Nausea and vomiting after stroke are side effects that should be managed as soon as possible.
Nausea can affect your motivation to pursue recovery, and vomiting can cause serious medical conditions like undernutrition and dehydration.
In rare cases, vomiting after stroke could be a sign of another stroke, so it should be treated as a medical emergency. It’s important to work closely with your medical team to understand the causes of your nausea and/or vomiting and seek treatment.
You’re about to learn possible causes of nausea and vomiting after stroke, and treatments that can help.
Causes of Nausea and Vomiting After Stroke
Every stroke is different, so everyone experiences side effects for different reasons. This can make it difficult to pinpoint the cause of nausea and vomiting after stroke.
While more research is needed in this area, some clinical studies have revealed patterns around vomiting after stroke.
Here are some common causes of nausea and vomiting after stroke:
Side effects of medication
It’s possible that certain medications can trigger vomiting after stroke. Many stroke survivors are put on new medications to manage conditions like spasticity, epilepsy, etc. Some of these medications could be causing nausea and vomiting as a side effect.
Check the side effects listed on your prescriptions to see if this is a culprit. Pay attention to when different medications are taken and when the nausea or vomiting begins to see if there’s a correlation
Location of the stroke
The location of the stroke has strong implications for the side effects experienced. Nausea and vomiting is frequently seen in patients with vertebrobasilar stroke. Also, cerebellar stroke patients commonly experience severe vertigo, nausea, and vomiting, along with poor balance.
Ask your neurologist about the location of your stroke. If you discover that these areas were affected, you are one step closer to seeking appropriate treatment.
Nausea and vomiting after stroke can also be a sign of a vestibular disorder.
The vestibular system is responsible for providing your brain with information about motion, head position, and spatial orientation. It’s involved in motor functions that contribute to balance and stabilization. When the vestibular system is impacted by stroke, it can cause poor balance, impaired gait, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
Nausea and vomiting are often secondary conditions, which means the symptoms occur after a stroke instead of before. However, it should still be treated as an emergency medical condition.
Although it’s rare, vomiting can be a sign that someone is having another stroke. It’s important to seek immediate care, especially if the person exudes any other signs of a stroke – like facial drooping, arm weakness, or slurred speech.
Cyclic vomiting syndrome
Cyclic vomiting syndrome is characterized by episodes of severe vomiting with no apparent cause. If none of the above conditions apply, this could be the cause of vomiting after stroke.
It’s extremely important to work closely with your medical team. Consistent or prolonged vomiting depletes the body of vital nutrients and fluids which can cause serious medical conditions.
Next, we’ll discuss some common treatment options that your doctor or therapist may suggest.
Treatment for Nausea and Vomiting After Stroke
If you suffer from nausea and vomiting after stroke, treat it like a medical emergency.
Although it’s rare, vomiting could be a sign of another stroke, and it’s best to get care immediately.
After doctors rule out the possibility of another stroke, they may suggest methods of treatment.
Here are some treatments commonly used to treat nausea and vomiting after stroke:
Vestibular Rehabilitation Training
When nausea and vomiting are accompanied by issues with balance, it could be an issue with the vestibular system. Talk to your therapist about vestibular therapy.
Through various vestibular rehabilitation exercises, you can retrain the brain and body to regulate your sense of equilibrium. In the best case scenario, this therapy can help reduce feelings of nausea and vomiting after stroke.
If vomiting is a side effect of any new prescriptions that you’re taking, pay attention to any patterns. You may find that nausea increases after taking specific ones. If you notice any patterns, talk to your doctor. (S)he may be able to substitute the medication for something else.
Tricyclic antidepressants were found to completely get rid of vomiting after stroke in one patient.
Although the study was small, it provides hope for a solution.
Tricyclic antidepressants are thought to help vomiting after stroke due to its impact on the gut-brain axis.
The gut and brain are in constant communication with each other through this axis. If this communication has been impaired after stroke, improving this connection could be the cure for vomiting after stroke.
If you’re interested in natural remedies for stroke recovery, then consider acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Acupuncture has been shown to be useful in treating the nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy; but there don’t seem to be any studies for stroke recovery yet. However, acupuncture is a low-risk treatment. If you’re desperate for a solution, it could be worth a shot.
Another popular natural remedy utilizes Chinese herbs for stroke recovery. While the clinical studies seem to be lacking here too, it could be worth a shot if you’re interested in an alternative approach.
Ideally, vestibular therapy or medication can help improve nausea and vomiting after stroke. But if nothing helps, the hopefully time can heal. Some stroke patients experience spontaneous recovery of certain side effects. This means that the secondary conditions go away on their own in due time.
Tips for Coping with Nausea and Vomiting
If you are consistently vomiting after stroke, then you’re at risk of secondary complications like dehydration and undernutrition.
Here are some tips to cope with nausea and vomiting while you seek treatment:
- Drink water. First and foremost: drink water. This helps restore the fluid lost after vomiting.
- Try Pedialyte. To help restore your electrolytes, try drinking beverages enriched with electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and chloride. Pedialyte covers all these bases.
- Sip ginger tea. Ginger has a track record for eliminating motion sickness and nausea. In fact, one clinical study found ginger more effective than Dramamine for relieving motion sickness. Try sipping on some ginger tea to see if it helps reduce nausea after stroke.
- Try aromatherapy. Check out some essential oils for stroke recovery and see if they help reduce your nausea.
- Do 4-7-8 breathing. Taking deep controlled breaths can impact the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce the trigger for nausea and vomiting. Try inhaling for the count of 4, hold for the count of 7, and slowly exhale for a count of 8. If this makes you light headed, stop.
- Eat lots of small, healthy meals. To replenish the nutrients and calories lost after vomiting, you need to eat. Large, greasy meals can upset the stomach, so opt for lighter meals spread throughout the day. If you don’t have an appetite, talk to your doctor about that, too.
Hopefully these tips can keep the nausea at bay while you seek treatment.
Overcoming Nausea and Vomiting After Stroke
Try not to lose hope for improving nausea and vomiting after stroke. Even if one doctor thinks there’s no cure, another doctor may see hope. Gather different opinions, and never give up.
While you are seeking treatment, be sure to take good care of yourself. Make sure you’re replenishing the fluids, electrolytes, calories, and nutrients lost after vomiting.
Work with your doctor to come up with a plan that covers your needs. Good luck!
Featured image: ©iStock/yacobchuk