Tegan Philp | 22 Mar 2019 | Dysbiosis, SIBO

Is Nausea A Symptom Of IBS?

Have you ever had a sick feeling? Or the sense of having an ‘upset stomach’?

That’s nausea. It doesn’t always mean you have IBS, though it can be one of many symptoms of the condition. From optimising sleep to sipping tea, there are lots of ways to alleviate nausea.

Let’s take a closer look.


What is nausea?

Nausea—otherwise known as queasiness—can be harmless and pass after a couple of hours of feeling a bit ‘off’. However, it can also come on suddenly and lead to vomiting.

Nausea is a common feature of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This digestive condition affects a staggering one in five people in the UK [1]—and if that includes you, you’ll likely be familiar with its other symptoms [2]:

• Abdominal pain
• Migraines

Nausea and these other IBS symptoms can be triggered by stress, certain foods and several other causes [3], which is why a personalised approach is usually the best course of action.

Free gut health consultation with an expert


What causes nausea?

First things first, it’s important to realise that nausea is a symptom and not an actual illness [4]. You can have nausea in the morning or experience symptoms of IBS and nausea at night for a number of reasons:

• Motion-related changes, such as sea-sickness and travel sickness
• Toxin exposure, such as chemicals in cleaning products, skincare, pesticides and unpurified water
• Indigestion and heartburn
• Headaches
• Muscle pains
• Stress and anxiety
• Pregnancy and morning sickness (and hormonal changes)
• Gastrointestinal and digestive conditions
• Other conditions/illness
Gut bacteria [5]


Nausea and IBS infographic

Why does IBS cause nausea?

There’s no single cause of IBS-related nausea [6].

Although it can be a nuisance, in most cases nausea isn’t life-threatening. However, it’s wise to rule out serious conditions that can be related to IBS symptoms. These include arthritis, diabetes mellitus, gallbladder disease, malabsorption disorders, candida, pancreatic disease, skin disorders, ulcers, colon cancer and parasitic infections [7]. If you’re in any doubt, go and speak to your GP.

You should also consider your diet, as up to 80% of IBS sufferers believe food is a possible trigger for their symptoms [8]. Specific food intolerances are common culprits, along with caffeine, artificial sugars and fatty or fried foods. Over- or undereating can contribute to nausea too.

But food isn’t the only factor. Stress, anxiety and extreme emotional reactions can cause gut-wrenching feelings, along with nausea and loss of appetite [8].

This is because your body can’t differentiate between what’s real and imagined. It goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode in a genuinely life-threatening situation—such as an oncoming car—but it perceives other sources of stress as a danger too. This means that money troubles, relationship difficulties or an overbearing boss can all contribute to nausea and other IBS symptoms.


Treatment for nausea from IBS

You’re probably hoping that a single change will make your IBS and nausea disappear. While this can happen, most people benefit from a holistic approach that addresses several dietary and lifestyle factors at once.

Here’s where to start:

Tweak your lifestyle. Improving exercise, sleep and stress management can all help to relax a sensitive gut [9]. Breathing and journaling techniques can be useful. You can even keep it simple and go for a walk in the fresh air.

Keep a food diary for two weeks. This can help you pinpoint triggers. As well as everything you eat and drink, you may want to record particularly stressful events.

Try an elimination diet. Targeted restriction of FODMAPs, gluten and wheat can help IBS sufferers [10]. However, it’s best to work with a Registered Nutritional Therapist before going on any drastic diets. They can help determine the most effective approach for you—while keeping your diet as diverse as possible.

Drink ginger and lemon tea. This can help to relieve IBS-related nausea. Aloe vera juice can too [11].

Try peppermint oil capsules. These work by relaxing the muscles in your gut, which alleviates pain and cramping.

Use digestive enzymes. These can help you break food down more effectively, reducing bloating, gas and stomach discomfort.

Eat prebiotic foods. Apples, blueberries and green tea boost beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome. Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus plantarum, can also help to support healthy gut function.

Free gut health consultation with an expert


As you’ve learnt, nausea is a symptom—and you don’t have to accept it as a consequence of eating. Try the above steps and see how you feel.

For further support, you may wish to consider working with a registered practitioner. They can order tests to investigate further, suggest targeted supplements and create a nutrition and lifestyle plan that’s personalised to you.

No two cases of IBS are the same, so what worked for your friend might not work for you. Rather than extreme restriction or continuing confusion, the secret is to discover the approach that’s best for your body.

Tegan Philp BA PgDip MSc is a Registered Nutritional Therapist. Passionate about all things gut-related, her master’s dissertation was on the role of the microbiome in cardiovascular outcomes. Tegan has over eight years’ experience working for leading nutrition colleges in both Australia and the UK. You can learn more about Tegan on her practitioner page or connect with her via LinkedIn.


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