Nausea and Vomiting: What You May Not Know

Nausea and vomiting are not diseases but rather the symptoms of an underlying health problem. Nausea is that queasy feeling you get in your stomach when it wants to empty itself, whereas vomiting, or throwing up, is forcibly spitting up the contents of the stomach. The act of vomiting is so violent, in fact, the stomach nearly turns itself inside out during contractions of the abdominal muscles.

There are many reasons why you may become nauseous or begin vomiting, including a bout of acute gastritis, which is caused by a problem that is irritating the lining of the stomach. Some common causes of acute gastritis include:

  • Infections. Viruses or an infection that is picked up when traveling are often associated with a feeling of abdominal pain, fever, chills, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach flu. The stomach flu is often a catchall term to describe vomiting and diarrhea due to a viral infection. Stomach flu is different from a bout of influenza, which include more symptoms such as fever, chills, cough and muscle pain.
  • Food poisoning. Food poisoning is usually caused by a bacterial toxin, such as Salmonella and E.coli, and often results in significant vomiting within a couple of hours of eating contaminated food and may last for one to two days.
  • Other stomach irritants. Alcohol, smoking, and taking certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and ibuprofen, can all upset the stomach.

Nausea and vomiting is also associated with an irritation of the lining of the esophagus caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Migraine headaches, inner ear problems, head injury, heat related illness and disorders such as diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease, some forms of cancer and even heart attack may all cause nausea and vomiting.

Finding Relief

If you're recuperating from a bout of nausea and vomiting, try to get clear fluids into your system within the first 24 hours of an illness to prevent dehydration. Some good choices include:

  • Water
  • Sports drinks
  • Clear broths
  • Popsicles
  • Jello

However, if your symptoms persist for more than 24 to 48 hours and you're not certain of the origin of your problem, contact your physician. Your doctor will be able to diagnose your underlying problem and if necessary prescribe an anti-nausea (antiemetic) medication to ease your symptoms. If you have nausea and vomiting that is associated with pain or fever or you're vomiting blood or have bloody or black bowel movements, seek medical attention immediately.