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What Are the Possible Causes of Unexplained Nausea?

Nausea may be attributed to the early stages of pregnancy or the side effects of medications.
A food diary may help establish a connection between nausea and certain foods.
Bland diets that include cooked rice are recommended for people suffering from nausea.
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  • Written By: Erica Stratton
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2014
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Unexplained nausea can have so many causes. It can be a symptom of various undiagnosed diseases, a side effect of medication, or the first sign of a food allergy. Other times, the stomach is not receiving the nerve signals it needs in order to commence digesting properly.

Diagnosing nausea begins with eliminating the most common causes. If someone is on a certain kind of medication, they may be asked to go off it in order to discern if nausea is a side effect. Pregnancy and hunger are also causes of nausea that can take someone by surprise. Once these options have been ruled out, the doctor may ask the patient to keep a log of all her daily activities in order to determine the cause.

There are several chronic illnesses which have continual nausea as a little-known symptom. For example, diabetes can begin with nausea before any other obvious symptoms. Problems with the gallbladder can manifest themselves in a queasy stomach as well as a pain in the side. Acid reflux disease can have nausea as a main side effect.

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Unexplained nausea can also happen as the result of a food allergy. Though food allergies are usually diagnosed when people are children, they can also develop later in life. Sometimes, a person will become allergic to a food he previously had no problems with. In these cases, a patient is often asked to start as bland a diet as possible, then keep a food diary as they add new items to the diet. When the person has a reaction to a new food, he will have found the cause of his unexplained nausea.

Nausea associated with chronic conditions can be misleading, because in absence of other symptoms, the main problem will seem to be gastric, rather than the symptom of a larger problem. Making an appointment with a doctor and working with a gastric specialist can help a sufferer sift through all of the probable causes to find a treatment.

Finally, unexplained nausea may not be caused by a disease or a food allergy, but by a nerve disorder. Some researchers refer to the stomach as having a "pacemaker," meaning that it receives nerve signals telling it whether or not to digest. Sometimes, the stomach can receive these messages when they're not needed or never receive them at all. When the stomach is "paralyzed" like this and unable to digest food, the patient often feels sick to her stomach. Treatments for this type of stomach problem are still being researched.

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Discuss this Article

seefooddiet
Post 7

I've had unexplained illnesses and reactions all my life. I thought it could be food allergies, but the foods I ate could be totally O.K. some times and cause reactions at other times; it was unpredictable.

It's only this year that I finally found an answer: histamine intolerance. It's a weird thing because it can affect any part of the body, and it's inconsistent. The low histamine diet instantly fixed my digestive problems but took a bit longer to overcome my skin problems, but I can't tell you how happy I am not to have those pains and itches all the time.

The book I found it out from is called "Strictly Low Histamine," and I'd recommend it to anyone with unexplained sickness that appears to be food allergy. It might not be food allergy -- it might be histamine intolerance.

serenesurface
Post 6

Great article, so informative!

Now that I think about it, I used to get nausea a lot and for no apparent reason several years before I was diagnosed with diabetes. I think it used to happen after having unhealthy foods and sweets. My blood sugar was probably soaring high and giving me nausea.

I actually noticed it when I went to the hospital for a glucose tolerance test. They made me drink 75 grams of pure glucose and about fifteen minutes later, I had the worst nausea and vomiting of my life. I used have a similar reaction when I ate too much junk food before.

I guess this was a sign of my diabetes but I never took it seriously. If I had gone to the doctor earlier, I might have been diagnosed much earlier.

burcidi
Post 5

Last year, I started getting nausea all of the sudden, what seemed like for no reason. I had mild nausea throughout the day but vomited any time I was in a car, a bus or subway.

First I thought it was motion sickness but that didn't make sense because I've never had motion sickness before. I also didn't have a problem with my ears and I think motion sickness happens when the pressure inside the ears changes.

Anyway, after trying to ignore it for a couple of weeks, I finally went to the doctor. They did this breath test to see if there was any bad bacteria in my stomach. It came back positive! It turns out the bugs were making me sick! I was treated with antibiotics and the nausea disappeared.

kylee07drg
Post 4

@StarJo – I guess antibiotics treat a wide range of infections. It would bother me not knowing what I had, but I would be glad for the relief if it worked.

I didn't go to a doctor when I started having unexplained nausea, because I had no other symptoms to tell him. I had just started my new job, and every morning at my desk, I would feel a powerful wave of nausea come over me.

A couple of times, I got up to go to the bathroom, thinking I would surely vomit soon. I didn't, and the nausea eventually passed.

I started drinking peppermint tea to soothe my stomach, and it worked. I now believe that I was just going through a really stressful time, and my stomach was in upheaval because of it.

StarJo
Post 3

Nausea can mean that you have a bacterial infection. I had been ignoring subtle symptoms of a urinary tract infection, because I couldn't be sure if I had it or not. However, when the nausea arrived, I knew that something was wrong.

I woke up one morning extremely nauseated. Within a few minutes, I was vomiting. I decided to go see my doctor that day and figure out what was wrong.

I told him I suspected I might have a UTI, and he tested my urine but found no signs of it. He decided to give me antibiotics to treat whatever might be ailing me, and it worked. So, I had some type of infection somewhere in my body.

lighth0se33
Post 2

My aunt had waves of nausea come over her suddenly for seemingly no reason. Since her mother and grandmother both had developed diabetes later in life, the doctor decided to test her for it.

She did have it, after all. This was terrible news to her, because now, she has to watch everything she eats and monitor her blood sugar levels. She has had to give up so many of her favorite foods, and this has made her depressed and irritable at times.

However, I know that she is probably healthier because of it. She ate way too much sugar and fatty foods before, and she was overweight. She will probably finally be able to lose the weight now.

orangey03
Post 1

My husband discovered that he was allergic to mushrooms after eating a dish containing them a couple of times and having the same reaction. He suffered hot flashes and nausea, and this later turned into violent diarrhea.

The first time it happened, he thought he might have food poisoning, because he had eaten at a restaurant and did not know how the food had been stored and prepared. The second time, though, he had eaten a meal his sister had made for him, and he knew that the food was good. This led him to determine he was allergic to mushrooms.

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