Can Stress Cause Nausea? (The Answer Is Yes.)

June 28, 2022 2:57 pm Published by

woman with stress

It’s Sunday. While you enjoyed a worry-free Saturday, the work week is only hours away and you’re starting to experience the “Sunday scaries.” You know you’re stressed, but you’re also feeling queasy. Can stress cause nausea?

The short answer is yes. Stress and anxiety (and other mental health issues, too) can wreak havoc on your digestive system, causing nausea and other symptoms.

But why is that? And what can you do to prevent it?

Making Sense of Stress Nausea

Why does being stressed out sometimes result in nausea? It has to do with how stress itself impacts your body.

When you experience stress, even a small amount, your body goes into “fight or flight mode,” preparing you to fend off a threat. This is a reaction that’s usually not needed these days, but it’s the body’s defense system in case you are ever presented with a physical threat requiring you to act fast.

When you experience stress, everything in the body goes into overdrive. This starts with the release of hormones, which causes your heart to pump faster, breathing to become more labored and muscles to tense up.

The symptoms of anxiety and stress impact every system in the body, including your cardiovascular system (with your heart beating faster), your musculoskeletal system (those tensed muscles), your respiratory system (making it harder to breathe) and your digestive system.

How does your digestive system react to stress? Stress can cause a number of physical symptoms related to digestive health, including nausea and vomiting,  general stomach pain, bloating, and constipation.

Those who have underlying digestive health issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome or a stomach ulcer, are more likely to experience digestive problems when faced with stress.

Manage Stress and Prevent Stress Nausea

To an extent, stress is simply part of life. At one time or another, we all experience it. A small amount of stress can actually be a positive, helping to motivate us to complete a project by a set deadline, for example.

But too much stress or chronic stress can be dangerous for our physical and mental health. It’s important to find healthy ways for reducing stress, or managing it, to limit its effect on your body, including stress nausea.

Often, when we’re stressed we turn to unhealthy behaviors to help us cope, like smoking or eating comfort foods. Turn to these habits instead:

  • Move your body. The simple act of being physically active can help counteract stress by releasing endorphins, a hormone in the body that triggers a positive feeling. Being physically active on a regular basis can also help prevent stress in the first place.
  • Practice a hobby. Having a hobby gives you a habit to turn to when you’re feeling stressed. Experiment with new hobbies until you find one you love, such as sewing, playing an instrument, doing puzzles or even tackling the daily Wordle.
  • Prioritize sleep. Getting enough quality sleep can combat a lot of issues with your health, including stress. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
  • Spend time with those you love. Being social allows you an outlet for finding and focusing on joy, rather than dwelling in stress.
  • Find relaxation techniques that work for you. This may include meditation or yoga, but those habits aren’t helpful for everyone. A relaxation technique can be nearly anything, including simply pausing to take a series of deep breaths or taking a walk.

Having effective ways to manage stress can help limit your risk of experiencing stress-related symptoms. If you still find yourself frequently dealing with symptoms such as stress nausea, talk with your primary care provider about what you’re experiencing.


Your mental health is every bit as important as your physical health. Take steps to prioritize it with these tips!

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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