Acid Reflux and Nausea

Written by Erica Roth and Rena Goldman | Published on May 5, 2015
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD on May 5, 2015

Overview

You can experience nausea for a variety of reasons, including pregnancy, medication use, food poisoning, and infection. Nausea can range from being mildly uncomfortable and unpleasant to seriously interfering with your daily life.

Acid reflux, a symptom of gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), can be a cause of 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 nauseous. Several factors are responsible for this feeling, many of which relate to how acid reflux works.

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. A 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. One way to weaken your LES is by eating certain types of food, such as:

  • fried, greasy, or fat-laden foods
  • tomatoes and red sauces
  • citrus fruits and juices
  • spicy foods
  • chocolate
  • peppermint
  • carbonated beverages
  • caffeinated beverages
  • alcohol
  • coffee (regular and decaf)

People who suffer from acid reflux often experience a sour taste in their mouth from stomach acids. The taste, along with the frequent burping and coughing associated with GERD, can create nausea and even vomiting in some cases.

Indigestion is another symptom of GERD that can contribute to nausea. Indigestion is largely caused by eating meals with high fat content. Fat is more difficult to digest than other nutrients, such as fiber and whole grains. When you eat a large amount of fat at one time, your digestive system slows down and can cause a condition called gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying. Undigested food stays in your stomach longer than usual, which can create nausea and indigestion, as well as heartburn.

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:

Lifestyle Changes

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 frequently.

Stop smoking. Nicotine products can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, increasing your symptoms. 

Be comfortable. Wearing loose-fitting clothes that don’t put additional pressure on your stomach can help reduce acid reflux and nausea. 

Change your position. Keep stomach acids in your stomach by staying in an upright position for two to three hours after eating. Put 6-inch blocks under the head of your bed to assist gravity, if needed.

Home Remedies

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. 

Medications

Take antacids. Antacid tablets or liquids may curb nausea and acid reflux by neutralizing stomach acids. 

Get a prescription. Ask your doctor about doctor prokinetic medications to help your stomach empty more efficiently. Anti-emetic medications are another option to relieve nausea.

Outlook

People are often able to reduce acid reflux symptoms and nausea by making lifestyle changes. However, 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.  

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