Yes. Not eating can make you feel nauseous.
This may be caused by a buildup of stomach acid or stomach contractions caused by hunger pangs.
Learn more about why an empty stomach can trigger nausea and what you can do to quell hunger-related nausea.
To help break down food, your stomach produces hydrochloric acid. If you don’t eat for a long period of time, that acid can build up in your stomach and potentially lead to acid reflux and nausea.
Hunger pangs are rarely caused by a medical condition. They’re usually attributed to your stomach being empty.
They can also be affected by:
- a need for a diet higher in essential nutrients
- lack of sleep
- anxiety or stress
- your environment
Your first step to respond to your hunger should be eating.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, if you haven’t eaten for a long period of time, gentle ways to address your body’s nutritional needs include:
- beverages, such as low-sugar smoothies
- brothy soups with protein (lentils, beans) or carbohydrates (rice, pasta)
- protein-rich foods, such as fish and lean meat
- dried foods, such as dates, apricots, and raisins
If you have intense nausea or pain when you’re extremely hungry, discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider.
It could be an indication that you need to be screened for metabolic syndrome and its symptoms, such as:
If you tend to feel nauseous when your stomach has been empty for a long period of time, consider eating at shorter intervals.
It’s not completely proven if a diet with six small meals a day is healthier than one with three larger meals. But eating smaller amounts of food with less time in between those meals may help prevent nausea.
However, Tufts University warns that if you eat a higher number of meals throughout the day, you should be eating less at each sitting compared to what you would eat if you ate less meals per day.
Tufts also noted that eating less than three times per day may make it harder to manage your appetite.
Try experimenting with the frequency of meals and the amount consumed at those meals.
It’s likely you’ll be able to find a plan that suits your lifestyle, keeping you satisfied, energized, and at a healthy weight while avoiding nausea from hunger.
Your healthcare provider or a dietician can help you create a diet and complementary meal plan based on your needs.
Your nausea could be a symptom of something other than a lack of food.
Nausea could be a sign that you’re dehydrated.
Chances are, you’ll also be thirsty. But even mild dehydration can upset your stomach. Try drinking some water and see if that helps.
If you’re also feeling extremely fatigued, dizzy, or confused, you might be severely dehydrated.
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of severe dehydration, seek immediate medical attention.
Taking some medications on an empty stomach can give you a feeling of nausea.
When you pick up a prescription, ask your pharmacist if you should take the medication with food.
According to a 2016 review of studies, medications that commonly have nausea as a side effect include:
- antibiotics, such as erythromycin (Erythrocin)
- blood pressure reducing drugs (antihypertensives), such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics
- chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin (Platinol), dacarbazine (DTIC-Dome), and mechlorethamine (Mustargen)
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications
Not only can certain prescription medicines make you feel nauseous when taken with an empty stomach, but OTC medications and supplements can also make you queasy.
These can include:
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin
- vitamin E
- vitamin C
The Cleveland Clinic notes that common causes of nausea may also be due to:
- exposure to chemical toxins
- various viruses
- motion sickness
- early pregnancy
- food poisoning
- certain odors
Often when you’re feeling nauseous, you also may have the urge to vomit.
If you’re feeling nauseous and you’re vomiting, it’s likely that you’re experiencing more than just hunger.
The Mayo Clinic suggests you seek medical attention if nausea and vomiting last for more than:
- 2 days for adults
- 24 hours for children over 1 year but under 2 years
- 12 hours for infants (up to 1 year)
Seek emergency medical attention or call 911 if nausea and vomiting are accompanied by:
For some people, going for extended periods of time without eating can result in in them feeling nauseous. One way to avoid this discomfort is to eat more frequently.
If your nausea doesn’t improve after changing your eating habits, see your healthcare provider.
A medical diagnosis can:
- help identify the cause of your discomfort
- help your healthcare provider create an appropriate treatment plan