Nausea is a common symptom that is present in a wide range of conditions. It is a feeling of wanting to vomit or being ‘sick in the stomach’ as is commonly described. Most of us think that nausea is related to problems with digestive tract. While digestive conditions do account for vast majority of nausea incidents in life, sometimes nausea stems from hormonal problems, injury to the head, medication and certain toxins. It is always important to find the exact cause of nausea, especially if it is persistent or comes and goes on a frequent basis. Without treating the root cause, remedying nausea may at best only offer short term relief.
In most instances nausea passes on its own within needing any treatment. Sometimes persistent and severe nausea will require anti-emetics, a group of drugs that suppresses sensation of nausea. Most of us experience acute nausea – it comes on suddenly, can be intense and passes just as quickly on its own. Chances are that in most of these cases it is related to the digestive system and often presents as nausea after eating or sometimes when hungry. Nausea occurs when the upper parts of the gut (esophagus, stomach and first parts of the small intestine).
But nausea that persists for days and weeks, or comes on in cycles, needs to be investigated further. It can sometimes be due to very serious and even life-threatening conditions. Simple remedies that may work for acute nausea may not be as effective for persistent or recurring nausea. Here are some of the ways you can relieve nausea through simple lifestyle changes, home remedies, foods and drinks.
Sip Slowly on Cold Water
One of the first remedies for nausea that is going on for more than a few minutes is to sip on ice water. Small sips taken every now and then until you finish a glass or ice water or at least half of a bottle of chilled mineral water is sufficient. It is a simple remedy that helps for most causes of nausea related to digestive problems and motion sickness. Try to avoid flavored water, soft drinks or energy/sports drinks. These beverages can worsen the nausea. Just stick to plain water, be it from the tap or bottled, as long as it is clean and cold.
Breathe In Deeply and Slowly
Take a deep breath in, hold and exhale. Try breathing slowly and let some wind hit your face. Many people find that moving fresh air helps with nausea, at least momentarily. It is unlikely that a build up of carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream has triggered your nausea. This can happen with lung and kidney problems. But nausea in these cases are due to serious problems and other symptoms should also be present. If you are in a car, try to switch of the air conditioning for a while and open the windows instead for some fresh air.
Stand Up and Walk Around
Most people would want to stay still – either sit quietly or lie down – when nauseous. But standing up and walking around slowly may be more effective. Often nausea is related to acid reflux and by walking around you will speed up the emptying of the stomach. This in turn relieves some of the pressure that can cause reflux. Do not exercise if you are feeling nauseous. It can worsen the nausea and even result in vomiting. Try to walk around slowly in a well ventilated area or preferably outdoors.
Avoid Sugary Foods/Drinks
Sweet foods and drinks can worsen your nausea. Unless nausea is related to hunger, it is unlikely that a sugary snack or beverage is going to ease it. Rather stick with bland salty crackers and ice water. It may be inadequate nutrition but it is often soothing to the stomach for the short term. If you are feeling for something sweet then opt for foods and drinks with natural sugars like fructose (fruit sugar). A fruit or 100% fruit juice may do the trick. But avoid canned fruits or those soaked in a sugary syrup. Even mixed fruit juices may contain sugar as a sweetener.
Stay Away from Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant but can also be an irritant to the lining of the stomach and bowels. Try to avoid caffeine if you are feeling nauseous. Caffeine may speed up stomach emptying which could ease nausea in some cases. Many caffeinated drinks are also sweetened, like coffee, tea and cola, which can further worsen nausea. Also avoid sports and energy drinks even if they do not contain caffeine. Some of these drinks may have other simple carbohydrates or amino acids like taurine which could play a role in nausea. Water is always the best option at least until the nausea subsides.
Try Ginger or Peppermint
Ginger has been seen to be helpful in reducing nausea in chemotherapy patients. This gives credence to old wives’ tale that ginger is a good herbal remedy for nausea. A small amount of ginger tea or about a quarter teaspoon of ginger may do the trick. But do not overdo it. Large amounts of ginger could irritate the stomach and bowels. Peppermint is also said to be helpful for reducing nausea and indigestion. You can suck on peppermint candy or chew gum. But not every person may find relief from peppermint as it can be an irritant.
Chew a Dry Salted Cracker
Chewing on a dry salty cracker especially when you are hungry but nauseous can help relieve the nausea and give you some nutrition. It is one of the remedies for nausea that works fairly well for nausea during pregnancy (morning sickness). Whether you are pregnant or not, spicy foods often worsen nausea particularly when it is related to acid reflux, gastritis or peptic ulcers. Coupled with frequent sips of ice water, dry salty crackers can deliver some nutrition and bulk into the stomach and ease any hunger pangs.
Switch Off the TV and Lights
Flickering lights, flashing scenes on TV and fast moving video games can all play a role in triggering nausea. Sometimes it can be the cause while at other times it may exacerbate existing nausea. Motion sickness can be triggered by racing and role playing games while flickering and flashing from lights and TV can worsen nausea associated with conditions like migraines. Sometimes it is just the light from these sources that are the problem and resting with your eyes closed in a dark room can help reduce nausea.
Do Not Hold Back the Vomit
Trying to hold back the vomiting can increase your nausea. Often the nausea may subside after vomiting. This does not mean that you should induce vomiting with your finger. It can actually cause more serious problems. But if you feel like vomiting and know that you will vomit if you stop restraining yourself, then it is best to let it out. But monitor the vomiting patterns carefully. If the vomiting is persistent and prolonged, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Try Antacids or Effervescents
Acid reflux and indigestion are among two of the most common causes of nausea. It can easily be remedied by antacids and effervescents respectively. These over-the-counter preparations are available at most supermarkets and even convenience stores. Antacids will neutralize the stomach acid and reduce the irritation of the esophagus. Effervescents will help you belch and can play a role in promoting emptying of the stomach. Antacids and effervescents will only work in these digestive conditions and it is worth a try for nausea.