GERD and Nausea: Understanding the facts

Nausea as a symptom of GERD is almost always accompanied by other very specific symptoms. Pain in the chest or throat is very common, as is the sensation of a sour taste in the mouth.

Even though the most understood and primary symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is heartburn, many other symptoms can cause discomfort to sufferers of GERD. Right at the top of the list is nausea. Heartburn sufferers often feel pain just below the breastbone, which is roughly where the esophageal valve is located. Heartburn is caused by a malfunction of the esophageal valve, which keeps food and stomach acid from entering the esophagus. When stomach acid is allowed to seep into the esophagus, the esophageal lining gets irritated and the sensation is usually akin to burning.

Depending on the severity of the case of GERD, minimal discomfort can be the only symptom. However, in serious cases the esophagus is burned by stomach acid. The discomforts of sore throat, hoarseness, chest pain, pressure, and even back pain have been associated with GERD. Naturally, the sensation of stomach acid coming back up the esophagus can trigger sensations of nausea and even belching and regurgitation. Stomach acid,which reaches the throat, causes sore throat, hoarseness, and bad breath, as well as making the mouth taste sour.

Other Causes of Nausea

Nausea can also occur as a result of many kinds of infections, both bacterial and viral, as well as motion sickness or as a side effect of drug use, both legal and illegal. Nausea caused by long rides in the back of a car, boat trips, or airplane rides is very normal and usually goes away as soon as the motion ceases. There are medications that can help decrease the likelihood of developing motion sickness, but everyone seems to react differently and no two types of motion are the same. One of the best cures for motion sickness is to go to sleep, and that is what some medications help sufferers to do.

Bacterial and viral infections can cause nausea and vomiting for days or even just an hour. Many infections last for a short amount of time, one to three days, and the only treatments available are to help with symptoms, not necessarily to clear the infection. Most of these are available over the counter, but you should never hesitate to contact a doctor if you are unsure what the cause of the illness is. Food poisoning is another common cause of nausea, which usually ceases if the patient vomits or within 24 hours, once the bacteria has passed through the digestive system and cleared from the body. Influenza, or flu, can also cause nausea and vomiting.

Nausea is also a common side effect of many medications, both over the counter and prescription. Check the instructions on your medications before taking them, and if food or water is suggested with a medication be sure to follow the instructions. Some medications cause nausea no matter what you do, and the best thing to do is lie down or sit still immediately after taking them. Check with your doctor for alternatives if your medication causes nausea and vomiting, as a medication that you vomit into the toilet will not help you anyway.

Illegal drugs as well as alcohol consumption can and do cause nausea and vomiting. If you believe you have ingested drugs or alcohol inadvertently, contact your doctor immediately for help or call 911.

Diagnosis

Nausea as a symptom of GERD is almost always accompanied by other very specific symptoms. Pain in the chest or throat is very common, as is the sensation of a sour taste in the mouth. If you have heartburn and the symptoms increase or get worse, contact your doctor immediately. GERD symptoms can be treated with over the counter medications, but if changes to diet and lifestyle are not part of the cure, GERD can progress and become much worse. If you take over the counter medicines for heartburn more than once a week, or if your symptoms are not relieved by taking antacids, consult your doctor immediately. It is possible that the symptoms are an indication of a serious case of GERD or of dangerous diseases that can result in death if untreated.

Your doctor can determine whether your nausea is a symptom of GERD or of any of a number of different diseases. However, the more information your doctor has, the more accurate the diagnosis. Do not overlook any symptoms, even if they seem completely unrelated. Some diseases present symptoms in parts of the body that do not seem related, and your doctor can only identify those diseases if all the information is available.

Treatment

Nausea caused by medications, drugs, alcohol, or motion sickness is only curable by cessation of the activity causing the nausea. Nausea caused by bacterial or viral infections is often part of the immune response to infection. Vomiting can help the body get rid of infectious materials. Most treatment for infections will treat both the infection and the symptom of nausea, however most likely it will be your immune system finally getting rid of the infection that allows you to feel better again.

When nausea is a symptom of GERD, effective treatment will treat the acid reflux, thereby decreasing the likelihood of nausea. The best way to avoid nausea associated with GERD is to do things that help the esophageal valve to do its job. Eating foods high in fat, sugar, and other acids, like tomatoes, onions, and garlic, will increase the acidity of the stomach and esophagus, increasing the likelihood of both heartburn and nausea. Don’t over eat, or stuff yourself, as that causes the stomach to expand and the contents to be closer to the esophageal valve. After eating, do not immediately lie down.

Although the treatment for nausea related to GERD is aimed at the basic problems of GERD, if you eat well, exercise regularly, and limit consumption of alcohol and caffeine, GERD and the associated symptoms should decrease and eventually go away. The best cure is prevention. If you do suspect nausea related to GERD, see your doctor about ways to help your body get healthier.