Feeling queasy? Easy strategies to help curb morning sickness


Pregnancy can be such a joyous time, but, often times it may be accompanied by less than joyous feelings, such as vomiting or nausea.  Morning sickness, and sometimes all day sickness, affects 50-80% of pregnant women.  Symptoms can range from mild to severe and, for the majority of women, will go away between 12-16 weeks of pregnancy. What causes nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and what can you do about it?  Scientists aren’t entirely sure why this happens, but some theorize changing hormones are to blame due to the increase in human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (HCG), produced from the placenta, and/or from the increase in estrogen and progesterone. Still, others believe there may be a psychological component as well.

Carbohydrate-type foods, such as dry cereal, crackers or pretzels (and eating them even before getting out of bed) may help quell nausea, possibly due to their starch component, which reduces stomach acidity.  This strategy may work in the short term, but the quick hits of carbohydrates may also set you up for blood sugar swings. Blood sugar swings lead to more hormonal swings, which may exacerbate nausea or vomiting symptoms. A better way to keep blood sugar and hormones balanced and prevent nausea is to make sure you are including protein and a small amount of good fat with all your meals and snacks, but especially in the morning and right before you go to bed.

Eat protein within an hour of waking. Starting your day with a good dose of protein helps stabilize hormones. This could be in the form of a protein shake (plant protein powders seem better tolerated) blended with water or milk such as coconut or almond milk, ½ banana, 1 inch of peeled ginger with 1/4 of avocado or 1 TBL. ground flaxseeds (flaxseed can help constipation too).  Other options might be some pastured eggs with some avocado or nut butter on toast.  Include some protein for lunch and dinner too.

Protein Sources: grass-fed meats, poultry, broths, pastured eggs, dairy (if you tolerate it) low mercury, wild fish and vegan sources such as legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils), quinoa, broccoli, organic tempeh, nuts and seeds and their butters.

Before you go to sleep at night, a handful of almonds (or a tablespoon of nut butter), barring any allergies, can be helpful toward reducing nausea in the morning. Go ahead and reach for these before getting out of bed in the morning too. Can’t stomach protein right away when you wake up? Don’t stress over it or expect perfection, just try to sneak it in between the moments of nausea when you can and perhaps try some of these other food and lifestyle strategies as well.

Helpful tips to reduce morning sickness:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals (with a small amount of protein), don’t let yourself get hungry

  • Keep hydrated between meals- dehydration can contribute to nausea- water, broths, popsicles, decaffeinated teas, low sugar coconut water (especially good for replacing electrolytes)

  • Ginger- ginger chews, crystallized ginger, ginger teas, ginger drops (you can find these on Amazon as Tummy drops)

  • Peppermint- some people respond better to peppermint, also in the form of teas or drops

  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)– B6 has been shown to be as effective as ginger for treating nausea and vomiting. There are varying amounts of B6 in different prenatal supplements so this should be considered, along with food sources of B6 you may already be consuming, and discussed with your health care provider.  B6 foods include: turkey breast (non-deli), grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, low mercury fish, bananas, pistachios, pinto beans, avocado, blackstrap molasses, sunflower and sesame seeds, spinach, walnuts

  • Anti-histamines, some of which may be doctor prescribed- do not start any new medication without doctor consent

  • Lemon – lemon in water or sniffing lemon

  • Bland foods like rice cakes, baked potato, plain pasta, saltines

  • Avoid spicy or greasy foods

  • Cold beverages and slightly frozen fluids seem to help nausea

  • Acupuncture and acupressure-both have been found to help with nausea, acupressure wrist bands

  • Maya massage- a tight diaphragm may contribute to nausea and this type of gentle, pre-natal massage may be helpful

  • Mindfulness and meditation- may help decrease the anxiety associated with nausea and vomiting

Blood sugar balance is key when it comes to preventing hormonal fluctuations that may be driving nausea and vomiting. We can do this by bringing in more protein strategically, staying hydrated and eating smaller, more frequent meals. In addition to protein, including healthy fat (nuts, seeds, nut butters, chia, flax, avocado, coconut milk/butter/oil, olives and olive oil) and fiber (vegetables, fruits, whole grains) with each meal will keep blood sugar balanced longer. This, along with some of the other tips and lifestyle strategies may make for a less nauseous and more enjoyable pre-natal experience.

Anne Lemons