Nausea and Menopause: What’s the Connection?

Last updated 01.23.2024 | by Dr. Karen Pike | 12 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


There are many possible symptoms of menopause, and unfortunately, nausea is one of them.

But while nausea can be caused by shifting hormones throughout menopause and perimenopause, there are many other potential reasons why you might be feeling queasy. So, it’s important for women to understand the connection between the menopausal transition and this unpleasant symptom, to establish whether hormonal fluctuations are indeed the root cause. 

I’ve dealt with various symptoms during my own menopausal journey, but nausea has been one of the most challenging of all. There were times when I couldn’t bring myself to eat, and simply getting through the working day was a struggle. And for quite a few months, I didn’t even realize that the reason I was feeling so terrible was connected to my hormones. 

So, when I discovered that my nausea was related to menopause, it actually came as a relief. I felt reassured there wasn’t a more serious underlying cause, and I knew that eventually, the problem would pass. But it also prompted me to find solutions so that I could feel better in the short term, and in this post, I’ll be sharing those solutions with you.

Have you been feeling queasy recently? Are you also experiencing other symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, or mood swings? There’s a chance that your nausea could also be related to menopause, too.

In this post, I’ll explain the connection between nausea and menopause, and examine why it happens. Plus, I’ll share solutions and treatments that can help to relieve your symptoms and discuss when it might be time to see a doctor.

What is Nausea?

Before we dive into the relationship between menopause and nausea, let’s define the term.

Nausea is a nonspecific label for a sensation of unease and discomfort in the stomach or gut area. It can also be felt in the back of the throat or the middle of the chest. It’s often accompanied by vomiting or the urge to vomit.

Nausea isn’t a painful symptom, but it can be deeply unpleasant nonetheless. If you’re suffering from nausea, it might be difficult to focus on anything else. You might not feel like eating, and moving around may make your symptoms worse. Sometimes, the only way to find relief from nausea is to vomit.

Is Nausea a Symptom of Menopause?

Yes! Although you don’t often hear people talking about nausea in the context of menopause, it’s a surprisingly common symptom.

For some women, myself included, nausea can strike at the same time as hot flashes and night sweats. Other women may experience nausea without any related vasomotor symptoms.

Sometimes, it’s a feeling of mild queasiness that lasts for several hours or even days. It can disrupt your appetite, interfere with your work, and stop you from doing the things you enjoy.

On the other hand, some bouts of menopause-related nausea are sudden and acute. A feeling of extreme sickness can come on quickly, and sometimes, it can even lead to vomiting.

What Causes Menopause-Related Nausea?

Most cases of menopause-related nausea are caused by shifting levels of hormones. When estrogen and progesterone begin to decrease, episodes of isolated nausea and sometimes even vomiting can occur.

But as we mentioned above, more often than not, menopause-related nausea is also accompanied by other symptoms, such as hot flashes.

Up to 75% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. And while accompanying nausea isn’t particularly common, it still affects around 5% of us.

As the feeling of heat starts to build, a wave of queasiness comes right along with it, making this uncomfortable symptom even more debilitating. In severe cases, hot flashes can even lead to vomiting.

Hot flashes aren’t the only menopause symptoms that can cause a queasy feeling. Menopause-related migraines and headaches can also lead to nausea and episodes of vomiting in some people.

HRT And Nausea

The examples above illustrate how menopause-related nausea is usually a primary or secondary symptom caused by natural hormonal shifts. However, the reason isn’t always down to nature itself.

Some women also experience nausea as a side effect of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT is a medication often used to treat the most bothersome symptoms of menopause. It works by introducing synthetic estrogen and progesterone into the body.

However, these sudden shifts can cause nausea and vomiting, especially in estrogen-dominant formulations of HRT.

What Are Some Other Potential Causes of Nausea?

What are Some Other Potential Causes of Nausea

If you’re a woman going through menopause, your natural hormones or HRT could be to blame. However, there are multiple other potential causes, including:

  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Certain medications
  • Overeating
  • Not eating enough
  • Pregnancy
  • Excess alcohol intake
  • Emotional stress
  • Pain
  • Brain or sensory organ conditions
  • Motion sickness
  • Sensitivity to smells

How Can I Manage And Treat Nausea During Menopause?

Nausea is one of the most debilitating menopause symptoms I’ve experienced, so when the problem was at its worst, I became determined to find a solution. 

Thankfully, I discovered several natural and medical interventions that made a big difference. Plus, I found that certain lifestyle changes helped to reduce the severity and frequency of my nausea. 

Below, I’ll share my findings in the hopes that they might also help you.

Natural Remedies for Nausea

Before opting for pharmaceutical interventions, consider the following natural remedies and treatments.

  • Ginger

Compounds found in ginger work in a similar way to those found in prescription anti-nausea drugs.

While there is little research into ginger’s effect on menopause-related nausea, several studies have found that ginger can reduce queasiness in women during pregnancy.

So, since consuming ginger or ginger supplements is deemed relatively safe for most people, I thought it was worth a try. And thankfully, in my case, it really did make a difference.

My favorite way to harness the medicinal benefits of ginger is to grate the fresh root into a large mug, pour in boiled filtered water, and wait 10 minutes for the infusion to steep. Then, simply sit back and enjoy a hot mug of stomach soothing goodness. Personally, I love the warm and zesty flavor of ginger, but if the taste is too much for you, try adding a teaspoon of local or manuka honey to mellow out the intensity.

  • Peppermint oil

Inhaling peppermint oil is another popular and effective method for alleviating bouts of nausea.

It’s been proven to work both on its own and in conjunction with other anti-nausea medications. And most interestingly of all, it works quickly. One study showed that within less than two minutes of treatment, almost 80% of study participants noticed a reduction in their symptoms.

  • Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat countless conditions, and many Chinese medicine practitioners swear by its effectiveness in reducing nausea.

Several studies show that acupuncture treatment can reduce nausea and vomiting in various demographics, for example, people undergoing chemotherapy and people recovering from abdominal surgery.

Unfortunately, there are no direct studies on acupuncture’s effectiveness for menopause-related nausea. However, research suggests that it can help to significantly improve many other common symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances. So, with so many purported benefits, it’s certainly worth a try.

  • Controlled breathing

Research shows that various types of breathing exercises can help to reduce nausea. And the effect is quite profound. One study on patients recovering from operations found that those who practiced deep breathing found relief from nausea immediately after surgery as well as 12 and 24 hours later.

There are various breathing exercises you can try, such as pursed lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing. But even just taking long, slow, deep, and controlled breaths helped to ease my symptoms when they were at their worst.

Medical Treatments for Nausea

If natural remedies aren’t helping, visit your doctor. They may be able to suggest or prescribe an antiemetic, a type of medication that is used to treat nausea.

Popular over-the-counter antiemetic drugs include bismuth subsalicylate (sold as Kaopectate and Pepto Bismol, and Dramamine.

Prescription options include ondansetron (sold as Zofran), metoclopramide (sold as Reglan), and promethazine (sold as Phenergan).

If hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the cause of your nausea, your doctor may be able to change your formulation or dose. They might also suggest an alternative treatment plan, such as oral birth control pills.

Lifestyle Changes That Can Help to Reduce Nausea

During my own battles with menopause related nausea, I discovered that a few small changes to my daily habits could have a big impact. 

So, why not try the following tips and see if you notice an improvement.

  • Watch what you eat

Certain dietary changes can help to reduce the symptoms of nausea. Try to cut down on trigger foods and beverages, such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Spicy foods
  • Dairy
  • Fatty foods

If you’re suffering from nausea but still feel hungry, keep your diet bland. Bland foods that can help to settle your stomach include:

  • Toast
  • Bananas
  • Applesauce
  • Soda crackers
  • Eggs
  • White rice
  • Potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • Stick to small, frequent meals

Eating little and often is much easier on your digestive system than eating two or three large meals per day. So, if you’re feeling nauseous, but you still have an appetite, stick to small potions and spread them out frequently throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening.

Plus, to minimize the likelihood of nausea or vomiting, avoid exercise or lying down for around 30-60 minutes after you eat.

  • Keep moving

If you’re feeling sick or queasy, the last thing you’re going to want to do is exercise. But when you’re feeling well, regular physical activity can help to stave off future bouts of nausea.

Although there are no studies that directly address menopause-related nausea, we do know that exercise can help with pregnancy-related nausea and nausea caused by chemotherapy treatment.

  • Drink plenty of water

Dehydration can make every symptom of menopause worse, and nausea is no exception. So, be sure to drink the recommended 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of water each day, as recommended by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Dehydration is a particular concern if your nausea leads to vomiting. After vomiting, be sure to replace lost fluids by drinking extra water. It’s also important to replace minerals and electrolytes.

So, rehydrate with mineral water, bone or vegetable broth, or electrolyte-rich sports drinks.

When to See a Doctor?

Menopause-related nausea is unpleasant at best, and at worst, it can significantly impact your quality of life.

So, if you’re suffering from prolonged bouts of queasiness, nausea, or vomiting that is affecting your daily life, visit your doctor. They can assess your symptoms, rule out any underlying causes, and prescribe a treatment plan that works for you.

In rare instances, nausea can also be a sign of a life-threatening condition. So, dial 911 or seek immediate emergency medical advice if your nausea is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme weakness
  • A fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Vomiting blood
  • Nausea after a head injury
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain
  • Confusion

FAQs

I had morning sickness during pregnancy. Am I more likely to suffer from menopause-related nausea?

Not necessarily. Morning sickness during pregnancy is due to an increase in hormones such as estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). However, the nausea some women suffer during menopause is related to different hormonal shifts.
So, just because you suffered from morning sickness when you were pregnant doesn’t mean you’ll automatically feel queasy during menopause, too.

How does menopause-related nausea differ from morning sickness?

Both morning sickness and menopause-related nausea are usually caused by hormonal shifts. However, they are two distinct conditions.
During menopause, our hormone levels drop, whereas during pregnancy, they increase. 
Plus, morning sickness is often accompanied by vomiting, and it usually affects women during the earlier stages of their pregnancy.
On the other hand, menopause-related nausea can strike at any time during perimenopause or menopause, and the symptoms are often, but not always, less severe.

At what stage of menopause is nausea most common?

Most women begin to notice menopause symptoms during perimenopause (the build-up to menopause). This is also when hot flashes, migraines, and headaches are usually at their worst.
However, many women experience prolonged symptoms, including nausea, well into their post-menopausal phase.

Conclusion

Nausea is one of the less talked about symptoms of menopause, but it affects a surprising number of women. Nausea during menopause can happen on its own, or it can accompany another symptom, such as hot flashes or migraines.

If you’re suffering from nausea and you suspect it’s related to menopause, try the natural interventions and lifestyle changes listed above. Many of these measures have made a huge difference to the severity of my own nausea symptoms, and hopefully, they can do the same for you.

But remember, if nausea persists for more than a week or it’s affecting your daily life, contact your doctor for support.

References:

Author

  • Dr. Karen Pike

    Dr. Pike is a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. She received her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and played collegiate soccer. She attended Georgetown University for medical school and performed her residency in emergency medicine at Stanford University. She was part of the first-ever, women-majority emergency medicine program in United States. Dr. Pike is also the primary medical consultant for “Grey’s Anatomy,” a role she has held since the pilot episode when she partnered with Shonda Rhimes as the show’s original medical consultant. At her hospital, she was the second woman Chief of Staff. Today serves as the Director of the Emergency Department. Whether in leadership or direct patient care, her dedication to excellence in communication, quality, and collaboration is unwavering.