Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms that most everyone will feel for a short time at some point in their lives, for example because of medications, food poisoning, or a stomach virus.
In collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, the MyGiHealth research team conducted a national survey and found that 45% of Americans reported having at least some nausea within the last 7 days. Another 18% reported vomiting, and 49% said they experienced regurgitation in the previous week.
Only rarely do people feel nausea or vomit all the time or for a long time. The MyGiHealth survey found that only 1% of Americans report nausea on a constant basis.
What is it?
Most everyone has experienced nausea and vomiting sometime in their life. Some people have more nausea and vomiting than others. When doctors discuss nausea and vomiting, these are the definitions they use:
Nausea is a queasy feeling in the belly or throat (feeling “sick to your stomach”). It is a feeling that often comes before vomiting, but people may or may not vomit when they feel nauseous.
Vomiting (throwing up) is the forceful emptying of stomach contents through the mouth. This occurs from a process called “reverse peristalsis”, which means movement of material in the opposite direction than usual. A related but separate term that some people use is “dry heaves”, which means trying to throw up but nothing comes out.
Regurgitation is often confused with vomiting. Regurgitation is when food or liquid comes back up into your throat or mouth, but usually without the force and feelings of nausea or the need to vomit.
For more information on delayed stomach emptying, ulcer and bowel obstruction, please explore the nausea/vomiting educational videos.
If you plan to see a doctor for nausea or vomiting, then it will be important to describe the symptoms you are experiencing. The “My History” function of MyGiHealth asks more about nausea and vomiting and can help you translate your symptoms into “doctor talk” should you plan to see a healthcare provider.
What causes it?
- Most often, nausea and vomiting are caused by a viral or bacterial illness, such as food poisoning or a stomach virus (mistakenly called "stomach flu").
- Many medications and supplements can also cause nausea and vomiting. If it's really bothering you or lasting a long time, talk to your doctor.
- Nausea and vomiting that last a long time can signal a serious problem, but this is very rare. It's best to talk to a doctor if nausea and vomiting happen all the time or over and over again.
Some physical reasons for nausea and vomiting:
Other causes of nausea and vomiting:
- Alcohol or other toxins in the body
- Chemical or mineral imbalance
- Dehydration or heat stroke
- Dizziness or motion
- Emotions and stress
- Head or brain injuries or brain tumor
- Smells and tastes.
How do I manage it?
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
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:
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
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.
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
- 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.
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.
Where can I learn more?
To learn more about nausea and vomiting, please visit these websites:
National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine)