Morning sickness isn’t the only cause of nausea – there are plenty of reasons you may be feeling queasy.
A churning stomach and feeling sick isn’t pleasant, but worrying about what’s causing your nausea could make you feel even worse.
If you’re definitely not pregnant, then it could be one of these common problems.
In this article, we’ll explore:
Feeling nauseous means we feel an uncomfortable sensation in our stomach that can feel like you’re going to throw up.
It can be brought about by a variety of things, from eating a big, rich meal to certain medication or even emotions.
Essentially, yes nausea is the same as feeling sick.
As well as being the same thing as feeling sick, nausea can also be described as feeling queasy.
You can feel sick for a wide range of reasons, so we’ve listed some of the most common reasons to help you understand why you might be feeling nauseous.
Nausea after eating? If you’ve consumed something dodgy, you may start to feel nauseous within hours of your meal.
But it can take a few days or even weeks for a stomach bug to make itself known. As well as experiencing dizziness and nausea, you may actually be sick, have diarrhoea and generally feel under the weather.1
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated – sip, don’t gulp as this can make you feel worse – and eat small meals when you feel able to.2
Some experts recommend following the BRAT diet – bananas, rice, apple purée and toast – as these foods are bland and easy to digest.3
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If you’ve also got a throbbing pain on one side of the head, and are more sensitive than usual to lights, sounds or smells, it could be a migraine – one of the common causes of nausea.
Many migraineurs are actually sick, and often get visual disturbances such as blurred vision too.4
The exact cause of migraine is still not known but female hormones, your family history, certain foods and drinks like coffee and strong cheeses, stress and poor sleep can all trigger an attack.5
Once you work out what your triggers are, you can cut them down or avoid them.
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Anxiety doesn’t just make you feel worried, irritable, or on high alert – it can have physical symptoms too, including making you feel nauseous.66
A 2002 Norwegian study carried out on 62,000 people found that 41% of those who felt very sick also experienced some form of anxiety.7
It’s thought that anxiety pushes our body into the fight-or-flight response, which directs blood away from the digestive system into the muscles.8
This creates that churning-stomach sensation, which – long-term – could damage your digestion.
You can help manage your anxiety with talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, regular exercise and relaxation techniques, for example mindfulness or visualisation.9,10
Talk to your GP if anxiety is stopping you living a normal life.
Handpicked content: 8 essential oils for anxiety you should try
Another common cause of nausea is the flu! If your nausea is accompanied these symptoms, there’s a good chance that the reason you’re feeling sick is down to the flu virus:11
Acid reflux or heartburn is another potential cause for your sick feeling.
If your nausea is experienced with these other symptoms, it’s likely that it will be the cause:12
Labyrinthitis and vertigo are both conditions that can affect your balance and make you feel dizzy.
But it can also make you feel very sick. If you think you might have either of these conditions, here’s what symptoms to look out for:13
Whether you’re in a car or travelling by boat, plane or train – motion sickness can make you feel nauseous in all of these situations.
If this is the case, some of the best things you can do to alleviate the sickness are:14
If you’ve experienced drinking a little too much alcohol in one sitting before, you will have probably experienced the nausea that comes afterwards.
This usually happens because alcohol makes our stomachs produce more acid than normal and delays stomach emptying.15
If you’re not sexually active, you can skip this one. But if you are and there’s a chance you could be pregnant, this can cause sickness.
Particularly common in early pregnancy, this kind of nausea doesn’t just take place in the morning, it can happen at any other time of the day too.16
If you’re reading this and you’re currently feeling sick, hopefully some of our top tips will help you to stop feeling so nauseous.
Especially after eating, sitting upright or even standing up may help to alleviate your nausea.
This is thought to be because the gastric juices can rise and slosh about your insides, leaving you feeling sick and uncomfortable.
This one sounds basic, but it works.
Fresh air often helps to relieve the feeling of nausea, but we’re not really sure why yet.
Either way, it’s free and safe so it’s worth a try!
Sometimes when we feel sick, our temperature can be elevated too.
So to help you feel more comfortable, try applying a cool compress to the back of the neck.
Acupressure is an ancient healing technique based on traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture.
Pressure is applied to specific pressure points on the body to release muscle tension and bring about blood circulation.17
The pressure point for nausea can be found on the inner wrist, roughly 2 and a half inches down from your hand and between two large tendons.
Press here in circular motions for a few minutes to help ease the nausea.
While this can be hard, it may help to take your mind off the uncomfortable sensation in your body.
Try putting on your favourite TV show, listen to some music or an interesting podcast and you may start to focus less on how you’re feeling.
Though you may not feel like it, staying hydrated is key when you feel sick – especially if you haven’t been able to eat or drink much as this can lead to dehydration.
Instead, keep a big glass of water near you throughout the day and just try to sip small amounts when you feel like you can stomach it.
Chamomile tea has often been used to help people who feel anxious and uptight to relax – especially at bedtime.
So if feeling sick is keeping you awake, some chamomile tea might be just the act of self-care to send you over.
This one sounds weird, but trust us.
One particular study from 2014 highlighted the efficacy of inhaling lemon essential oil when feeling nauseous, and the results showed that it can help reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women.18
Hailed as one of the best natural remedies for nausea over many years, ginger has proven how effective it is at helping with feeling sick.
A review from 2012 suggested that ginger itself has antiemetic properties, although more research is needed in this area.19
Paracetamol acts as a pain killer and a medicine for fever, but it is not effective for treating nausea.20
Generally speaking, ibuprofen isn’t used to treat nausea.
However, it is recommended for helping with flu symptoms, so if you’re feeling sick as a result of flu, it may be worth taking the recommended dosage.
If you’re in an awkward situation and there’s nowhere appropriate for you to throw up, try some of these techniques for stopping yourself from vomiting:
Take some deep breaths through your nose and feel it going into your lungs. Then exhale very slowly through your mouth (or nose) – then repeat several times. Research has highlighted that taking deep breaths like these from the diaphragm helps to calm the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn may reduce anxiety and motion sickness.21
If your feeling sick from morning sickness, eating bland, salty foods like dry toast, crackers or white rice may help to settle the stomach.
Try taking over the counter antiemetics like Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate to help line the stomach if you have food poisoning.
The NHS states that you should see a doctor about your nausea if it lasts for a few days without getting any better or if you keep on feeling sick intermittently.22
It is important to seek emergency medical assistance if you are also experiencing:
In most instances, nausea will pass and it will not be serious.
Some of our suggestions might help you to figure out why you’re feeling sick and you’ll be better able to find the right remedy.
But it might be that they don’t stop you from feeling sick, so remember to stay hydrated.
Last updated: 8 September 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.
After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.