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Can Zoloft (sertraline) cause nausea?

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What is Zoloft?Side effectsCausesManagementPreventionHow long does it take to work?Summary
Medically reviewed by Ami Patel PharmD, BCPS
Written by Anisha Mansuri
Updated on December 22, 2023

Zoloft is a medication belonging to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug class. It’s the brand name for the generic drug sertraline.

Zoloft can help treat several mental health conditions, but healthcare professionals primarily use it for depression, social anxiety, and panic disorders.

As with all medications, Zoloft can cause side effects, such as migraine, dizziness, and, most commonly, nausea.

If you experience nausea while taking Zoloft, several methods can help you manage this, such as eating smaller and more frequent meals or sipping on ginger tea.

What is Zoloft?

Zoloft belongs to the SSRI drug class and increases the activity of serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin is a chemical responsible for carrying messages from your nerve cells to the rest of your body and regulating your mood. If your levels are low, it can lead to psychological symptoms such as low mood and anxiety.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Zoloft as a treatment for the following conditions:

  • major depressive disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • panic disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • social anxiety disorder

Need a refill for sertraline (Zoloft)? You may be able to get an online prescription through Optum Perks in as little as 15 minutes with no video or appointment needed. Learn more here.

What are the side effects of Zoloft?

In addition to nausea, Zoloft can cause other common side effects, such as:

  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • sweating
  • fatigue (low energy)
  • stuffy nose
  • difficulties with sexual health

As with any medication, Zoloft may cause an allergic reaction. You should get medical help immediately if you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction after taking Zoloft. These include:

  • skin rash
  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of your face, throat, lips, or tongue

While uncommon, Zoloft can cause severe side effects, such as an increased risk of suicidal thoughts.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

While you wait for help to arrive, stay with someone and remove any weapons or substances that can cause harm. You are not alone.

Why does Zoloft cause nausea?

Zoloft reportedly caused nausea in 26% of adults who took the drug during clinical trials.

When you take an SSRI like Zoloft, your serotonin levels increase. This stimulates serotonin receptors in the brain and gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which can lead to side effects like nausea.

Zoloft-induced nausea may result in the following:

  • abdominal pain
  • lack of appetite
  • vomiting
  • feeling uneasy or generally unwell
  • sweating

The feeling of nausea typically stops after your body has had time to get used to the drug, which may take several weeks.

How can you manage nausea?

Person preparing ginger tea as a nausea remedy
Photography by All Nea / 500px/Getty Images

If you experience nausea while taking Zoloft, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can offer suggestions to limit Zoloft-induced nausea. These may include:

  • eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • sucking on hard candy
  • taking an antacid or anti-nausea medication
  • sipping ginger tea or flat ginger ale

If the nausea remains unmanageable after several weeks, consider speaking with a healthcare professional about all your options. They may have to lower your dose or switch your antidepressant.

How can you prevent nausea when taking Zoloft?

Several things may be able to prevent nausea from happening when taking Zoloft.

Consider speaking with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, about whether it can be helpful to take Zoloft at certain times.

For example, taking your medication with a meal or at bedtime may help prevent nausea.

It’s best not to make any changes to the way you take your medication without speaking with a healthcare professional first.

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How long does Zoloft take to work?

In most cases, it can take up to 2 weeks to begin seeing small changes, such as improvements to your sleep and appetite, after starting Zoloft.

Bigger changes, such as improvements to your overall mood, may take up to 8 weeks to take effect.

Side effects are usually mild and will ease after a couple of weeks. It’s important to give the medication time to work and not to stop taking it suddenly.

Always talk with a doctor before discontinuing any medication to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Summary

Zoloft is the brand name for the generic drug sertraline, which typically treats conditions such as depression, social anxiety, and panic disorder.

Like with all medications, it can cause side effects, such as migraine, dizziness, and, most commonly, nausea. These are typically mild and will go away once your body adjusts to the medication.

If you experience nausea while taking Zoloft, the following lifestyle measures may help:

  • eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • sucking on hard candy
  • taking an antacid or anti-nausea medication
  • sipping ginger tea or flat ginger ale

Healthcare professionals can help you identify a beneficial time to take Zoloft, such as with meals, to help prevent nausea from happening.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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