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What Foods Can Make You Nauseous?

author image Solomon Branch
Solomon Branch specializes in nutrition, health, acupuncture, herbal medicine and integrative medicine. He has a B.A. in English from George Mason University, as well as a master's degree in traditional Chinese medicine.
What Foods Can Make You Nauseous?
An assortment of dairy products on a white tabletop. Photo Credit: a_namenko/iStock/Getty Images

Feeling nauseous after a meal is often due to eating too much, but in some cases it can be a specific food that is causing the problem. It can be difficult to determine which food is the culprit, but a few foods stand out as likely suspects. In some cases, nausea is caused by the food not being prepared properly. If you are unable to determine what is causing the problem, consult a qualified medical professional to rule out a digestive disease.

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Dairy Products

The ability to digest products made from milk is dependent on having an enzyme in your small intestine called lactase, which breaks down lactose, a sugar present in milk. People who lack the enzyme or don't produce enough cannot properly digest dairy products, a condition referred to as lactose intolerance. Nausea after eating dairy may be a symptom of mild lactose intolerance. A more severe intolerance can result in bloating, passing gas, burping, cramps, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Between 30 and 50 million people in the U.S. have some degree of lactose intolerance, according to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Food Allergies

A food allergy is caused by your body's immune system reacting to a food as if it were a foreign invader. Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but the most common culprits are eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and cow's milk. Symptoms of a food allergy may include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, and may be accompanied by other typical allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itchy skin or mouth, hives, abdominal pain and diarrhea. A severe, life-threatening food allergy can result in chest pain, throat constriction and trouble breathing and requires immediate medical attention.

Contaminated Foods

Foods that have been contaminated with harmful bacteria are another common cause of nausea -- a condition known as food poisoning -- although it is not always as severe as the name would suggest. Often, raw foods that have not been properly handled or cleaned are to blame, even after they have been processed or canned. The most common bacteria to cause the problem are Staphylococcus and E. coli., according to MedlinePlus. Nausea can be the only symptom in a mild case of food poisoning, but other symptoms can occur in a more severe case including diarrhea, vomiting, fever, fainting and abdominal cramping. Severe food poisoning requires medical attention.

Suggested Solutions

Investigating your eating habits is the first step to avoiding future cases of nausea. If you find that you consistently get nauseous when consuming dairy products, try avoiding them to see if your nausea stops. Consuming lactose-free products, such as soy cheese, is a possible solution if lactose intolerance is the problem, as is taking a lactase supplement. If you suspect an allergy, consult a qualified health practitioner to determine the underlying cause. Food poisoning can be difficult to avoid when consuming processed foods or eating in a restaurant, but you can take precautionary steps in your home kitchen. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly, and use separate cutting boards for produce and meats. Wash your hands, utensils and surfaces after handling raw eggs, meat or seafood, and cook them to the proper temperatures.

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