IBS, nausea and loss of appetite

Is IBS causing you to feel nauseous and lose your appetite?



Nutritional Practitioner, BA (Hons), DN, DNT (Distinction)
@AVogelUK
Ask Ali

An introduction to IBS, nausea and loss of appetite

Nausea is the uncomfortable feeling associated with an urge to vomit. When under stress, the stomach acts in a protective manner, making us experience nausea and a loss of appetite in an attempt to stop us eating and causing further aggravation.

Our appetite naturally goes up and down throughout the day and after eating we expect our appetite to be satisfied. However, if poor appetite is persistent or accompanied by nausea, an underlying health problem may be responsible.

Why does IBS cause nausea and loss of appetite?

There are a few possible explanations as to why IBS might cause nausea and loss of appetite. However, we need to remember that IBS is multifactorial so many mechanisms relating to the causes and symptoms are not yet well understood.

Indigestion and subsequent acid reflux is a common complaint of people suffering from IBS. Acid reflux is the result of the acidic contents of the stomach physically travelling the wrong way up the oesophagus resulting in an acidic taste in the mouth, burping, coughing, nausea and even vomiting. Read more about IBS and indigestion if this is affecting you.

Nausea and loss of appetite may also be a result of feeling overly full or bloated after eating. This may not always be a result of eating too much but may be due to weak stomach acid or a specific intolerance to a certain food. Both of these scenarios may be associated with IBS.

Another possible cause of nausea in IBS is that the liver is under pressure. This can happen because we are eating the wrong foods, but also, in some cases, constipation can make this problem worse.

Feeling stressed or anxious as a result of IBS can also make you feel nauseated with a loss of appetite. The release of adrenaline puts your body into ‘fight or flight’ mode - this redirects blood and focus away from the digestive system. The tissues of the stomach can become especially sensitive resulting in a feeling of nervousness or ‘butterflies’ as well as nausea and even vomiting to go with it.

The pain often experienced in IBS might result in us feeling nauseated with loss of appetite. Abdominal pain is most common but pain in your back and joints may also be possible. Pain of IBS has been reported as ‘severe’ by some sufferers and can make people feel physically sick in such cases.

Generally, the act of eating is an enjoyable experience which we may not want to partake in if we are in pain. Please note that severe pain should always be investigated by a doctor as IBS isn’t classified as in inflammatory disorder. If you have already been put on any medication by your doctor also look out for side effects as nausea may actually be a side effect of medication rather than a separate issue.

What can I try at home for nausea or loss of appetite?

There may be a few simple dietary and lifestyle choices that can help you deal with nausea and loss of appetite:

  • Food and drink: Certain foods may aggravate the stomach resulting in nausea and losing the desire to eat more. Fatty foods may be a burden and take longer to digest, delaying stomach emptying with an increase in bloating. Spicy foods may irritate the lining of your digestive tract as well as any food intolerances (gluten and lactose being common culprits). Certain drinks such as those rich in caffeine or artificial sweeteners may also irritate the stomach lining
  • How you eat: Try to chew your food properly to aid digestion. Sit down and eat slowly rather than on the move to avoid over-eating or any digestive issues. Read our blog on the importance of chewing for healthy digestion!
  • Relax: Take time out to focus on yourself, doing things you enjoy and take your mind off the stresses and anxiety associated with IBS, which may be making you feel sick. Whether it’s simply going for a walk, reading a good book or a specific technique such as yoga or meditation, relaxing our minds will have a positive effect on how we feel, both in general and with regards to our appetite.

How can herbal remedies help me?

There are a few herbal remedies that can help with nausea and loss of appetite associated with IBS.

  • Ginger: Ginger is a natural anti-spasmodic so if your stomach is feeling unsettled take some ginger in the form of a tea or capsules to help alleviate the uneasiness
  • Herbal bitters: Try taking herbal bitters approximately 5-10 minutes before a meal. This class of herbs encourage the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes which in turn will help improve the digestive process appetite
  • Digestisan: If your nausea is accompanied by symptoms of indigestion and belching try Digestisan. This is a traditional herbal remedy which improves the digestion of food, reducing symptoms of indigestion and bloating. The more effective your digestion, the quicker you are likely to feel hungry again.
  • Milk thistle: For some additional liver support take some Milk Thistle which contains a blend of stomach friendly bitter herbs.

How can my doctor help?

There are other causes of nausea and loss of appetite so it is important that you exclude serious health conditions, especially if you notice weight loss, change in bowel habits are other symptoms that may give you cause for concern. If home and herbal remedies do not help your IBS symptoms, your doctors may be able to recommend a number of prescribed medication to try.

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Did you know?

How you eat rather than what you eat can also trigger your IBS. From not chewing your food enough to even how you sit while you eat can all impact affect your IBS!

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