Nausea & Vomiting


Who could possibly look forward to the unpleasant sensations caused by nausea, which is typically accompanied by dizziness or clamminess? And of course, nausea often leads to vomiting, when the contents of a person's stomach are expelled through the mouth.


Many conditions can cause nausea and vomiting. Ordinary problems in the stomach or intestines, (such as overeating, indigestion, or food poisoning) often trigger nausea or lead to vomiting. When nausea or vomit­ing happens regularly during the first trimester of pregnancy, it is known as morning sickness.

Nausea is sometimes related to balance problems originating in the inner ear, which produce vertigo, seasickness or motion sickness. Also, intense pain, such as from a migraine headache, can cause nausea.

Some smells and odours can cause the stomach to become unsettled, as can intense emotional stress. Nausea and vomiting can also be side-effects of chemotherapy, gallbladder disease and certain viruses.

While most of the time nausea and vomiting are contained and will go away fairly quickly, in some cases they reflect a serious problem such as a heart attack, concussion or injury to the brain, bulimia, encephalitis, meningitis, a kidney or liver disorder, an intestinal blockage, appendicitis or a brain tumour.


Although it may not be possible to prevent some episodes of nausea and vomiting, some cases can be avoided. Try not to indulge in overeating and maintain a healthy, low-fat diet to keep the stomach calm. Eating small meals throughout the day rather than three larger meals may also help to prevent nausea, as will eating slowly and avoiding foods that are known to be hard to digest. Nausea can frequently be prevented by eating cold or room-temperature meals to avoid the smell of foods that are hot.

Ensuring roper food hygiene has been undertaken will help to prevent food poisoning, which is often caused by unwashed hands transferring fecal contamination to foods or beverages. Many intestinal viruses can also be avoided by regular hand-washing.

Morning sickness can usually be prevented or alleviated by consuming a high-protein snack before bed and a few crackers first thing in the morning to settle the stomach.


If the nausea begins shortly after a meal, it may indicate a peptic (gastric) ulcer or an emotional disorder such as bulimia. Food poisoning typically produces nausea and vomiting anywhere from one to eight hours after contaminated food or water is consumed. This timeframe can be longer in cases of some food-borne bacteria such as salmonella.

However, nausea and vomiting are merely symptoms, rather than a disease or condition to be diagnosed. Therefore, no tests are required to confirm them. If nausea lasts more than a week or if pregnancy may be possible, a physician should be consulted to try to determine the underlying cause.


Nausea and vomiting will typically subside within six to 24 hours and can be treated successfully without a visit to the physician. Weathering the symptoms by employing comfort measures may be all that is required.


Clear or ice-cold sweetened liquids, such as soft drinks and fruit juice (other than citrus juices, which contain too much acid) are more likely to stay down, particularly if taken in small sips. Small meals of light, bland foods, such as non-greasy crackers or plain bread, are less disturbing to an upset stomach. Fried, greasy or sweet foods should be avoided.

Eat slowly and try having smaller, more frequent meals. Do not mix hot and cold foods: this also helps soothe the stomach. Resting after eating, either sitting or lying propped up, may prevent nausea from escalating.

Brushing the teeth immediately after eating is not advised, as the strong flavours in toothpaste may trigger nausea. If nausea has progressed to vomiting, solid food should be avoided while it lasts. Temporarily stop taking oral medication that may be irritating the stomach. Gradually increase the intake of clear liquids.


Non-prescription drugs can help relieve nausea and vomiting, but should not be taken if food poisoning is suspected because vomiting is one way the body works to rid itself of the toxin.

Products containing bismuth subsalicylate relieve nausea by coating the stomach lining. They are not appropriate for any­one who is allergic to aspirin, and should not be given to children who may have the flu or chicken pox, as this increases their risk of developing Reyes syndrome.

Antihistamines help to control motion sickness by dulling the inner ear's sense of movement. They may cause drowsiness, which can affect one's ability to drive or operate machinery. If nausea occurs after surgery, aprepitant, a new class of drug, may be more effective than the drugs given traditionally.

Using ginger

Powdered ginger, ginger tea or candied ginger may help prevent nausea. For morning sickness, it is safe to take ginger in amounts recommended by a doctor for up to five days, but some research indicates possible risk of damage to the foetus or miscarriage if too much is taken or if it is taken for a longer period. Ginger may reduce vomiting from motion sickness, but does not eliminate nausea. It may help to relieve nausea that often follows chemotherapy.

Acupressure, acustimuitation and acupuncture

Mild cases of nausea may be relieved by pressing firmly on a specific point on the body, called the Neiguan point (P6), on the underside of the wrist. Acustimulation. which involves the mild electrical stimu­lation of pressure points using acupuncture needles or battery- powered appliances worn on (he body, may also help to relieve nausea. Acupuncture is often used to relieve the nausea and vomiting which is associated with chemotherapy or anaesthesia.

People at risk include those suffering from or undergoing:



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