You can experience nausea for a variety of reasons. These can include pregnancy, medication use, food poisoning, and infection. Nausea can range from mildly uncomfortable and unpleasant to severe enough to interfere with your daily life.
Acid reflux, a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause nausea. Recognizing GERD symptoms and treating them under the supervision of your doctor can help you avoid acid reflux-induced nausea.
How acid reflux causes nausea
You may be wondering how your acid reflux can make you nauseated. Several factors are responsible. Many of them relate to how acid reflux happens.
Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle that separates your esophagus and your stomach, is unable to close tightly after you’ve ingested food or fluids. An LES that doesn’t function properly allows stomach acids and food particles to flow back up your esophagus to your throat.
The LES can weaken for a number of reasons. If you have a weak LES, you may have more problems with reflux if you eat the following foods:
- fried, greasy, or fat-laden foods
- tomatoes and red sauces
- citrus fruits and juices
- spicy foods
- carbonated beverages
- caffeinated beverages
- coffee (regular and decaf)
People who have acid reflux often experience a sour taste in their mouth from stomach acids. The taste, along with the frequent burping and coughing associated with reflux and GERD, can create nausea and even vomiting in some cases.
Indigestion, or heartburn, is another symptom of reflux and GERD that can contribute to nausea. Indigestion is the sensation produced by refluxed stomach acid and contents irritating the esophagus.
Treating acid reflux-induced nausea
You can generally treat acid reflux-induced nausea with a combination of lifestyle changes, home remedies, and medication. Here are some steps you can take:
Change your eating patterns. Eat smaller meals and reduce your fat intake to curtail indigestion and keep your LES working as it should. Reflux and nausea can occur when your stomach is too empty, so try to eat smaller and more frequent meals.
Stop smoking. Nicotine products can weaken your LES, increasing your symptoms.
Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight-fitting clothes put additional pressure on your stomach, which can contribute to acid reflux and nausea. Loose-fitting clothes won’t add this pressure.
Stay upright after eating. Keep stomach acids in your stomach by staying in an upright position for two to three hours after eating.
Elevate your head when you sleep. Put 6-inch blocks under the head of your bed to assist gravity in keeping the acid in your stomach.
Chew gum. Chewing gum can reduce your incidence of acid reflux, according to a study published in the Journal of Dental Research. It can also help eliminate the sour taste in your mouth that can cause nausea.
Harness the power of ginger. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests checking with your doctor about taking ginger supplements as a natural way to relieve nausea.
Take antacids. Antacid tablets or liquids may curb nausea and acid reflux by neutralizing stomach acids.
Get a prescription. Proton pump inhibitors reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach. This can lessen reflux and its associated symptoms. Antiemetic drugs are another option to relieve nausea.
People are often able to reduce acid reflux symptoms and nausea by making lifestyle changes. You should still discuss acid reflux with your doctor in order to get a proper diagnosis.
Your doctor can help you come up with a treatment plan, which may include changing your diet or adding medications. Let your primary care doctor or gastroenterologist know if you’re unable to eat due to nausea, as this may put you at risk for dehydration.
If you have a long history of GERD, you should discuss with you doctor whether or not you need an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) to check your esophagus for signs of damage due to the reflux.
An EGD is a test performed by a gastroenterologist. They will give you a sedative and they’ll pass light and camera through your mouth into your stomach to look for any abnormalities and take biopsies if needed.