About nausea after eating
Nausea is a common symptom and can be described as a pre-vomiting symptom. We have all experienced this intense need to vomit which can occur for many different reasons.
It is common and can occur either acutely usually due to food poisoning or associated with more chronic reasons.
I will describe the nausea causes in more detail below, but one common cause of nausea after eating is IBS or the Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Why this causes nausea is unclear, but it is probably related to a combination of food intolerance, alteration in the way the stomach handles food and the Brain-Gut axis theory with changes in the way the brain interprets food signals.
Another cause one of the causes of nausea in this situation is gastroesophageal reflux or GORD (GERD). Reflux is commonly associated with nausea and is equally associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
There are many causes of nausea after eating and I have listed a few of these below to give you an idea of the diversity of causes:
Food Poisoning and Gastroenteritis
Drugs and Alcohol
Hormonal conditions such as Pregnancy and Addison’s disease
Stomach problems – Gastric outlet obstruction, Ulcers and Gastroparesis (where the stomach contractions are affected by various conditions including Diabetes, neurological conditions, Amyloidosis.
Small Intestinal Diseases – e.g. Crohns Disease, Celiac Disease
Kidney disorders (Uraemia underlying the nausea)
Extra-intestinal conditions such as raised intracranial pressure eg from tumours, abdominal migraine
When investigating the causes of nausea the most important initial investigations are tied up with the history and examination by a doctor.
In the history it is important to find out whether there has been any change in bowel habit which would alert your doctor to the possibility of a bowel disease.
Any history of headache may indicate a neurological problem or raised intracranial pressure.
Acid reflux and heartburn associated may indicate GORD (GERD) as the likely underlying cause, loss of periods might indicate pregnancy, a comprehensive list of medications might reveal the underlying cause. The history is very important it will often reveal the underlying cause or the likely causes in two thirds of cases.
A doctor may find the cause by examining you. There may be signs of the underlying cause such as high blood pressure and protein in the urine indicating possible kidney disease.
A low blood pressure and pigmented scars might indicate Addison’s disease. A pregnancy may be revealed by feeling the abdomen or papilledema (a change in the back of the eyes) is a sign of raised intracranial pressure. I don’t want to labour the examination side of things, but this is just to highlight that your doctor can look for sickness causes this way.
There are many radiological investigations that can be done. The main ones involve ultrasound or CT scanning as well as basic plain x-ray exams. I won’t go in to detail with this as it really depends on your doctors suspicions as to whether you need these sorts of investigations or not.
Endoscopy is a way of visualising your stomach involving the use of a flexible camera that is passed through the mouth. The camera is advanced through the oesophagus in to the stomach and then the duodenum or small bowel.
It is used to visualise problems with the stomach or duodenum such as ulcers or strictures (narrowed areas). It can also be used to take biopsies or ‘pieces of tissue’ to be analysed in the laboratory. An example of this would be the taking of duodenal biopsies to look for evidence of celiac disease.
The type of remedy depends on the likely underlying cause of nausea. If this is an acute cause of nausea, there may be little needed other than keeping yourself hydrated with fluids should vomiting be an issue.
The options for nausea may include diet changes, withdrawal of drugs, treatment with anti-nausea medication and most importantly treatment of the underlying cause of the nausea after eating.
Diet is important particularly in chronic nausea conditions. If the nausea is due to pregnancy, paradoxically eating can help improve symptoms. Ginger is well known as a herbal remedy for nausea and can be taken as a herbal tea, chewing ginger root, as ginger biscuits and sweets.
Avoiding certain foods may help improve nausea symptoms, particularly if the symptoms are thought due to IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. You can read more about this by going to the IBS diet page. An anti-reflux diet avoiding caffeine (in Tea and Coffee), alcohol and fatty foods may be helpful too. Eating small, regular meals rather than large meals and taking supplements might be helpful too.
There are numerous drugs that can cause nausea. When considering removing drugs, this should always be done in conjunction with your doctor and should never be done on your own. Recreational drugs such as Marijuana, Cocaine and Heroin can all cause nausea too.
This is probably the main nausea remedy that doctors will offer you. There are many different drugs that can be tried, the most common ones being Metoclopramide and Domperidone. If nausea is intense, a short term option would be the 5-HT3 blocking drugs such as Ondansetron and Granisetron.
If acid reflux is thought to underlie your symptoms of nausea after eating, the PPI or proton pump inhibitor drugs such as Omeprazole and Lansoprazole might be helpful (see indigestion symptoms).
The single most important nausea remedy, as mentioned, is to treat the underlying cause for your nausea. There are numerous options for this and these will need to be discussed with the practitioner looking after you.