Let’s face it, we’ve all had to deal with the horrible feeling of nausea. Although it’s very common, that doesn’t make the experience any less disgusting. We associate nausea with vomiting. And so, it’s natural to think that nausea occurs after taking bad food.
But that’s not the case, nausea can occur even on an empty stomach. Various factors like low blood sugar, and too much stomach acid can make you nauseous. And nausea due to hunger is what we’ll be talking about today. So if you are feeling hungry and nauseous at the same time, you’re at the right place! Read on to find out more.
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What We Commonly Think About Nausea?
Everyone roughly has an idea about what nausea is. Most describe it as abdominal discomfort and an urge to vomit.
If you think that nausea occurs only due to contaminated food, then you’re not alone. It’s a common misconception that nausea and vomiting are triggered by bad food.
Many cases of nausea and vomiting happen after taking questionable food. But that’s not the only cause. There are many reasons why you might feel nauseous. And oftentimes, these have nothing to do with your food intake. So, these can trigger vomiting on an empty stomach. For example, nausea can happen due to drug side effects, central nervous system disorders, metabolic disorders, GI tract disorders, etc.
Besides these reasons, nausea can also be triggered due to an empty stomach. Let’s see how this works.
Feeling Hungry and Nauseous at the Same Time – What Are the Causes?
So, how does an empty stomach trigger nausea? There are a few possible factors that we can consider to explain this phenomenon. Let’s take a look at these:
You’ve probably heard by now that there is a type of acid in your stomach. There is a particular type of cell in the innermost layer of your stomach. These cells are called parietal cells. These parietal cells can make a powerful acid called hydrochloric acid.
This hydrochloric acid helps break down the food that you eat. This acid also kills most of the harmful bacteria in the food. So, this acid is very important for your body’s normal function.
But, this acid is harmful to the cells of your stomach too. To protect itself, there are cells in your stomach that secrete mucous fluid. This creates a thick mucous layer that protects the normal cells.
Normally, the acid that your stomach makes works against the food. But when you’re on an empty stomach, the acid can be too much for the mucous layer. Then, the acid can damage the cells of your stomach.
When you’re nauseous, the lower esophageal sphincter might loosen up. The lower esophageal sphincter is sort of a guard at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach. This sphincter prevents stomach contents from going to the esophagus.
Now, if this is loose, the stomach acid can go to the esophagus. The cells of the esophagus will be damaged if that happens. All of these factors can stimulate the nerves in the stomach and the esophagus. And this can ultimately lead to the feeling of nausea.
Hypoglycemia may be another cause of nausea with an empty stomach. ‘Hypo’ means low, ‘glyc’ means glucose and ‘emia’ means in the blood. So, hypoglycemia means low blood glucose.
When you’re on an empty stomach for long periods, you can sometimes get hypoglycemia. This is very dangerous. Because your brain runs on glucose. Low blood glucose can hamper the brain’s normal function.
So, your body tries to correct hypoglycemia by itself. So, hypoglycemia normally doesn’t happen among healthy individuals. There are other ways your body can make glucose in the absence of food.
One of those ways is through the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This can help in increasing the glucose content of the blood. But, overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system can lead to nausea.
Other Causes of Nausea in an Empty Stomach
So, you can feel nauseous just for having an empty stomach. But nausea can be due to causes unrelated to your food intake. So it is possible that you’ll feel nauseous due to these conditions even on an empty stomach. In these cases, there are other symptoms. So, let’s take a look at a few:
Medication Side Effect
Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of many medications. Nausea and vomiting are complex responses with many pathways. Different drugs can activate different parts of these pathways and cause nausea.
So, if you’ve recently started on a new medication, then it can be responsible for your nausea.
Morning sickness is a common phenomenon in pregnancy. You’ll feel nauseous and may even vomit early in the morning. So, if you suspect that you might be pregnant, it’s best to take a test to be safe.
Motion sickness occurs when the movement of a vehicle you’re riding stimulates your vestibular system. Your vestibular system can sense movement and helps you keep balance. So, If you’re feeling nauseous when you ride any vehicle, then this might be the cause.
Gastrointestinal infections are the most common cause of nausea. However, these are associated with taking bad food. Other than these, there are a few gastrointestinal conditions that can cause nausea on an empty stomach. These are:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Nonacid dyspepsia
- Biliary reflux
- Bowel obstruction, etc.
These are conditions where the hormonal balance of the body is often disturbed. These conditions can cause nausea too. Some of the causes are:
- Adrenal diseases like Addison’s disease
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Hyper or hypothyroidism
- Paraneoplastic syndrome
Central Nervous System Conditions
You might feel severe nausea if you have any condition affecting your brain. The nausea is very sudden and severe in this case. And you might feel severe headaches too. Some of them are:
- Head injury
- Raised intracranial pressure
- Brain tumor
- Cerebral hemorrhage
But rest assured, these causes are not as common as the others mentioned above.
Nausea is associated with a few other conditions as well. For example, some psychiatric disorders like anorexia, bulimia, stress disorders, etc. can be associated with nausea. Other miscellaneous causes include glaucoma, heart attack, nephrolithiasis, etc.
What to Do if You Feel Hungry and Nauseous at the Same Time?
As you’ve read that nausea can sometimes be caused by some serious conditions. So, if you suddenly feel too much nausea on an empty stomach, it’s best to see a doctor.
This can help rule out any serious conditions. You might also consider paying a visit to the doctor if you have other symptoms with nausea.
- If you’re just feeling nauseous, then you can try some of these steps at home:
- You can try eating at smaller time intervals. That way, you’re stomach will not be empty for too long.
- Staying hydrated is key to avoiding nausea
- You can try consuming ginger, peppermint, fennel powder, cinnamon, etc. These are known to reduce nausea.
- You can methods like progressive muscle relaxation, posture changing, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, etc.
Below you’ll find answers to questions we get asked the most about feeling hungry and nauseous at the same time.
Why do I get nauseous when I’m hungry?
You can get nauseous when you’re hungry. It’s due to too much stomach acid which can get to your esophagus. This along with the sour acid taste can make you feel nauseous. Excess activity of the sympathetic nervous system can contribute to nausea as well.
Why do I feel hungry and nauseous after eating?
You can feel hungry and nauseous after eating if you take contaminated food. Besides bad food, allergy, anxiety, anorexia, pregnancy, motion sickness, etc. can be responsible too.
What do I do if I’m hungry but nauseous?
You can try eating smaller meals at a smaller interval if you feel hungry but nauseous. You can try avoiding larger meals, drinking and eating at the same time, or eating too fast. If you have other symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor.
What happens if you feel nauseous every day?
Nausea can be caused by a variety of different conditions. These include the different gastrointestinal, metabolic, nervous system, psychiatric, etc. disorders. So, it’s best to see a doctor in order to get a proper diagnosis. Symptoms other than nausea can help narrow down what the cause might be.
Feeling nauseous and hungry at the same time is not that uncommon. Excess stomach acid can give you this feeling. Having a planned out dietary routine with plenty of exercises can help you prevent this nausea.
But rarely, you can experience nausea due to other causes too. So, if your nausea is sudden or if the symptoms are severe, it’s best to see a doctor. You can then rest easy.