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:
- What feeling nauseous means and if it’s the same as feeling sick or queasy
- Some reasons why you might feel sick
- How to stop feeling sick with home remedies
- If paracetamol or ibuprofen helps with nausea
- How to stop yourself from vomiting
- When to be concerned about nausea
What does feeling nauseous mean?
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.
Is nausea the same as feeling sick?
Essentially, yes nausea is the same as feeling sick.
Is nausea the same as feeling queasy?
As well as being the same thing as feeling sick, nausea can also be described as feeling queasy.
Why do I feel sick?
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.
A stomach bug or food poisoning
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
Handpicked content: Is stress stopping your digestion?
Is it a migraine?
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.
Handpicked content: What causes poor sleep?
Anxiety and nausea
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
- a sudden high temperature of 38C or above
- an aching body
- feeling tired or exhausted
- a dry cough
- a sore throat
- a headache
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or tummy pain
- feeling sick and being sick
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
- a cough or hiccups that keep coming back
- a hoarse voice
- bad breath
- bloating and feeling sick
Labyrinthitis or vertigo
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
- dizziness or feeling that everything around you is spinning (vertigo)
- feeling unsteady and off balance – you might find it difficult to stay upright or walk in a straight line
- feeling or being sick
- hearing loss
- ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
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
- sitting in the front of a car or in the middle of a boat
- looking straight ahead at a fixed point, such as the horizon
- breathing fresh air if possible – for example, by opening a car window
- closing your eyes and breathing slowly while focusing on your breathing
- breaking up long journeys to get some fresh air, drinking water or taking a walk
- try taking ginger, which you can take as a tablet, biscuit or tea
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
How to stop nausea
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.
Pay attention to your posture
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.
Get some fresh air
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!
Lower your temperature
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.
Try some acupressure
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.
Sip on some water
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.
Drink some chamomile tea
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.
Inhale some lemon essential oil
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
Take some ginger
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
Does paracetamol help nausea?
Paracetamol acts as a pain killer and a medicine for fever, but it is not effective for treating nausea.20
Does ibuprofen help with nausea?
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.
How to stop yourself from vomiting
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
Eat some bland food
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.
When should I be concerned about nausea?
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:
- chest pain that feels tight or heavy
- pain that spreads to your arms, back, neck or jaw
- shortness of breath
The final say
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