While not as commonly known, nausea is a possible symptom of menopause. Due to the various causes of nausea in menopause, it’s also not known how many women experience it.
Menopause officially starts when you haven’t had a menstrual cycle for 12 months straight. As you get closer to menopause, you may experience changes in your periods, along with some notorious symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Some women also report nausea before and during menopause. While there’s no single cause of nausea, it’s possibly linked to hormone changes, other menopausal symptoms, and certain treatments. It’s also important to know that symptoms greatly vary between women.
If you’re experiencing nausea on a regular basis and you are either in perimenopause or menopause, learn more about the possible causes, so you can discuss this further with a healthcare provider.
Nausea can be a symptom of menopause in some, but not all women. Possible causes include a natural drop in hormone levels, hot flashes, or side effects from hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Decreased hormone levels
Menopause itself occurs as a result of a drop in female hormones called estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are normally produced in your ovaries and help regulate your periods. Your ovaries can decrease the amount of these hormones anywhere between the ages of 40 to 59.
Hormone changes alone may be one cause of nausea during menopause. If you ever noticed nausea before your menstrual cycles, this was likely due to a natural drop in estrogen.
Hot flashes are considered the most common menopause symptom. These sensations can come and go throughout the day, and are characterized by waves of warmth in your upper body, particularly your head and chest areas. Your skin may also turn red and blotchy.
Aside from warmth, hot flashes can make you sweat. Hot flashes that occur at night can cause drenching night sweats, both of which may interfere with your sleep.
Sometimes hot flashes may be so strong that they can make you feel nauseous. Other possible symptoms include:
- headache or migraine, which may also cause nausea
- heart palpitations
- chills (“cold flashes”)
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
HRT consists of laboratory-made estrogen and progestin. While it may help alleviate symptoms during early menopause, there are also serious side effects associated with this treatment when given long-term and in high doses. Some of these risks include blood clots and stroke.
There are also other non-life threatening side effects from HRT, including nausea, among others:
- breast tenderness
- mood changes
Treatment for nausea from menopause may involve a combination of lifestyle or dietary changes, along with prescription medications to help address the underlying causes.
There are also some foods and beverages that can make nausea and hot flashes worse. You may want to avoid or decrease your consumption of the following:
- spicy foods
- hot foods
- hot beverages
- caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea
You may also ask your doctor whether phytoestrogen-rich foods may help provide relief of your menopause symptoms. While more research needs to be done in terms of efficacy and safety, some women may find relief from naturally occurring low levels of estrogen in plant foods such as soy.
Herbal estrogen products have not been found to be effective or safe.
Alleviating hot flashes with lifestyle changes
If your nausea is related to hot flashes, you may find relief by addressing this underlying cause directly. While you may not be able to avoid hot flashes entirely, the following methods may help reduce their effects on your body:
- avoid any known triggers, such as spicy foods and hot drinks
- stay in an air conditioned room whenever it’s hot and humid outdoors
- drink plenty of water, especially when you start feeling a hot flash begin
- dress in layers, preferably of breathable cotton or other natural fabrics
- make sure your room is cool at night
- keep cool compresses or portable fans handy when traveling outside your home
- reduce stress and engage in relaxing activities as much as possible
- try to exercise every day, and do so outdoors when the weather is cool
- if you smoke, consider trying to stop
If your symptoms don’t improve with lifestyle changes after three months, your doctor might recommend medications. These may be helpful if you experience nausea as a symptom related to other symptoms of menopause. Possible prescription treatments include:
- HRT. While HRT may cause nausea and other side effects in some people, it may help treat menopause symptoms overall in others. Talk with your doctor about the risks versus benefits of HRT, as this treatment isn’t right for everyone. HRT may increase your risk for:
- blood clots
- breast cancer
- other health problems
- Oral contraceptives. Low-dose birth control pills may help supply the right amount of female hormones to help offset menopause symptoms that could be causing nausea.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). When prescribed in low doses, SSRIs may help alleviate hot flashes and accompanying symptoms. These antidepressants may also help treat mood disorders and help you sleep better at night. Unfortunately, nausea is one possible side effect of SSRIs, so be sure to report any new symptoms to your doctor while taking these medications.
Nausea during menopause may be caused by hormone changes or be linked to other related symptoms, such as hot flashes.
Aside from nausea and hot flashes though, menopause may cause other symptoms such as:
- night sweats
- headaches and migraine
- nighttime insomnia and daytime fatigue
- moodiness and irritability from lack of sleep
- stress and anxiety
- vaginal dryness
- decreased libido
- weight gain, or trouble losing weight
- increased urination and incontinence
- more frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
If you’re concerned about menopause-related nausea, it’s important to talk with a healthcare professional. This is especially the case if your nausea is chronic throughout the day, or if it’s severe enough to interfere with your regular activities.
Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend treatments or lifestyle changes that may help you find nausea relief. They may also make recommendations for treating other symptoms that might be interfering with your quality of life, such as insomnia, decreased libido, and mood changes.
Nausea is a possible symptom of menopause that may be caused by changes in your hormones. It may also be a side effect of hot flashes or HRT. Not everyone will experience nausea while going through menopause.
If you find that your nausea is frequent or severe enough to impact your daily life, talk with a healthcare professional for treatment options. Lifestyle changes may be attempted before trying medications.