IBS and Nausea: Why Am I Nauseous?

Overview of IBS


  1. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic, or ongoing, condition that is noninflammatory.
  2. Nausea in IBS is often related to other common symptoms like fullness, abdominal pain, and bloating after eating.
  3. Avoiding stress and certain foods can decrease IBS symptoms such as nausea.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic, or ongoing, condition that is noninflammatory. While it’s often compared with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease, IBS is different. It only affects the colon. IBS also doesn’t destroy your tissues.

Despite these key differences, IBS can still be a problem because of its symptoms. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, as many as 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience them. Nausea is associated with this condition. Symptoms can come and go. When they do occur, they can greatly affect quality of your life.

You can manage IBS with a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes, but it requires lifelong management. When it comes to nausea, it’s also important to determine whether it is a co-occurring symptom of IBS, or if it’s related to something else.

Causes of IBS Nausea

Causes Icon

IBS doesn’t have one single cause. According to the Mayo Clinic, the main factors include:

  • stronger intestinal contractions during normal digestive changes
  • acute gastrointestinal disease
  • abnormalities within the gastrointestinal system
  • abnormal signals between your intestines and brain

Despite the variety of causes of IBS, many people are more concerned with the symptoms that often disrupt their quality of life. There’s no single cause of IBS-related nausea, but it’s indeed prevalent among patients. According to Dr. Lin Chang, medical doctor and professor at UCLA, one of her 2014 studies found that IBS-related nausea affects about 38 percent of women and 27 percent of men. Hormonal changes are an issue for women who have IBS, and IBS affects mostly women, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Nausea in people who have IBS is often related to other common symptoms like fullness, abdominal pain, and bloating after eating. While not always the case, IBS nausea can occur most often after certain foods trigger your symptoms.

Certain medications, such as the IBS drug lubiprostone, can also increase your risk of nausea. Other non-IBS drugs you may take from can also cause nausea:

  • antibiotics
  • antidepressants
  • aspirin
  • narcotics
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • birth control pills

Other Causes

While nausea can occur with IBS, your doctor may consider other causes if you don’t exhibit any common IBS symptoms. Furthermore, your nausea can be related to other conditions you might have, such as:

  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • occasional heartburn
  • migraines
  • functional dyspepsia

You should see your doctor immediately if you have sudden weight loss and rectal bleeding .These can be signs of a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. You should also see your doctor immediately if you have:

  • a high fever
  • chest pain
  • blurry vision
  • fainting

Co-Occurring Symptoms

Symptoms Icon

When it comes to IBS-related nausea, you might also have vomiting, a loss of appetite, and excessive burping at the same time.

Aside from nausea-related symptoms, you might also experience other common signs of IBS. These include, but are not limited to:

  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • constipation
  • cramps
  • diarrhea
  • gas

Nausea itself is most commonly caused by viral gastroenteritis. Therefore, if you only experience nausea temporarily, it may be part of an illness other than IBS.

Conventional Medical Treatment

Treatment Icon

Prescription medications solely intended for IBS include alosetron and lubiprostone. Alosetron helps to regulate your colon’s contractions and slows down digestion. Alosetron is only recommended for women who have tried other medications that have failed.

Lubiprostone works by secreting fluids in IBS patients experiencing chronic constipation. It’s also only recommended for women, but one of the side effects is nausea.

Sometimes IBS treatments will not help alleviate all related symptoms. In other words, it may be helpful to directly treat some of the most prevalent problems. With persistent nausea, you might consider antinausea medications like prochlorperazine.

Alternative Medicine and Lifestyle Changes

home treatment

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can also prevent IBS symptoms like nausea. The Mayo Clinic identifies the following triggers of symptoms:

Increased Stress

When you’re very stressed, you might experience more frequent or worsened symptoms. Being nervous or stressed can cause nausea in people that don’t have IBS. Therefore, having IBS might increase this risk even more. Alleviating stress may help your IBS symptoms.

Certain Foods

Food triggers can vary, but food choices often increase IBS symptoms. The main triggers include:

  • alcohol
  • milk
  • caffeine
  • beans
  • fats
  • broccoli

Eliminating foods that trigger gas can help alleviate frequent nausea.


Alternative medicine may help with nausea, but it’s important to use such remedies with caution. Herbs and supplements may interact with prescription drugs. These can even worsen your condition. The following options may help your IBS and nausea:

  • ginger
  • peppermint oil
  • probiotics
  • combinations of certain Chinese herbs

Other remedies for IBS symptoms include:

  • acupuncture
  • hypnotherapy
  • meditation
  • reflexology
  • yoga

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), mind and body practices are among the safest natural treatments for IBS. While such approaches can help, it’s important to remember that there’s no solid evidence backing them just yet.


Icon Outlook

While IBS itself doesn’t lead to more serious complications, nausea can become problematic.

Malnourishment, for instance, is just one concern. Avoiding symptoms like nausea can discourage you from eating a wide range of foods that would otherwise be a part of a balanced diet. Also, if your nausea is accompanied by vomiting, you might not get enough nutrients.

If IBS causes nausea, may find relief through long-term lifestyle changes. Antinausea drugs and changes in your medications can also help. It’s important to discuss all of your options with your gastroenterologist. You should also follow up with your doctor if you have IBS and your nausea doesn’t improve. 

You Asked, We Answered

  • Can my menstrual cycle affect my IBS symptoms? - Anonymous
  • Yes, it can. The imbalance of female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, throughout the menstrual cycle can affect gut motility. This can potentially make the symptoms of IBS worse and is especially true before the start of menstruation. 

    - Mark LaFlamme, MD

Read This Next

Most Common Symptoms of IBS
IBS and Weight Gain or Loss
IBS Symptoms in Men and Women
IBS and Back Pain
Irritable Bowel Syndrome vs. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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