Chronic nausea is a common complaint amongst those living with chronic illness. Nausea is a protective mechanism designed to keep you from being poisoned by an inedible plant or discourage you from eating spoiled food.
When it’s working as it should, it’s a handy survival tool. However, when it’s constant and chronic, it’s nothing but another nuisance you have to face every day.
Causes of Chronic Nausea for Those With Chronic Illness
Nausea can be caused by dozens of different factors. In this article, we’ll focus on the most common causes of chronic nausea among those with a chronic illness.
Many who live with chronic pain also experience anxiety. When you’re anxious, your body releases hormones that put your body into “fight-or-flight” mode.
When this happens, blood rushes away from your stomach and into your limbs to prepare you for battle or flight.
Your stomach essentially ceases all digestive functions at this point, which, especially if you’ve recently eaten a meal, can cause nausea.
Those with chronic illness often experience depression. According to a survey and psychiatric scale assessment of 62,000 people in Norway, 41 percent of those who had major complaints of nausea were found to have an anxiety disorder, while 24 percent were clinically depressed.
- Medication side effects
Nausea is a common side effect of several drugs, including NSAID pain relievers, narcotic pain relievers, antibiotics, and aspirin.
- Chronic pain
Chronic pain causes a bombardment of pain signals to travel to the brain, heightening the nervous system. This ‘central sensitization’ can cause anxiety, headaches, and vertigo, which may result in nausea.
With gastroparesis, digestive motility slows way down, causing an alteration in stomach rhythms. These disrupted rhythms are relayed to your central nervous system via your vagus nerve, which can trigger that familiar nauseated feeling.
The type of headache most likely to make you feel nauseated is a migraine. During a migraine headache, arteries in the head dilate, stretching the nerve fibers that encircle those arteries.
This causes them to send nerve impulses to the brain, which activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which controls the “fight-or-flight” response. This response readies the body for action by increasing the heart rate, raising blood pressure, and slowing digestion.
All of which can result in nausea.
Note: Before treating your chronic nausea naturally, it is very important to learn the cause first. Your nausea could be a symptom of a more serious illness. Talk with your doctor.
However, if you know the cause, try these natural remedies to “ease the quease”.
How to Treat Chronic Nausea Naturally
Slow, Deep Breathing
If your nausea is related to anxiety, slow, deep breathing can help. Sit comfortably in a chair, close your eyes, and inhale and exhale deeply. When you reach the top of your inhalation, hold it as long as you can comfortably do so, and then slowly release the breath through your mouth.
Do this for five to 10 minutes.
The combination of fresh oxygen to the brain and feelings of relaxation in the muscles will help decrease nausea and anxiety.
Bonus: You can add a yoga pose to this breathing exercise. This is especially beneficial if you have a headache or are feeling light-headed. Sit on one end of your bed with a pile of pillows in front of you. Sit cross-legged if you are able, and lean forward until your body is at a 45-degree angle, arms resting against the pillows, face down towards the bed. Do some deep breathing.
Ginger has been used for centuries to treat nausea and other digestive ailments. Ginger essential oil is made up of about 90 percent sesquiterpenes, which have powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Moreover, the oily resin from the root, called ‘gingerol’, acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
- Ginger Tea
Ginger tea is a healthy way to soothe nerves while treating chronic nausea naturally. To make your own ginger tea, cut an organic ginger root into thin slices and place the slices into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.
Strain the ginger, or, if you prefer, let it mix into your cup as you pour the tea. Allow the tea to cool to a comfortable temperature and enjoy.
- Ginger Oil
According to a study published in Anesthesia and Analgesia, postoperative patients who used ginger essential oil as an aromatherapy agent required less anti-nausea medications than those who did not use the oil.
A blend of essential oils (ginger, spearmint, peppermint, and cardamom) was also found to be quite effective in reducing nausea naturally.
“Aromatherapy is promising as an inexpensive, noninvasive treatment for PON that can be administered and controlled by patients as needed.”
Peppermint is another common natural treatment for nausea.
- Peppermint Essential Oil
According to a study published on chemotherapy-induced nausea, researchers found that peppermint oil provided a significant reduction in the intensity and amount of nausea and vomiting events in the first 24 hours of treatment when compared to those who did not use the oil.
Spearmint had an identical effect. Like ginger, peppermint and spearmint essential oils are shown to have antiemetic (reduces nausea and urge to vomit) and antispasmodic effects on the gastric lining and colon.
- Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea can also be consumed as a natural remedy for chronic nausea. Due to its calming and numbing effect, peppermint relaxes the stomach muscles so bile can break down fats, and food can move through the stomach more quickly.
Note: Those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are advised not to use peppermint.
Acupressure is an ancient Chinese healing art you can use at home to treat your chronic nausea naturally. The thought behind the practice of acupressure is that stimulating certain trigger points on the body, called ‘acupoints’, can help release muscle tension while promoting blood circulation.
Directions on how to perform acupressure for nausea from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center:
- Position your hand so that your fingers are pointing up and your palm is facing you.
- To find pressure point P-6, place the first 3 fingers of your opposite hand across your wrist.
- Then, place your thumb on the point just below your index finger.
- You should be able to feel 2 large tendons under your thumb.
- Use your thumb or forefinger to press on this point in a circular motion for 2 to 3 minutes. The pressure should be firm but not cause discomfort.
- Repeat the process on your other wrist.
While you’re massaging this acupressure point, you should feel a deep, achy sensation, but it should not be painful. If it is, ease up on the pressure until it feels more comfortable.
For visual learners, here’s a video:
You don’t have to take chronic nausea lying down. These natural remedies can help stop that sticky, queasy feeling so you can get on with your day.