IBS and nausea: what you need to know, and how to help yourself


Alison Cullen
@AVogelUK


21 December 2015

IBS and nausea

The first thing to appreciate about IBS is that it’s not a definite set of symptoms that every sufferer will experience. The name ‘syndrome’ is used when there are a whole heap of possible symptoms, of which people have a random selection – and nausea is just one. You may only have a few, or you may feel as though you have the whole selection box and then some extra just for you.

If you feel nauseous it doesn’t mean you necessarily have IBS

If you don’t feel nauseous then it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have IBS

It’s not a black and white issue.

The second thing to be clear about is that there are even more causative factors for IBS than there are symptoms – loads of different things can combine to mess up an individual’s digestion, and working out which may be your causative factors can be a big part of improving your symptoms.

Causes of nausea with IBS

So, how can having an irritable bowel make you feel sick?

If you have ruled out the obvious reasons for feeling sick, such as pregnancy, the winter vomiting bug, or having just eaten all the cake left over from your child’s birthday party… then it’s time to look for clues.

Here are some of the possible causes:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Food intolerances
  • Overfilling the stomach
  • Liver struggling to cope with fatty, fried food
  • Liver struggling to cope with rich, creamy food
  • Constipation causing an overload on the liver

You’ll notice that quite a few of these involve the liver, and this isn’t surprising when you realise that an upset liver is a key cause of nausea.

Nausea in the morning

If you feel sick when you wake up (and you are definitely not pregnant or hungover) then it is often low blood sugar driving your system to despair. It doesn’t seem logical that just when you need to eat to push up your blood sugar levels, you feel least like doing so. Bit of a design flaw, you might think. Actually, though, when blood sugar falls too low your body starts liberating emergency energy from its stores, and this allows you to continue without eating but feeling increasingly awful.

Have you experienced this? Getting up feeling sick, managing a cup of coffee (caffeine kicking adrenalin out of your adrenal glands to activate emergency energy), getting to work and finally mustering the stomach for a chocolate bar or two about mid-morning?

There are better ways of coping.

  • As soon as you can, drink a little warm water, slowly. Sip it. A slice of lemon or even better a slice of fresh ginger in it will really help.
  • Once you’re up, sip a little fruit juice. Choose the pure stuff, not the juice that is full of added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Just plain juice. This slips down easily on top of the water and the natural sugars in it are readily absorbed, bringing your blood sugar up gently.
  • Once you’ve got dressed, you may be able to face a little mashed banana or stewed fruit, especially if you dust it with cinnamon – this is very good for stabilising blood sugar.
  • This will get you off to work or arm you to tackle the first chores of the morning, and as your blood sugar rises your appetite will reappear, without any sickness intervening.

Before a bowel movement

Many people report feeling distinctly queasy before having a poo. There are two major variations here:

  1. Feeling queasy for a while, gradually leading up to a bowel movement that leaves you feeling better.
  2. Experiencing pain just before and during (and sometimes after) having a bowel movement, to the point that it makes you feel quite weak and sickly.

The first variant is often due to the process of stirring up the large intestine with its load of wastes, preparatory to jettisoning them. The liver helps to achieve this by producing bile, which enters the small intestine and triggers the muscular action that propels wastes through the large intestine and thence out into the world beyond. As previously noted, liver activity can cause nausea, especially if the liver is a little overladen, which it can be if digestion is weak or the bowel slow to move.

The more regular and brisk your bowel function, the less likely this is to happen.

The second variant is due to the nerve endings in your large intestine reacting a little hysterically to the muscular contraction that ripples through the gut to shunt wastes along, and/or the muscles experiencing spasm rather than contracting and releasing. Nerve endings become over-sensitive if there is any inflammation in your gut. Muscles spasm when there is insufficient magnesium in your system.

  • Calm inflammation with Silicol®gel, taken half an hour before meals in a large glass of water.
  • Support magnesium levels with an easily absorbed liquid supplement and/or by focusing on magnesium-rich foods, such as green vegetables and dried fruit.

Silicol® Gel – Colloidal silicic acid gel for symptoms of IBS

Silicol®gel contains silicic acid which is a compound of the mineral substance silicon and oxygen in a colloidal (highly dispersible) and hydrated form.

It has the ability to bind to a variety of harmful and toxic substances, including pathogens and can help reduce the symptoms of IBS.

After eating

If you feel sick after eating then it may just be that your stomach can’t cope with the amount that you have put into it.

Here’s an interesting thing: if your digestion is poor then you will not break down foods efficiently and so will not benefit from the nutrients they contain, and your body will continue to feel hungry.

Eating slowly and chewing thoroughly is a great way of ensuring that your body benefits from the food you’re eating and switches off the hunger message.

Do you ever wonder if your legs are actually hollow, as you pile in large quantities of food and never seem satisfied? Try having one meal where you chew each mouthful twenty times. Yes, twenty. Give it a go and see if you still feel as hungry afterwards.

Another great way of overloading your stomach is to drink with your meal. People who don’t chew tend to wash their food down with liquid. Ban the drinks (even water) during and just after meals and see if your stomach feels more comfortable.

If the amount that you are putting in is fine, it may be that the content of the food is the issue.

The liver finds it hard to plough its way through very fatty foods, foods full of cream or rich cheeses, or buttery sauces and pastries.

Could this be your daily diet?
Toast and butter/ Cereal and milk with coffee or tea with milk (and sugar)
Chocolate/ biscuits/ cake with coffee or tea
Cheese sandwich with crisps, a fizzy drink and a chocolate bar
Variation on morning snack
Pasta with cheesy sauce/ fried steak and chips/ fish supper/ sausage and mash (mashed with butter and/or cream)

If this looks suspiciously like what you like to wrap yourself around on a regular basis, your liver is probably objecting strongly to the amount of fat it has to deal with.

Imagine a dish that you have used to roast a particularly succulent chicken with potatoes on the side. It’s inches deep in grease, so you fill the washing up bowl with hot water and empty most of a bottle of washing up liquid into it. Your digestive system does the same – heats up the small intestine as the fatty food enters, and pours bile from the liver to emulsify the fats. Without the bile you’d be as unable to break down the fats in food as you would be to cleanse the grease from your roasting dish without washing up liquid.

No appetite

Whilst many people may wish that their appetite was substantially less, it’s unnerving not to fancy your food, especially if you feel sick at the same time. The problem with not eating is that it lowers your blood sugar levels and this makes you feel sick: you’ll appreciate the viciousness of this circle.

If you have been feeling sick consistently for more than a week, it’s sensible to consult your doctor to see if there are undiagnosed causes. If you have been abroad recently then it is possible that you have picked up a bug that is affecting your digestive system.

If you’ve been ill, especially if you’ve had a stomach bug, and you haven’t fancied your food since then, taking Silicol®gel can soothe and ease your stomach so that you feel more able to face a meal. Start small and warm – don’t try to munch down a salad at this point. Warm food is easier to digest, and something like a comforting vegetable soup will do you good. Don’t try to eat very much in one go, but sip and nibble your way along. Try a baked sweet potato, with a little olive or coconut oil and a sprinkle of Herbamare®.

If you are stressed to the gills then this will switch off your digestion and effectively kill appetite in some people (in others it causes on-going hunger – it’s an individual thing). Tackle the underlying cause with remedies to support your nervous system:

The digestive system is very individual. If I haven’t mentioned the factors that apply to you here, let me know and I’ll be pleased to comment.

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  • Barbara's photo avatar
    Barbara — 28.06.2018 18:24
    Hello Ali, Thank you for this article. I have been nauseous/sick/in pain since February after suffering a very bad stomach bug. I have had CT, ultrasound (have a small stone in my gallbladder) and endoscopy done and waiting for a colonoscopy. My symptoms are worse at night- I will wake up with a very odd waves of pressure going from mu stomach up to my head and horrible nausea which leads to being sick. All goes away once I empty my bowels (sometimes it needs to happen several times). I am very confused with what is going on with me as I went from totally healthy to being very limited in a day to day life. My GP and gastro specialist are saying that they don't know what is wrong with me which is causing me a stress. Please do you have any ideas why are my symptoms so bad at night? Thank you, will appreciate any info.

    Reply

    • Ali's photo avatar
      Ali — 29.06.2018 11:09
      Hi Barbara, It sounds as if your liver hasn't quite recovered from the stomach bug. This will cause nausea that will clear after a bowel movement, and is likely to wake you between 1am and 3am. It doesn't mean your liver has a big problem, so don't worry - it just means it's not happy and therefore throwing up a few symptoms. Try a course of Motion Potion (www.motionpotionuk.com) and see how much better that makes you feel. Let me know how you get on - use the query box at the top right hand side of the webpage. Best Wishes, Ali

      Reply

  • Alexa's photo avatar
    Alexa — 28.06.2018 03:19
    Thank you so much-a lot of great information here. I took antibiotics in March and I think it has completely messed up my digestion. I can barely eat at night without getting burpy and feeling nauseous. This only happens at night. I also feel nauseous right before a bowel movement at night. The dr said it was acid reflex but I’ve never had that in my life. I have been eating yogurt and taking probiotics. I’m going to the dr again as I want an ultra sound to see if it’s my gall bladder. Thanks for the liver information as I’ll have them check that too.

    Reply

  • Claire's photo avatar
    Claire — 11.06.2018 00:23
    Thanks so much for your article. I have had a colonoscopy, endoscopy and lots of testing done. They diagnosed me with IBS. My biggest problem is weight loss and barely eating - and it’s NOT lack of appetite. I eat anywhere from a 100 calories to maybe 1000 on a good day, and I get most of that from drinks, to be honest. I get so nauseas when I eat - it starts before I even ingest food, when I am just taking my first bite. The type of food doesn’t matter, but how bad it is varies by day. Some days are totally normal, like I’m healthy. Then others I’m so nauseas I can’t eat anything. When looking at my digestive tract they found nothing wrong aside from some internal hemmorhoids. Your article said nausea is usually from eating too much, but I barely eat because it starts before eating. I’m not nauseas when I’m not eating, only while I’m eating. Any ideas you can provide for me to talk to my doctor about I’d really appreciate. I am very fatigued and ill all the time because of this :(

    Reply

    • Ali's photo avatar
      Ali — 13.06.2018 06:59
      Hi Claire, It's liver function that is often the culprit with persistent nausea (have a read back through my article and you'll see lots of references to liver function). By now, with your weight loss and understandable apprehension about eating, your blood sugar will be extremely wobbly, which will then trigger more nausea. I'd suggest asking your doctor to look at your liver function, especially if there are liver issues in your family (high cholesterol, alcohol problems, fatty liver, gallstones) or in your own medical history. Best Wishes, Ali

      Reply

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