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Can IBS Cause Nausea? 5 Signs Your Nausea is IBS

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • While nausea isn’t part of the diagnostic criteria for IBS, up to 38% of women and 27% of men with IBS experience nausea.
  • The presence of other symptoms alongside nausea, such as frequent stomach pain and discomfort, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, could indicate your nausea is linked to IBS.
  • There are several strategies to help prevent and treat IBS nausea, including peppermint oil, ginger, and gut-directed hypnotherapy.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects up to one in seven adults.

It includes symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, bloating, distention, gas, and changes to bowel habits such as constipation and diarrhea.

Although nausea isn’t a classical symptom of IBS, studies have found that about 38% of women and 27% of men with IBS have nausea as a symptom. This may be because other health conditions frequently overlap with IBS.

Read on to learn about other symptoms that may indicate your nausea is caused by IBS, plus tips for managing and preventing nausea.

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Can IBS Cause Nausea?

While nausea is not part of the diagnostic criteria for IBS, it is a common symptom reported by people with IBS.

It’s thought that this is because other conditions, such as functional dyspepsia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and migraine headaches, frequently occur alongside IBS.

Symptoms of these other conditions, such as pain or fullness in the upper middle section of the stomach after eating or a burning sensation in the upper stomach, may produce nausea.

In addition, medications used to treat IBS could cause nausea. 

4 Signs Your Nausea is IBS-Related

Since nausea isn’t part of the criteria for diagnosing IBS, nausea alone doesn’t mean you have IBS.

If nausea occurs alongside stomach pain and discomfort, bloating, or changes to your bowel movements, it may be an indicator that you have IBS. 

If you suspect you have IBS, discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider.

It’s important to work with your doctor to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and colorectal cancer. 

Frequent Stomach Pain and Discomfort

One of the most common symptoms of IBS is stomach pain and discomfort.

This pain can manifest in different ways, such as cramping, burning, fullness, or sharp pain.

You may find that certain foods or stressful situations make your stomach pain and discomfort worse.

This, combined with nausea, could be an indication that you have IBS.

Bloating

One of the common causes of bloating in IBS is the consumption of foods containing FODMAPs

FODMAPs, which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, are a type of carbohydrate that pulls water into the bowels and are fermented by the gut bacteria.

The water and gas in the intestines cause them to stretch, leading to bloating and gas.

If you’re experiencing frequent bloating after eating in addition to nausea, it could be an indication that you have IBS and are sensitive to FODMAPs.

You may need to try a low-FODMAP diet to get your symptoms under control. 

Once your symptoms have resolved, you can systematically add high-FODMAP foods to your diet to determine which foods were causing your symptoms.

This process can be overwhelming, so it’s best to work with a registered dietitian through the elimination and reintroduction phases of the low-FODMAP diet.

Changes in Bowel Habits

IBS can be classified based on changes to your bowel movements.

There are four subcategories of IBS:

  • IBS-D: Predominantly diarrhea and abdominal pain.
  • IBS-C: Predominantly constipation and abdominal pain.
  • IBS-M: Alternating diarrhea and constipation with abdominal pain.
  • IBS-U: Undefined IBS with varying symptoms.

If you’re experiencing nausea in addition to changes in your bowel movements, it could be a sign that you have IBS. 

Other Symptoms of IBS

Other key symptoms of IBS include mucus in the stool, urgent bowel movements, and feeling like you haven’t completed a bowel movement.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms along with nausea, it could mean you have IBS.

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How to Manage Nausea from IBS

There are several evidence-based strategies for managing nausea, including peppermint oil, ginger, and gut-directed hypnotherapy.

Peppermint Oil

Several studies investigating the effects of peppermint oil on nausea and vomiting in cancer patients have been completed. 

One study, which looked at the effects of applying peppermint oil to the upper lip and nose, found that peppermint oil aromatherapy significantly reduced nausea, vomiting, retching, and the severity of nausea in patients receiving chemotherapy.

If you’re struggling with IBS nausea, try diffusing a few drops of peppermint essential oil or applying a small amount under your nose.

Ginger

Ginger is another commonly used home remedy for nausea. It’s thought that ginger reduces nausea because it speeds up stomach emptying and stimulates stomach contractions.

Studies in pregnant people and people undergoing chemotherapy have shown that ginger may be an effective treatment for nausea.

There are many ways to enjoy ginger. Consider sipping on some ginger tea, sucking on ginger candy, or adding ground ginger to your meals.

Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy

Gut-directed hypnotherapy is when a therapist gives suggestions to produce a state of heightened awareness that can positively influence biological, emotional, and cognitive processes.

Studies in children with functional nausea have found that gut-directed hypnotherapy effectively relieves nausea. 

In addition to helping with nausea, studies have found that a smartphone app-delivered gut-directed hypnotherapy program improves other symptoms of IBS.

If there isn’t a gut-directed hypnotherapist in your area, consider using an app to guide you through the process.

Prevention

Some people find that eating large meals triggers their nausea.

If this is the case, try eating five to six small, frequent meals daily instead of three large meals. This can reduce the stress on your digestive system and may prevent nausea.

Here are some other nausea-prevention tips:

  • Eat slowly.
  • Avoid drinking too much fluid with meals.
  • Avoid lying down immediately after eating.
  • Do not wear clothes that are too tight.
  • Get fresh air.
  • Avoid deep-fried or greasy food. 

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Takeaway

While nausea isn’t a classical symptom of IBS, many people with IBS experience it.

If your nausea is accompanied by frequent stomach pain, bloating, or changes in bowel movements, it could indicate that you have IBS.

Luckily, there are many home remedies for nausea.

These include peppermint oil, ginger, and gut-directed hypnotherapy.

Plus, by eating small, frequent meals, eating slowly, and avoiding wearing clothes that are too tight, you may be able to prevent nausea.

How a Dietitian Can Help

If you’re struggling with IBS nausea, working with an IBS dietitian may be helpful.

They can help you determine which foods trigger your nausea and devise a plan to help manage your nausea. 

Find a dietitian who accepts insurance through Nourish. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does IBS nausea feel like?

IBS nausea can feel like sickness or discomfort in the stomach. It’s often accompanied by the urge to vomit.

Can IBS make you physically sick?

While vomiting or being physically sick is not a classical symptom of IBS, if your IBS causes severe nausea, it could cause you to vomit or be physically sick.

Can IBS feel like gastroenteritis?

IBS shares some symptoms with gastroenteritis, such as diarrhea and abdominal pain. IBS can also be caused by a bout of gastroenteritis. This is known as post-infection IBS.

References

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