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8 things that could trigger nausea

You've ruled out a hangover and food poisoning - so what's causing that unsettled feeling in your stomach? Liz Connor asks the experts

Sickly feeling: stomach cramps can be brought on for a number of reasons
Sickly feeling: stomach cramps can be brought on for a number of reasons

What if you wake up with a delicate stomach - and you can't blame it on the booze because you haven't touched a drop?

Here, medical experts explain eight unexpected things that could be causing your queasiness...

1. Feeling stressed or anxious

We all know that stress and anxiety can affect the body in many ways, and it's not uncommon for these things to trigger feelings of nausea or sickness.

"This is because your body reacts to stressful or anxious situations by releasing a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, and the imbalance can make us feel unwell," explains Dr Luke Powles, associate clinical director at Bupa (bupa.co.uk).

Dr Powles says the best initial course of action is to try making simple lifestyle changes to reduce your feelings of stress. These include leading a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, reducing work stress and practising relaxing techniques, like meditation or mindfulness.

2. Taking certain medication

Whether taken for pain, allergies or mental health issues, popping a pill can sometimes irritate the lining of the stomach.

This is common if you don't use medicines in the way advised by your pharmacist, such as taking them on an empty stomach - so always read the guidelines.

"Nausea or vomiting can be among these side-effects, so it's worth considering whether your sickness is linked to any medicines," says Dr Powles. "If you're worried about a particular medicine you're taking, you should always speak to a pharmacist or your GP."

3. You're pregnant

Nausea and vomiting in the early stages of pregnancy, often known as morning sickness, is very common.

"In most cases, it is mild and doesn't need any specific treatment, but in rarer instances, some women might experience severe pregnancy sickness, called hyperemesis gravidarum, which might require specialist treatment or medical support," says Dr Powles.

4. Motion sickness

Motion sickness is due to excessive and repetitive stimulation of motion-detecting hair cells in the inner ear, according to Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director at Healthspan (healthspan.com).

"This triggers motion sickness when the brain receives conflicting messages from the eyes that do not match the degree of movement detected by the inner ears," she says.

This is especially likely in an enclosed space such as a car, where you tend to focus on a nearby object - the eyes tell your brain the environment is stationary, while your balance organs say it is not.

"The most effective medication to prevent and treat motion sickness is cinnarizine, which is available from pharmacies," says Dr Brewer.

Sitting upright and facing forwards while travelling, avoiding reading and keeping cool and well-hydrated may also help.

5. Kidney stones

Kidney stones are hard stones that can form in one or both of your kidneys, causing intense pain.

"Kidney stones can move out of our kidney and into your ureter - the tube that carries urine from your kidney to your bladder - and this can cause symptoms, including sickness and vomiting, along with severe pain," says Dr Powles.

It's best to get these symptoms checked. "If you experience nausea and vomiting associated with severe pain, or you are not passing stools or urine, it is important to see a doctor urgently," says Dr Prudence Knight, an online GP from Push Doctor (pushdoctor.co.uk)

6. Gallstones

Gallstones develop in the gallbladder when chemicals like fats and minerals in your bile harden. You might not know you've got any unless they show up during tests, or if they move and cause complications.

"Some of the most common symptoms to look out for are feeling sick or vomiting, typically accompanied by a high temperature and tummy pain, often in the right upper region," explains Dr Powles.

Most cases of gallstones are easily treated with keyhole surgery.

7. Migraines

Most people associate migraines with a nasty headache - but there are other symptoms associated with it too, such as feeling sick and/or vomiting.

"There's unfortunately no cure for migraines, but there are ways to treat symptoms, reduce the pain, and stop them from happening so often," says Dr Powles.

When you feel a migraine coming on, it's best to rest in a quiet, darkened room. Powles advises applying pressure, an ice pack or hot water bottle to the painful area.

There are also specific medications that can help with migraines, which your GP can advise about. If you're struggling to manage severe migraines, ask for a specialist referral.

8. A food intolerance

The NHS reports that the number of people who believe they have a food intolerance has risen dramatically over recent years, and if your body finds it difficult to digest certain foods, you may experience nausea, bloating and stomach pains.

"If you're often feeling unwell after mealtimes and you're worried you're intolerant to a particular food, you should start keeping a food diary to monitor your symptoms," advises Dr Powles. "But before you start eliminating complete food groups from your diet, it's best to speak to your doctor or registered dietician first."

If in doubt, see your GP

Finally, if you have persistent nausea and vomiting for more than 48 hours, you should book in to see your GP.

If you're bringing up blood or bile, you have severe tummy pain and a high temperature, then it could be a sign of something more serious, and you should seek immediate medical attention.

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