Skip to main content

Can You Have Nausea with IBS?

Written by Beth Holloway, RN, M.Ed

It may be difficult to know which gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The classic symptoms of IBS are abdominal (belly) pain, bloating and diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both. But, can IBS cause other GI symptoms, like nausea?

IBS And Nausea

When you read or talk about IBS, nausea isn’t usually mentioned. Nausea is a symptom that is usually associated with the upper GI tract. IBS, on the other hand, is a problem with the lower gastrointestinal tract (GI) - the bowel - also called the colon or large intestine

However, it is common for people with IBS to have symptoms that aren’t actually related to the lower GI tract. They include nausea, tiredness, low back pain, to name a few

A recent study evaluated GI symptoms in people with IBS, as well as those with functional dyspepsia (indigestion) or both. They looked at symptoms including pain, nausea, and bloating. All three groups had higher levels of nausea before and after meals when compared to healthy subjects.

IBS And Other Functional GI disorders

IBS is a functional bowel disorder. It interferes with the way the bowel functions or works. As discussed, nausea may actually be a symptom of IBS. However, it may also be from another functional bowel disorder. 

It is common for a person to have more than one functional disorder. They often occur together, and may affect the GI system or other body systems. 

Since IBS is a functional disorder, it is common for someone with IBS to have other functional disorders as well. Some that affect the upper GI system include nausea, indigestion, or reflux. It’s possible to have two (or even more) functional bowel disorders, one affecting the upper GI tract - nausea and one affecting the lower GI tract - IBS. 

IBS and Psychological Conditions

Anxiety, depression, and other psychological problems are associated with IBS in several ways. They:

  • Often occur with functional disorders, such as IBS

  • May be experienced as physical symptoms (somatization), including nausea

  • Impact the severity of symptoms, including nausea

There has been much research on the relationship between IBS and psychological conditions. One study of people with IBS, who also had psychological problems, specifically found increased gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain and nausea.

Goodpath’s integrative approach to treating IBS includes solutions to help with lessening symptoms, as well as psychological distress.

Medicines for IBS

In general, medicines may cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea. It is a common side effect of several medicines used to treat IBS - including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and even some supplements and herbal products

Many medicines should be taken with food to help prevent nausea and other GI symptoms. Make sure you take all medicines as instructed. Our Goodpath pharmacists can answer your medicine questions, including those about side effects.

Other Factors

Other factors may also be related to nausea and IBS. Two of them are drinking alcohol and hormonal cycles. 

  • Drinking alcohol: A person with IBS is likely to have increased GI symptoms including nausea, after excessive drinking

  • Hormonal cycle: Women with IBS may have worsening GI symptoms, including nausea, during the first days of their menstrual cycles.

Nausea And IBS Summary

  • It is common in people with IBS.

  • It may be from another functional bowel disorder that occurs with IBS.

  • It may be related to psychological problems that occur with IBS.

  • It may be a side effect of medicines used to treat IBS (or other conditions).

  • And, it may be related to other factors that may be present in people with IBS.

To learn more about IBS, please click here.