Menopause and Nausea

Does Menopause Cause Nausea?

It might be surprising, but it’s true that nausea can be a symptom of perimenopause and menopause. It’s a relatively uncommon symptom that could be caused by the changes to your sex hormones, other menopause symptoms, or as a side effect of medications or treatments. 

This article will discuss the causes of nausea during menopause and the various treatment options available.

What Causes Nausea During Menopause?

There are several possible causes of nausea during menopause.

Hormonal Changes and Nausea

The way that the hormones estrogen and progesterone fluctuate during menopause can cause a range of different symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, and mood swings. These hormonal changes can also cause nausea and vomiting.

Hot Flashes and Nausea

A hot flash is a sudden and intense feeling of heat in your face, neck, and chest. In addition, you might have a flushed appearance, rapid heartbeat, sweating, feelings of anxiety, and sometimes nausea. 

In a study published in the Journal of The North American Menopause Society, 5% of the participants reported feeling nauseous during a hot flash.

It’s possible that nausea can be caused by the release of hormones, such as the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, during a hot flash. This sudden emission of hormones is a stress response and is particularly common during severe hot flashes.

How to Decrease the Frequency and Intensity of Hot Flashes

You can do a lot to improve hot flashes and their frequency as well as the nausea they cause, including:

  • Dress in layers so you can remove clothing when you feel a hot flash coming on.
  • Avoid triggers such as spicy foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage stress with relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
  • Talk to your doctor about hormone therapy options.

Anxiety and Nausea

Anxiety is a common menopause symptom, and it shares a bidirectional relationship with nausea, meaning anxiety can cause you to feel sick and vice versa.

It’s believed that when you’re anxious, neurotransmitters are released, which can lead to an upset stomach and queasiness.

How to Decrease Anxiety

To curb your anxiety, you will need to approach it both in the moment it occurs and in the long-term too so that over time you can make adjustments to give you coping strategies the next time you start to feel stressed. 

Anxiety can be difficult to cope with, but there are many things you can do to improve your reaction to stress, including:

  • Take slow, deep breaths when feeling anxious
  • Identify healthy coping mechanisms such as journaling or talking to a friend
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid food triggers such as caffeine, sugar, or alcohol
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing
  • Watch a funny video or listen to a relaxing or uplifting podcast

Learn more about how to cope with anxiety in these handy resources:

50 Natural Ways to Cope With Anxiety

50 Positive Affirmations for Anxiety

Perimenopause Anxiety in the Morning: Natural Ways to Cope

Stress and Nausea

Acute, intense stress can cause nausea. Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss, can all trigger this symptom. 

More long-term chronic stress can also lead to nausea. Women in menopause are dealing with physical, psychological, and social changes that can be very stressful. Because menopause can be such a difficult time for many women, it can trigger or worsen existing stress disorders. 

5 Ways to Decrease Stress Levels

  • Regular exercise
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Let go of the idea of being perfect – the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect employee, etc
  • Get enough sleep
  • Connect with others

Gastrointestinal Disorders and Nausea

Menopause can worsen existing digestive disorders or trigger new ones, creating the ideal conditions for nausea. 

Digestive diseases include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), and celiac disease.

If you suspect that menopause is making your GI issue worse or you’re experiencing digestive symptoms that you never had before, talk to your doctor. 

Unfortunately, each one of these problems takes a different – and sometimes surprising! – approach. After seeing your physician, a registered dietitian can help to figure out an eating plan that will work well for you.

For an in-depth look at the connection between menopause and stomach issues, read our blog post.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Nausea

Hormone therapy, also known as menopause replacement therapy (MHT), effectively treats menopause symptoms.

Similar to many other medications, possible side effects include nausea, anxiety, depression, and increased appetite. However, it’s a very effective treatment for your menopause and perimenopause symptoms, so if you experience nausea while on HRT, it’s best to speak to your physician to determine whether your medication is causing nausea, to rule out other causes, and to find a way to resolve the issue. 

Migraine and Nausea

Menopause can worsen migraines or even be a trigger for them when you’ve never had migraines before. Migraine and menopause share several risk factors, such as changes in hormone levels, anxiety, and stress. 

Nausea is a common symptom of migraines. In fact, it occurs in approximately 90% of those experiencing migraines. So it’s a very common complaint for menopausal women.

This blog article by Migraine Strong has great tips to decrease nausea during a migraine.

Other Causes of Nausea 

Nausea is a symptom. Therefore, in order to avoid it, it’s important to find the root cause. 

If it’s not related to any of the conditions listed above, feeling sick to your stomach for a day or two might be due to an infection, food poisoning, exposure to toxins, indigestion, or viruses. But sometimes nausea can be more persistent. 

Chronic Nausea

Nausea can disrupt your daily life and be a symptom of an underlying condition. If you experience nausea regularly, it’s a good idea to speak with your physician to rule out any other causes and find the best treatment options for you.

Chronic nausea is defined as symptoms that last for a month or longer.

Tips to Reduce Menopause Nausea 

The most important aspect of nausea treatment is to identify and resolve the underlying cause. However, there are still many things you can do to feel better sooner.

Avoid Strong Odors

Strong smells can trigger or worsen nausea. Cold foods and those prepared at room temperature have less odor and are often better tolerated when you’re feeling sick to your stomach.

If cooking causes you to feel queasy, ask a friend or family to cook for you. You could also try cooking on the days you feel better and freezing meals for later use. 

Drink Fluids

Dehydration can make nausea worse. Try to drink plenty of fluid throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Sip slowly and avoid carbonated or caffeinated beverages. This is especially important if vomiting is another of your symptoms.

Clear, cold beverages are generally easier to tolerate when you don’t feel well. Recommended beverages include popsicles and ice cubes.

Eat Small, Frequent Meals 

Smaller meals are digested faster, which helps with nausea and other stomach issues.

Foods that can help with nausea include dry, starchy, or salty foods such as pretzels, saltines, or white bread. 

Avoid Eating High-Fat or Fried Foods

If you’re feeling nauseous, avoid eating high-fat foods as they can take a longer time to digest and worsen your symptoms.

Avoid Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can make queasiness worse. If you enjoy spicy foods, start with a small amount and gradually increase the spice level to find what works for you.

Limit or Avoid Caffeine

Coffee is a diuretic and therefore promotes the removal of water from the blood. Because it causes water to be drawn from the blood into the digestive system, it can cause you to feel stomach sick. 

Eat Slowly

Eating too quickly can worsen nausea. Instead, sit down when eating and chew your food slowly to help with digestion.

Minimize Nausea When Eating

Avoiding liquids during mealtime can help control feelings of nausea during mealtimes. Instead, drink 30 to 60 minutes before and after eating. 

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can trigger nausea or make it worse. Try to manage stress with relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. 

Get Plenty of Rest

Fatigue can also increase feelings of nausea. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night. If you’re having problems sleeping, speak to your physician about treatment options.

When to See the Doctor

If nausea lasts for more than a few days, is severe, or prevents you from eating and drinking, it’s best to see your healthcare provider. 

Furthermore, if your feel queasy and you also have other symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain, or headache, then it’s advisable to seek medical help.

 Other Common Symptoms of Menopause

Although nausea can be a symptom of menopause, it’s not the only one. Some of the most common menopause complaints include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes in hair and skin texture
  • Gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea
  • Loss of bone density

The Bottom Line

Nausea is a possible symptom of menopause that can be caused by hormone fluctuations, other menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and digestive problems, or side effects of medications or treatments.

Dealing with the root cause of nausea is key to controlling it. You can make many lifestyle changes to reduce the feelings of queasiness that can affect your quality of life.

References

Anxiety and nausea: What is the link? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326391#can-anxiety-cause-nausea. Accessed May 29, 2022.

Escobar S-N. Perimenopause and IBS: Causes and treatment. Menopause Better. https://menopausebetter.com/perimenopause-and-ibs-causes-and-treatment/. Published April 20, 2022. Accessed May 29, 2022.

Fisher WI, Thurston RC. Measuring hot flash phenomenonology using Ambulatory Prospective Digital Diaries. Menopause. 2016;23(11):1222-1227. doi:10.1097/gme.0000000000000685

Fisher WI, Thurston RC. Measuring hot flash phenomenonology using Ambulatory Prospective Digital Diaries. Menopause. 2016;23(11):1222-1227. doi:10.1097/gme.0000000000000685

Hot flashes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hot-flashes/symptoms-causes/syc-20352790. Published May 20, 2022. Accessed May 29, 2022.

Menopause and HRT: Hormone replacement therapy types and side effects. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/menopause-hormone-therapy. Accessed May 29, 2022.

The most trusted Diet Manual since 1981. – Nutrition Care Manual. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/. Accessed June 1, 2022.

The most trusted Diet Manual since 1981. – Nutrition Care Manual. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/. Accessed May 29, 2022. 

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