People may experience mild to severe nausea as a symptom of ulcerative colitis. Changing dietary and eating habits can help manage nausea. There are also medications doctors can recommend to ease feelings of nausea. Alternative therapies, such as medical cannabis, may also help.

In some cases, severe nausea may cause vomiting or loss of appetite, which may lead to malnourishment, fatigue, and weight loss.

In this article, we will look at the link between ulcerative colitis and nausea. We will also list different types of treatment that might help a person manage nausea and other related symptoms.

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Ulcerative colitis can cause nausea. People may also experience vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Symptoms can vary between people and can depend on the severity and location of inflammation in the body.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, people are more likely to experience nausea and vomiting if they have severe ulcerative colitis or if the condition involves more of the large intestine.

However, a stricture may also cause nausea, along with vomiting and constipation. A stricture happens when scar tissue builds up and narrows the intestine, causing a blockage.

Learn about strictures in Crohn’s disease, another type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), here.

People may experience nausea during a flare-up of ulcerative colitis. They may find that certain factors trigger nausea or other symptoms of ulcerative colitis, such as diarrhea or stomach cramps. These factors may include:

  • missing a dose of medication or taking it incorrectly
  • taking antibiotics
  • experiencing stress
  • eating certain foods, such as fatty, greasy, or fried foods, that can affect digestion
  • consuming alcohol

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may increase a person’s risk of developing IBD, but this risk remains small. Doctors may recommend a person with ulcerative colitis take acetaminophen instead of an NSAID.

Read a comparison between acetaminophen and ibuprofen, an NSAID, here.

People may also find that nausea fluctuates throughout the day. Monitoring symptoms can help manage them better and pinpoint a person’s triggers.

A person can have long periods of remission, which means they do not experience any symptoms. Remission may last for weeks or even years. During a relapse, symptoms such as nausea may return.

In some people, nausea may be so severe it causes loss of appetite. This can be serious, as it could lead to malnourishment, fatigue, and weight loss. If people are unable to keep fluids down, it could lead to dehydration.

Ulcerative colitis can prevent proper absorption of important nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. People may want to seek guidance from a healthcare professional about taking a multivitamin or mineral supplement.

A person needs to seek medical attention if they:

In order to manage symptoms, it is important to identify whether they are occurring due to an ulcerative colitis flare.

Any person with established ulcerative colitis and a new onset of nausea should first discuss their symptoms with a gastroenterologist. This way, they can take disease-targeted treatments and avoid more serious complications of an ulcerative colitis flare-up.

Below are other important dietary tips a person can follow:

  • Eat smaller meals or snacks more frequently throughout the day, as this may help ease digestion. Also, an empty stomach may make nausea worse.
  • Eat slowly to allow the stomach to fill up gradually.
  • Avoid excess seasoning or flavor and avoid spicy, overly sweet, or high fat foods.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Drink before or after a meal, at least 30–60 minutes, rather than with a meal.
  • Wear clothing that is loose-fitting and comfortable, especially around the stomach area.
  • Avoid lying down for at least 60 minutes following a meal.
  • Avoid strenuous activity after eating.
  • Use a mouth wash or rinse the mouth with water to take away any unpleasant tastes, as these can worsen nausea.
  • Open a window or use a fan to reduce unwanted cooking odors, which can make nausea worse.
  • Consume food and drinks cold or at room temperature.
  • Use ginger, as it may help reduce nausea.

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, taking any medication exactly as a doctor prescribes can significantly reduce the risk of ulcerative colitis flare-ups.

Learn about home remedies and medical treatments for nausea here.

Alternative therapies

A person may also want to consult a healthcare professional about alternative treatments.

Medical cannabis

Many people with IBD, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, have reported that medical cannabis improved their nausea and other symptoms, such as:

  • pain
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • overall mood

A healthcare professional can prescribe cannabis products for medicinal purposes. These products may contain high concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which may provide relief.

Researchers are still looking into the effects of cannabis on ulcerative colitis, and the long-term safety of taking cannabis products.

A 2018 review found that cannabis and some cannabinoids, including CBD, decrease inflammation in some animal and laboratory tests. This suggests cannabis and cannabinoids may help treat symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

The review mentions two studies that looked at the effects of cannabis oil and cannabis cigarettes in people with ulcerative colitis. The studies involved a total of 92 adults with active ulcerative colitis. Some received cannabis oil, and some got a placebo.

In the cannabis oil group, 24% of the participants had clinical remission. The cannabis oil group also self-reported higher quality of life scores than the placebo group.

However, there were more side effects among the participants in the cannabis oil group, including dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. The participants reported these to be mild to moderate in severity, with no serious side effects.

Those using cannabis cigarettes had a lower disease activity index score than those in the placebo group, with no serious side effects.

It is of note that CBD-based therapies for IBD are still in their investigational stages. CBD is not part of a standard treatment plan for IBD. A person should not use CBD for IBD unless a doctor has approved this method.

Learn about the effects of CBD on Crohn’s disease here.

If nausea is causing people to vomit, the following tips may help manage vomiting:

  • Avoid eating solid foods if vomiting.
  • Refrain from drinking any fluids until 30 minutes after vomiting.
  • After 30 minutes, try drinking small sips of water every 10–30 minutes. This will help replace lost fluids.
  • Try to drink at least 9 glasses of fluids throughout the day.
  • If a person finds water harder to keep down, they can try other fluids, such as broth, flavored gelatin, popsicles, fruit juice, tea, or sports drinks.
  • If a person is able to keep fluids down without vomiting, they may try eating bland foods.

Bland foods a person may want to try include:

  • canned fruit
  • crackers
  • oatmeal
  • mashed potatoes
  • pretzels
  • white bread, rice, or pasta

Once a person is able to keep bland foods down without vomiting, they can try eating a wider variety of foods.

Learn more about nausea-relieving foods here.

Some people with ulcerative colitis may experience nausea. Depending on the level of inflammation and which area of the body it most affects, people may experience mild to severe nausea.

It may be possible to manage nausea with a change in diet and eating habits and by avoiding or limiting triggers, such as certain foods or stress.

Taking any prescription medication as a doctor instructs may help manage symptoms. People can also consult a healthcare professional about alternative treatment options for nausea, such as medical cannabis.

A person needs to contact a doctor if they are experiencing a loss of appetite, persistent vomiting, or unintentional weight loss.