Health

Feeling Nauseous? 6 Surprising Reasons Why & How to Stop

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.

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