Does Menopause Cause Nausea?
It might be surprising, but it’s true that nausea can be a symptom of menopause. It’s a relatively uncommon symptom that could be caused by changing sex hormones, other menopause symptoms, 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.
The way that the hormones estrogen and progesterone fluctuate during menopause can cause a range of different symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.
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 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 is a common menopause symptom. 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
It might be difficult to cope with anxiety, but there are many things you can do to improve your reaction, 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
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
GI 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.
Talk to your doctor if you suspect that menopause is making your GI issue worse or you’re experiencing new digestive symptoms.
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)
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. Therefore, if you experience nausea while on HRT, it’s best to speak to your physician to find a way to resolve the issue.
Menopause can worsen migraines or even trigger 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.
This blog article by Migraine Strong has great tips for decreasing nausea during a migraine.
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 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.
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.
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 Fried Foods
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 nausea.
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 you feel queasy and have other symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain, or headache, then it’s advisable to seek medical help.
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.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui is the former spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.