Tackling morning sickness with nutrition
This article goes along with an IGTV episode! Watch it at the link below, and read through the article for some additional details, recipes, and links to helpful products.
Morning sickness in pregnancy can be really rough.
While not everyone has it bad, in a small proportion of people it can actually be so extreme that it becomes classified as hyperemesis gravidarum - or excessive vomiting in pregnancy. On the worse end of the spectrum, you might need to go to the hospital to get enough fluids and nutrients, but most people with bad morning sickness just need a little help managing nausea and getting in enough nourishment on their own. A few strategies can help decrease nausea and help you get enough nutrition when your morning sickness is at it’s worst.
Ginger has been shown to significantly decrease nausea, and is safe in pregnancy. If you choose to take a supplement, you can safely take up to 250 mg every 6 hours (*in the video I say 250 mg/day, but every 6 hours is correct*), but food sources are generally safer if you like the taste of ginger. Eating ginger chews, crystallized ginger, or candies made with real ginger specifically for nausea can be a great option. Here's one ginger hard candy called Tummy Drops that works really well, and this Morning Sickness Candy from Pink Stork does double duty with both ginger and vitamin B6 (more on B6 below! I'd recommend just one of these particular drops every 8 hours). Tea made by boiling fresh chopped or grated ginger is one way to get a good dose, and you can also drink herbal tea that has ginger in it; Yogi Teas makes a few different flavors including Mango Ginger that I really like. Look for ginger as the first ingredient if you buy it in tea form.
Ginger ale usually doesn't actually have that much ginger in it, and might not have any real ginger at all. Nonalcoholic ginger beer is another sparkling beverage that might help, and usually does have real ginger but be sure to check the ingredient label. Ginger kombucha is another option - but it's important to buy kombucha from a trusted source as it has live cultures in it that could make you sick if it's been contaminated or not stored properly.
Vitamin B6 is commonly used in the hospital along with other medications to help with nausea. There is some B6 in your prenatal vitamin, but not much beyond what meets your basic needs. If you'd like to take B6 as a supplement, try to find one that has pyridoxal-5-phosphate as this is the active form of B6, like this one from Seeking Health (they have received a certification from the National Science Foundation for Good Manufacturing Practices, so I trust them!) It is safe to take 10-25 mg of B6 every 8 hours. The Morning Sickness Candy I mentioned above has 15 mg of B6 per candy in the pyridoxine form, which could still help a lot. You can also try snacking on Vitamin B6 rich foods throughout the day, like avocados, bananas, pistachios, and sunflower seeds - or if you can stomach it, meat, fish and poultry are very rich sources of B6.
Snack first thing in the morning
It might sound a little counter-intuitive, but putting something easy to digest in your stomach before you even get out of bed can help settle it a little before you get going in the morning. Carbs will be easiest to digest, but some people might find that something with protein works a little better. You could keep a glass of water on your nightstand ready for the morning, along with a banana (yay B6!), a few crackers, or some salted nuts. Sit up so you can eat safely, but take a few bites before you put your feet on the floor and stand up. Just get a little something in your system before you get ready.
When nausea and vomiting get intense, getting enough food and fluid becomes the primary concern. Here's what to do if you're having trouble keeping things down, but please call your doctor if you cannot keep anything down. Dehydration and malnutrition are real concerns with excessive vomiting.
Small frequent meals and snacks
Eating a little bit at a time at frequent intervals throughout the day can help your stomach not feel overwhelmed so you get something digested without throwing it up. This also helps your blood sugar stay fairly even - blood glucose spikes and dips can actually worsen nausea.
When you vomit, you lose a lot of water and electrolytes. It is really important to drink not just water, but something that's got electrolytes in it as well. You can buy G2 which is a lower sugar Gatorade, or you can make your own electrolyte drink with my recipe:
Electrolyte drink for morning sickness
A homemade drink to help you rehyrdate properly.
Makes: 16 oz
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 banana
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp honey
- splash of orange or any other tart fruit juice
- Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until the banana and honey are fully smooth in the mixture. Pour into a glass and sip to help replace electrolytes after vomiting.
Eat what sounds good
Coming from a fan of Intuitive Eating, this likely doesn't surprise you! Trust your cravings in this scenario, and also listen to your aversions. At a certain point it's more important to get something down than to agonize over whether it's the most nutritious option. Carbs will be your friend as they digest the easiest, and salty or sour foods are common cravings that might help with your nausea too. When you can, try to get in some protein - this doesn't have to be meat! Eggs, poultry, fish and meat are the best sources of protein, but beans, nuts and nut butters, cheese and yogurt are less likely to be nausea inducing for most people.
A lot of the time, cold foods seem to be less nausea inducing than warm foods. That's not the case for everybody, but it's worth a shot! Why not try a cold smoothie with some ginger and B6-rich foods?
Tummy settling smoothie
A cold and tart smoothie with nausea-soothing ingredients for morning sickness.
Makes: 12 oz smoothie
- 1/2 a ripe avocado
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or kefir
- 1/2 large banana
- 1/2 cup frozen fruit of choice - berries or mango would be delicious!
- 1 tablespoon fresh or frozen grated ginger or 1 tsp dried ground ginger
- Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
Finally, don’t be afraid of medications.
If you've tried the strategies above and still aren’t feeling any better, talk to your doctor about getting a prescription or something over the counter for your nausea. What helped you handle nausea or morning sickness in pregnancy? Tell me in the comments below!