Nausea is a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome that can be treated, but it requires lifelong management.
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 and doesn’t damage your tissues.
Despite these key differences, IBS can still be a concern because of its symptoms. In fact, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), approximately
Nausea is associated with IBS. Symptoms can come and go. When they do occur, they can interfere with your daily activities.
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’s a co-occurring symptom of IBS or if it’s related to something else.
IBS doesn’t have one single cause. Some of the
- problems with the signals between your intestines and brain, causing food to move too slowly or quickly through your digestive tract
- a bacterial infection in the digestive tract or bacteria overgrowth in the small intestine
- food sensitivities or intolerances
- a family history of IBS
- anxiety, depression, or somatic symptom disorder
- physical or sexual abuse at a young age
According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), IBS-related nausea affects about 38% of women and 27% of men.
Certain medications used to treat IBS symptoms, such as laxatives for constipation, can also increase your risk of nausea. Other medications not related to IBS that can cause nausea include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
- birth control pills
While nausea can occur with IBS, a doctor may consider other causes if you don’t experience common IBS symptoms.
Your nausea can be related to other conditions, such as:
It’s also important to see a doctor immediately if you have:
In addition to IBS-related nausea, you might also experience:
Other common symptoms of IBS include but aren’t limited to:
Nausea by itself is most commonly caused by viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu). If you only experience nausea temporarily, it may be part of an illness other than IBS.
Prescription medications solely intended for IBS include alosetron (Lotronex) and lubiprostone (Amitiza).
Alosetron helps to regulate your colon’s contractions and slows down digestion. It is only recommended for women who have tried other medications that have not worked.
Lubiprostone works by secreting fluids in people with IBS who are experiencing chronic constipation. It’s also only recommended for women, and one of the side effects is nausea.
Sometimes, IBS treatments won’t help ease all related symptoms. It may be helpful to directly treat some of the most bothersome symptoms. For example, with nausea that doesn’t go away, consider anti-nausea medications like prochlorperazine (Compazine).
The following alternative treatments and lifestyle changes may help alleviate nausea and other IBS symptoms.
Alternative medicine may help with nausea, but it’s important to use these treatments with caution. Herbs and supplements may interact with prescription drugs and can worsen your condition.
The following home remedies may help your IBS and nausea:
Other alternative treatments for IBS symptoms include:
When you’re very stressed, you might experience more frequent or worsened IBS symptoms. Being nervous or stressed can cause nausea in people without IBS. Therefore, having IBS might increase this risk even more.
The following activities ways to help alleviate stress:
According to the
Avoiding certain foods
The foods you eat may increase nausea and other IBS symptoms.
Some of the main IBS food triggers include:
Eliminating foods that trigger gas may help alleviate nausea.
IBS itself doesn’t lead to more serious complications, but nausea can become an issue.
For example, malnourishment can become a concern. In trying to avoid nausea, you might avoid eating foods that would otherwise be part of a balanced diet. Also, if your nausea causes vomiting, you might not get enough nutrients.
If IBS causes nausea, you might find relief through long-term lifestyle changes. Anti-nausea drugs and changes to your medication regimen might also help. It’s important to discuss all of your options with a doctor or gastroenterologist.
Follow up with a doctor if you have IBS and your nausea doesn’t improve.