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Can Headaches Cause Nausea?

Here's Why Your Headache Might Be Making You Feel Nauseous


Migraines aren't just painful. When they strike, they can bring along a whole slew of very uncomfortable side effects, too — one of the most unsettling being nausea, which can even lead to vomiting.

To learn more about what makes headaches cause nausea, we reached out to Dr. Nadia Khan, MD, an internist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

"One proposed theory is that nausea is caused by low serotonin levels," Dr. Khan said. "There also may be a link to cortical spreading depression, or a wave of nerve depolarization that happens in the brain, resulting in a cascade of hormonal and neurological effects."

It's not just migraines that can make your stomach feel uneasy.

Pain, in general, Dr. Khan explained, can cause nausea and vomiting because of strong neurological simulation, as well as hormonal and neurochemical fluctuations.

Because there are many causes behind unexplained headaches — some more serious explanations could include stroke or brain tumors — Dr. Khan says it's important to speak with a doctor about any new or persistent headaches. That includes headaches with or without nausea.

"If you experience a new type of headache, the worst headache of your life, any neurological symptoms, or a headache lasting longer than 24 hours, you should seek medical attention," Dr. Khan added. "If you are vomiting and unable to keep yourself hydrated you should also seek emergency treatment."

If you are dealing with nausea from your headache, Dr. Khan said the most effective treatment would be a prescribed antiemetic medication from your doctor.

However, certain at-home remedies like anti-nausea wrist bands, ginger candies, and eating simple carbs like crackers may help soothe the discomfort.

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Image Source: Getty Images / PhotoAlto/Michele Constantini
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