Constipation Can Cause Nausea—What To Do About It

Nausea is a common effect of constipation. Find out when to get professional help.

You know the less-than-comfortable feelings of constipation—fullness, cramping, and bloating are all too common when you just can't empty your bowels—or poop.

But sometimes, constipation can cause some less obvious symptoms—and that, occasionally, can include nausea, Elana Maser, MD, assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and gastroenterologist at the Feinstein IBD Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City told Health.

The reason here has to do with the basic anatomy of our digestive systems. It's helpful, in this case, to think of the digestive system like the plumbing in your home, Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA told Health. "If things aren't going down the drain, things are backing up in your sink," Dr. Bedford said.

In the case of constipation, when stool blocks the route through your intestine, it can cause a backup in your stomach. A 2015 review article in Phytotherapy Research explained that the pressure of stool in your colon can press against the walls of the stomach, leading to nausea.

Can Constipation Cause Nausea? , Young woman doesn't feel good and she is going to vomit.
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Eating when you're constipated can also cause stomach upset: "Sometimes people will feel nauseated because what they ate didn't pass through or is sitting in their stomach because of generalized slow motility," said Dr. Maser. People can also experience reflux related to constipation, which can make them nauseous.

Treatment for Constipation With Nausea

As far as treating the nausea part of constipation, natural stomach soothers like ginger or ginger ale may help, Dr. Bedford said.

But the best way to treat nausea when you're constipated is to find a way to relieve yourself, according to the 2015 review mentioned earlier. Drinking caffeine can help get the bowels moving, as can drinking significant amounts of water and getting some exercise.

You could also try using over-the-counter laxatives (like Miralax) or enemas. But check the side effects and potential drug interactions of any over-the-counter treatment you're taking. For example, anti-nausea medication, like Zofran, can cause constipation—exactly what you want to avoid.

When To See a Healthcare Provider

If lifestyle changes aren't enough to keep things moving, talk to a healthcare provider who can help rule out other illnesses and set you up with a plan that might be more effective for you. If you're feeling constipation and nausea regularly, Dr. Maser suggests seeking advice from a professional.

In rare cases, Dr. Maser cautioned that those two symptoms can be caused by multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease, though "most of the time there isn't an underlying condition; it's just constipation," added Dr. Maser.

And if your constipation and nausea are paired with other more serious symptoms, like fever, significant pain in your abdomen, or bloody stools, you'll want to get to an emergency department ASAP.

Once you or your healthcare provider are able to get things moving again, try to make changes to your diet and lifestyle that will help you be more regular. Common causes of constipation are dehydration, too little fiber, and certain medications, explained Dr. Bedford.

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