How to Alleviate Nausea from Medicine

Two Parts:Alleviating Nausea at HomeSeeking Medical Help for Nausea

Nausea is one of the most common side effects from taking medication — virtually all of them have the ability to cause stomach disturbances, although painkillers, antibiotics, antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs and anesthesia agents are the biggest culprits.[1] Nausea can range from mild to debilitating, which can cause patients to abandon their prescribed treatment. Learning how to alleviate nausea from taking medicine can help keep you on track with your treatment.

Part 1
Alleviating Nausea at Home

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    Take medications after eating. Unless a drug is specifically meant to be taken on an empty stomach (double-check with your doctor), you should take medications with food, preferably immediately after a meal.[2] Food can absorb and dilute the compounds that trigger nausea, particularly if you're taking antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and even multivitamins.
    • Don't get too full and bloated with large meals — it may make nausea worse. Instead, eat smaller meals throughout the day.
    • Don't skip meals. Eat regularly, even if it's just a snack, such as a piece of bread or fruit or a few saltine crackers.
    • Eating a light meal a few hours before a chemotherapy treatment also may help combat nausea.[3]
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    Avoid fatty and fried foods. Along with eating smaller portions more frequently through the day, it's also best to avoid foods that are fatty, fried or exceptionally sweet when you take medication because all can increase the risk of nausea/vomiting.[4] Stick to bland foods, prepared naturally and higher in protein, such as a turkey sandwich without mayonnaise.
    • It's also a good idea to avoid cooking foods that leave an unpleasant odor in your house, such as fatty foods, garlic and onions.
    • Consider making and consuming fresh fruit smoothies before taking medications. Add in some veggies for fiber, protein powder and plain yogurt to buffer any acidity.
    • Chemotherapy patients should cook and freeze bland meals prior to treatment to avoid cooking when they don't feel well.
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    Drink lots of fluids between meals. Drinking lots of fluids between meals can also help alleviate nausea from taking medicine.[5] Try drinking cool beverages, such as filtered water, unsweetened fruit juices, herbal tea or ginger ale that's lost its carbonation. Drink them slowly and don't gulp them, as too much air in your stomach causes bloating.
    • Avoid drinking coffee and colas — they are too acidic and may upset your stomach.
    • It's better to drink small amounts throughout the day, rather than large amounts less frequently.
    • Don't drink too much liquid with your meals because your digestive enzymes get diluted and your stomach can get too full.
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    Rest, but don't lay flat. Resting after you've eaten a small meal and taken medicine can help settle your stomach, keep you calm and alleviate nausea.[6] The key is not to do any vigorous activity for at least 30 minutes or so after eating, but don't lie down while you’re resting either — it promotes indigestion and heartburn, which can contribute to nausea.
    • Instead of lying on the sofa, sit up in a comfortable chair and read or watch TV.
    • Go for a relaxing slow-paced walk around your neighborhood and get some fresh air if the weather allows it.
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    Don't take too much medication. Taking more medication than recommended is a common cause of nausea and vomiting, so read labels carefully and follow your doctor's instructions precisely.[7] Some people think if a little medicine is good, then more must be better, but that's never the case with medications.
    • Medications in larger than recommended doses are toxic and commonly trigger nausea and vomiting because your body is trying to prevent over-toxicity.
    • Tell your doctor if you've suddenly lost a lot of weight because your medication dosages will likely have to be lowered to prevent side effects such as nausea.
    • Really going overboard with too much medication can lead to overdose symptoms, which may include loss of consciousness and potential death — the nausea and vomiting stage is often skipped.
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    Take some medications just prior to bedtime. The time of day a drug is taken is sometimes an important consideration when trying preventing nausea caused by dizziness.[8] For example, taking antidepressant medications called SSRIs at bedtime prevents the vomiting center of your brain from being activated by any dizziness because you're asleep.
    • This strategy can be used for essentially all medications, although eating before bedtime can be risky for indigestion and heartburn. As such, have a little snack about an hour before bedtime, then take your medication right before retiring.
    • If you're taking medications for pain relief, you'll likely want the symptomatic relief while you're awake during the day.
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    Consider using herbal remedies. There are some herbal (plant-based) remedies that are helpful for combating nausea, but you have to be very careful they don't interact negatively with your medicine. Ginger is one of the most recognized herbal treatments for nausea because it can soothe an upset stomach (it has anti-inflammatory properties), but it doesn't interact with most drugs.[9] Ginger is particularly helpful for chemotherapy patients.
    • You can eat pickled ginger (the stuff that often comes with sushi), or take capsules/pills. Beverages made with real ginger may also be helpful.
    • Peppermint is another traditional remedy used for nausea, indigestion and upset stomachs. Both peppermint leaves (made into a tea) and peppermint oil (taken under the tongue) can be used to combat nausea from medication use.
    • Red raspberry leaf herbal tea is a traditional remedy used to combat morning sickness, but it might also be helpful for other types of nausea. Make sure to steep the leaves in hot water for at least 15 minutes for best results.

Part 2
Seeking Medical Help for Nausea

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    Consult your doctor about switching formulations. Discuss the severity and frequency of your nausea with your doctor if it's caused by taking medication. In addition to altering the timing and dosages of your medications, he may be able to switch formulations or change to an alternate type of drug with similar properties.[10] Don't make any changes yourself without consulting your doctor.
    • Switching from tablets to liquid formulations might significantly alleviate nausea, especially in people who gag when they take tablets, pills or capsules.
    • In some cases, changing to a different manufacturer or to a generic brand can make a difference due to the use of different dyes, binders and sweeteners used in pills.
    • The taste of medication can make a big difference. Some people prefer sweet flavors, others prefer bitter or tasteless medication.
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    Ask about dopamine antagonists. If changing dosages, formulations and brands doesn't alleviate your nausea while taking your prescribed medicine, then your doctor may give you an anti-nausea agent. For example, dopamine agonists are especially effective for preventing nausea caused by strong painkillers (opioids), but they can also be beneficial for nausea caused by most other medications.[11]
    • Dopamine agonists minimize the effect of dopamine at the brain's vomiting/nausea center, which is in the medulla.[12]
    • Dopamine agonists are a good choice for reducing nausea if you're taking medications short-term, such as antibiotics or NSAIDs.
    • Using dopamine agonists for too long (or taking too much) can actually trigger nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting.
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    Try serotonin antagonists for long-term results. The use of serotonin receptor antagonists (ondansetron, granisetron) may be beneficial for long-term prevention of nausea caused by medication use.[13] In general, serotonin antagonists are safer and have fewer side effects compared to dopamine agonists, but they're also more expensive, so their use is often limited by cost to the patient.
    • Selective serotonin antagonists inhibit the action of serotonin in the small intestine, vagus nerve and chemoreceptor trigger zone in the stomach. Consequently, the medullary vomiting center is not stimulated.[14]
    • Due to their diffuse blockage of serotonin, these drugs are the primary choice for a variety of causes of nausea.
    • Ondansetron (Zofran, Zuplenz) is one of the most commonly prescribed anti-nausea drugs.


  • Nausea is a common drug-related side effect with many potential causes.
  • Nausea has significant impact on a patient's physical and psychological health.
  • Feeling nausea after taking medicine is typically not an allergic reaction, which is characterized by swelling of the lips, mouth and throat, as well as a skin rash.
  • In addition to a small amount of food, you can also take your medicine with a tablespoon of antacid to help coat your stomach.
  • If you feel nauseous and bloated, make sure you’re having regular bowel movements.
  • Other anti-nausea medicine that can work for some people includes antihistamines and antidepressants.


  • Call your doctor as soon as can if you have any of the following: nausea that lasts for longer than 24 hours; vomiting that lasts for more than four hours; blood in your vomit; a high fever along with nausea/vomiting.

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Categories: Taking Pills and Medicine