What causes nausea? 12 common causes and their treatments

Nausea is a sickness that can be triggered by many things, from pregnancy to stress. Knowing the common causes of nausea is important so you can treat it quickly and get back to normal health.

1. Stress or anxiety

What causes nausea? 12 common causes and their treatments

Stress or anxiety can be a common cause of nausea. Stress and anxiety can cause you to feel nauseous and vomit, leading to dehydration. If you’re experiencing this, you must take care of yourself by drinking plenty of fluids and eating well-balanced meals with enough fiber and protein.

If you find stress or anxiety worsening your symptoms, talk to your doctor about coping strategies like meditation or breathing exercises.

2. Motion sickness

What causes nausea? 12 common causes and their treatments

Motion sickness is nausea and dizziness that occurs when the movement of a boat, car, or airplane makes you feel ill. It’s often caused by the inner ear, which is responsible for the balance.

Warning signs include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness or loss of balance

3. Pregnancy


Pregnancy-related nausea is one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy. It usually goes away after the first trimester, but it could be a sign of something else if you’re still nauseous. Your changing hormones, morning sickness, and food cravings can cause this.

You should always seek medical advice if you need help with nausea during pregnancy or are concerned about possible complications such as diabetes (gestational or pre-existing) or thyroid problems.

4. Phobias


Phobias are irrational fears of situations or objects that cause anxiety. Phobias can be treated with therapy, medications, or both.

  • Behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that teaches you how to reduce your fear response and manage your anxiety. It usually involves exposure to the object you fear in a controlled environment so that you can learn to tolerate it better.
  • Medications can help relieve symptoms while working on exposure therapy with your therapist. These include anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines and antidepressants like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

5. Migraine


[Migraine] is a neurological disorder that affects the brain and causes recurring headaches. These headaches can be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Stress, lack of sleep, or certain foods often trigger migraines. You should see your doctor to find out if you have migraines and learn how to manage them with medication and lifestyle changes.

6. Food poisoning

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is the result of eating food that contains harmful bacteria. It’s not to be confused with food allergy, and it can cause everything from mild discomfort to life-threatening illness in some cases.

Food poisoning symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache, and muscle aches. If you are experiencing these symptoms after eating a meal or snack that involves meat (beef/pork/chicken), eggs, or dairy products (cheese), there’s a good chance your food was undercooked or left out for too long before consumption.

7. Viruses


Viral infections can also make you feel nauseated. Viral gastroenteritis, for example, is often caused by the norovirus—known as the “winter vomiting bug.” The influenza virus can also cause nausea and vomiting (and fever). Other viruses that may cause you to be appalled include rotavirus and parvovirus B19.

The treatment for viral gastroenteritis depends on whether or not your symptoms are severe enough that they require medical attention. If they do, see your doctor so they can prescribe medications that will help you recover more quickly. Otherwise, drink plenty of fluids and rest until the symptoms go away naturally; try ginger tea or ginger candies (available in most grocery stores) to help settle your stomach if it’s upset.

8. Gastrointestinal disorders

Gastrointestinal disorders

Gastrointestinal disorders are a broad category of conditions that affect the digestive system, including the stomach, intestines, and colon. Many gastrointestinal disorders involve inflammation of the digestive tract. These include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Other causes of nausea in this category include obstruction or intense nausea due to cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

In addition to abdominal pain and diarrhea, people with IBD typically experience weight loss, poor appetite, and bloating and gas pains. Some people have minor digestive symptoms but may develop joint pain if their joints are affected by arthritis.

9. Medicine side effects

Medicine side effects

It’s not always easy to tell if your symptoms are due to a side effect of the medicine you’re taking or if they’re another condition altogether. If you’ve got a new prescription, it’s important to watch for any side effects that could be related. For example:

  • Antibiotics can cause nausea and vomiting. Many antibiotics make people feel sick to their stomachs because they kill off bacteria in your body that normally help keep your digestive system running smoothly. Two examples are Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and Levofloxacin (Levaquin). Nausea is a common complaint when taking these antibiotics; however, vomiting is less common because it helps eliminate these medications from the body faster before they have time to cause damage.
  • Antidepressants like Prozac may also cause nausea and vomiting; however, only about one percent of patients report this reaction, so it’s more likely that something else is causing your symptoms than simply taking this medication alone. As with most medications, it’s important not just how often you take them but also how long before deciding whether or not there could be an interaction between what you’re taking now and what was taken previously (especially if those were over-the-counter products).

10. Problems with the inner ear

Problems with the inner ear

If you’re experiencing nausea, it’s important to rule out inner ear problems. Vertigo, motion sickness, and balance disorders can be caused by a problem with the vestibular system—the part of your inner ear that helps you maintain balance. Problems with the semicircular canals or utricles can also cause these conditions.

11. Thyroid disorders

Thyroid disorders

Thyroid disorders can also cause nausea. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid produces too few hormones, and hyperthyroidism means it produces too many. Both conditions can lead to extreme fatigue, weight gain, and mental changes like increased irritability or difficulty concentrating. They can also cause dry skin, muscle weakness, joint stiffness, and sensitivity to cold temperatures, making you want to keep warm with extra layers of clothing.

Suppose you have mild symptoms of hypothyroidism that aren’t improving despite treatment with thyroid hormone replacement medication (levothyroxine). In that case, your doctor may recommend surgery on your thyroid gland—a subtotal thyroidectomy or total thyroidectomy. In this case, your surgeon removes all or part of one side of the organ, depending on how severe the condition is.

12. Eating disorders

Eating disorders

Several factors, including genetics, biology, and culture, can cause eating disorders. Eating disorders are more common in women than men, though it’s not uncommon for both genders to suffer from eating disorders.

Eating disorders can cause nausea, but nausea can also be a symptom of eating disorders. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.


So, if you’re experiencing nausea, there may be a cause that can be treated. Sometimes, it is as simple as eating unfamiliar food or getting used to a new medication. In other instances, however—such as with migraines and vomiting during pregnancy—nausea can signal something more serious. Never hesitate to seek medical attention when in doubt!