People may experience mild to severe nausea as a symptom of ulcerative colitis. Changing dietary and eating habits can help manage nausea, alongside medications. 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.

This article examines the link between ulcerative colitis and nausea. It also lists 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:

Symptoms can vary between people and 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.

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) such as ibuprofen 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.

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 weeks or even years. During a relapse, symptoms such as nausea may return.

Learn more about acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

For 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 the 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:

So a person can manage their symptoms, it is important for them to identify whether they are occurring due to an ulcerative colitis flare.

Anyone 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:

  • Eating smaller meals or snacks more frequently throughout the day, as this may help ease digestion. An empty stomach may also worsen nausea.
  • Eating slowly to allow the stomach to fill up gradually.
  • Avoiding excess seasoning or flavor and avoid spicy, overly sweet, or high fat foods.
  • Avoiding alcohol.
  • Drinking fluids before or after a meal, at least 30–60 minutes, rather than with a meal.
  • Wearing clothing that is loose-fitting and comfortable, especially around the stomach area.
  • Avoiding lying down for at least 60 minutes following a meal.
  • Avoiding strenuous activity after eating.
  • Using a mouthwash or rinsing the mouth with water to remove any unpleasant tastes, as these can worsen nausea.
  • Opening a window or using a fan to reduce unwanted cooking odors, which can worsen nausea.
  • Consuming food and drinks cold or at room temperature.
  • Using ginger, as it may help reduce nausea.

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, taking 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.

Alternative therapies

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

Medical cannabis

Many people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s diseasehave 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 also 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 others received 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.

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

  • Avoiding eating solid foods.
  • Refraining from drinking any fluids until 30 minutes after vomiting.
  • Waiting 30 minutes after vomiting, then drinking small sips of water every 10–30 minutes. This can help replace lost fluids.
  • Aiming to drink at least 9 glasses of fluids throughout the day.

If a person finds it difficult to keep water down, they can try other fluids, such as broth, flavored gelatin, popsicles, fruit juice, tea, or sports drinks. If they are 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
  • pasta

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

Learn more about nausea-relieving foods.

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 by changing 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 should contact a doctor if they are experiencing a loss of appetite, persistent vomiting, or unintentional weight loss.