused by air or other travel. For longer trips, like cruises or transcontinental flights, your doctor can prescribe motion sickness patches which offer continual medication over longer periods of time.

Rest. Too much activity can make nausea worse. Rest with your head elevated about a foot higher than your feet. Wait a bit, an hour or so, after eating before lying down. Enjoy some seated rest until then.

Eat bland. When nausea strikes, the blander your food is, the better. Crackers, toast and flavored gelatin are good starter foods. They’re easy to digest. If you are able to keep those foods down, you can graduate to cereal, fruit, rice and salty foods with lots of carbs and protein. What you should NOT eat are fatty or spicy foods. If morning sickness has you in its clutches, eat a saltine cracker before you try to get out of bed. Consider the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.

Hydrate. Little, frequent sips of clear drinks like soda water, ginger ale, lemonade or water are a good place to start. Peppermint tea may help. Avoid dehydration by sipping rehydration drinks like Pedialyte or Gatorade.

Acupressure. This technique activates nerves which tell your brain to release anti-nausea or nausea relieving hormones. Studies indicate that acupressure may ease nausea caused by cancer medicines, acid reflux and more. Acupressure bracelets are available at most pharmacies and work by providing consistent, nonstop pressure on a specific pressure point on the wrist to reduce nausea.

Aromatherapy. Inhaling specific scents including peppermint, lavender and lemon can give your brain new sensory input and trick it into focusing on the scent rather than the nausea. A few drops of essential oil placed on a tissue will get you started, or you can use an essential oil diffuser, which combines essential oil and water into a fine mist. Added bonus: an essential oil diffuser also adds humidity into dry air.

Ginger. History touts ginger as a remedy for nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. Scientists are not entirely clear why or how it works, but ginger has an anti-spasmodic effect in the gut. Studies consistently show that ginger can help reduce nausea caused by pregnancy and chemotherapy. You can chew on raw ginger of you enjoy its sharp flavor and woody texture, or you can eat or drink foods made with real ginger: ginger tea, ginger snaps and ginger ale are good options.

Prescription medications. These can be effective in knocking out nausea in up to 97 percent of cases.

Other home remedies include a tablespoon or two of maple syrup, honey, corn syrup or non-maple pancake syrups; plain yogurt with a spoonful of honey and a pinch of cardamom; coconut water has lots of potassium and magnesium and can be sipped at a rate of 1-2 cups every four hours; cold compresses or ice packs applied to the forehead and/or pressure points on the wrist; or a cinnamon stick steeped in boiling water for ten minutes. Sweeten the drink with honey to taste and sip slowly.

 

If you suffer from nausea and want more to learn more about managing your condition, please visit your INTEGRIS Health primary care provider.

 

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