Nausea and IBS

Is nausea a symptom of IBS?

So much of the information about IBS talks about the symptoms of diarrhea and constipation, but I was diagnosed with IBS several years ago and I also frequently experience nausea. Is nausea a symptom in IBS? Is there a way to treat it?

Answer – Nausea is a common symptom reported by patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In one of our studies conducted at UCLA, we found that about 4 out of 10 women (38%) with IBS and nearly 3 out of 10 men (27%) with IBS report nausea. Nausea may be due to several causes. It is a symptom reported in conditions which frequently overlap with IBS. These include coexistent functional dyspepsia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and migraine headaches. Other symptoms of functional dyspepsia include pain or fullness in the upper middle section of the abdomen that can occur after meals, bloating, and feeling full earlier than usual. GERD is a common condition where affected individuals report heartburn (burning sensation in the upper abdomen that may radiate to the chest), or indigestion. Nausea may also be due to side effects of medications.

The likely cause of the nausea needs to be assessed in order to determine the best management approach. This can be accomplished by discussing your symptoms with your physician. For example, GERD can be treated with diet and lifestyle modifications, and with acid-suppressing medications. There are many effective treatment interventions for migraine headaches. There are also various treatments which can be considered for functional dyspepsia. In addition, individuals with nausea can also be treated in general with anti-nausea medications such as prochlorperazine (e.g., Compazine, Compro).

Contributor: Lin Chang, MD, Professor of Medicine, Co-Director of the G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience, and Vice-Chief of the Vatche and Tamar Manounkian Division of Digestive Diseases, University of California, Los Angeles, CA Published in Digestive Health Matters, Vol. 17, No. 1.

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