Morning sickness is synonymous with pregnancy (90% of women will experience it to some degree) but anyone that has experienced pregnancy or been around someone who is pregnant knows that this symptom isn’t named well. Nausea during pregnancy can happen anytime and often may not even be associated with the morning at all.

While there is no cure for pregnancy-induced nausea, there are ways to manage and mitigate it. That’s where nutrition comes in and the powder of food. 

Nausea is most common during the first trimester of pregnancy but there is an unfortunate 9% of women that will experience nausea throughout her entire pregnancy. The good news is about 60% of women will have their nausea and vomiting resolved by 13 weeks or the end of the first trimester. 

First let me assure you that if you do have nausea during pregnancy it is normal. In fact, there is a theory that the nausea is a result of thyroid hormones adjusting properly to pregnancy and women who experience nausea are more likely to be carrying a viable pregnancy. Now don’t get ahead of yourself, if you’re not experiencing nausea there is nothing to stress about! You may be one of the lucky 10% of women who won’t struggle with this symptom.

One of the reasons I’m such a proponent of taking time to prepare your body for pregnancy, including boosting nutrient stores during the preconception period is because you likely won’t be able to eat as healthfully as you’d like during the first trimester. If you have built up your nutrition stores prior to pregnancy, you have more wiggle room. If you didn’t prepare your body for pregnancy, don’t worry I have some strategies to help you through. 

Eating Behaviors to Manage Nausea During Pregnancy

Before we dive into the foods, these eating behavior changes can make a big difference in nausea.

Eat small, frequent meals.

By eating consistently throughout the day, you can avoid getting too hungry or too full which can both make the nausea worse. So, always have a snack available to eat!

Balance blood sugar.

Blood sugar dropping can be a trigger for nausea. This is another reason eating small, frequent meals helps. If you can, balance each meal and snack with a protein source and a fat source. Often time carbohydrates seem to be the only thing that will go down during periods of nausea so one strategy involves eating the carbohydrates that seem tolerable, such as crackers, then following that up with something that contains protein and fat such as cheese, nuts or seeds, full fat yogurt, eggs, or whole milk. The other important piece to balancing blood sugar is eating breakfast and prioritizing protein in the morning. If typical breakfast foods like eggs don’t sound appealing, try a protein shake or smoothie with added protein which may be more manageable. Again, you may need to eat some carbohydrates first to take the edge off of the nausea. 

Start the morning off slowly.

If you do have true “morning sickness”, allow yourself plenty of time to get ready in the morning. Even having something small to eat before getting out of bed can be really helpful. Nuts and seeds or dried fruit are great snacks to keep by your bedside and snack on before getting out of bed in the morning.

Identify your triggers.

Is it getting up quickly in the morning? Is it the smell of raw or cooking food? Does nausea hit when you get too hungry or too full? If, for example, it is worse after smelling raw food, can you ask someone else to cook for you? If you don’t have someone who can cook for you, can you rely on pre-made meals? There are many food preparation companies that offer healthy, precooked meals. Is it the smell of cooking food? Can you stay away from the kitchen until the food is cooked? Maybe it even comes down to putting a meal in the slow cooker and keeping it in the garage so you don’t have to smell it! 

Avoid too much liquid at meals.

The extra liquid in your stomach may make nausea worse. Try hydrating between meals and only sipping liquid during meals.

Eat slowly.

Because getting too full can be a nausea trigger, eat slowly to be able to really pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues. 

Foods That Fight Nausea During Pregnancy

  • Cold foods

    • Many women find that cold foods are more tolerable than hot or room temperature foods. Think yogurt, milk, cheese, olives, pickles, even cold leftovers! Frozen fruit pops or smoothies can be fantastic options.
  • Sour foods

    • Many of the stereotypical pregnancy foods, like pickles, fit into this category. Also consider sour fresh or dried fruit like tart cherries, grapefruit, and cranberries. Other ideas include fermented foods like sauerkraut, plain yogurt or kefir, and kombucha. Try these Gummy Snacks that can be made with a sour liquid like tart cherry juice.
  • Salty foods

    • Several of the foods already mentioned fit into this category as well so you can kill two birds with one stone. Olives, pickles, and cheese are all salty and either cold or sour. Also consider salted nuts and seeds or beef jerky.
  • Ginger

    • This is one food many of us think of with nausea and it has some great research behind it’s positive effects. Try ginger tea, crystalized ginger, or take it in supplement form (250mg every 6 hours). Note that sodas are not the best option. Not only because they can be high in sugar which can cause a blood sugar swing and nausea to worsen as a result, but because they do not contain enough ginger to have a positive impact.
  • Dairy

    • This is a surprising one but many women seem to tolerate dairy products really well when nauseous. Opt for dairy products from local, grass fed, organic cows when possible. Whole milk, full fat yogurt, kefir, and cheese are all good options.
  • Consider a vitamin B6 supplement.
    • It’s best to work with a knowledgeable prenatal dietitian to determine the correct dose for your individual case. Because I’m an advocate for real food, try adding vitamin B6 rich foods like banana, avocado, pistachios, and sunflower seeds before going straight to supplements.
  • Consider magnesium supplements.
    • This one hasn’t been studied as much but a magnesium supplement, magnesium spray, or a bath with epsom salt (which is high in magnesium) may be worth trying if nothing else seems to help.

    What to do After Vomiting During Pregnancy

    If your nausea is accompanied with vomiting, remember to replenish fluids. However, fluids doesn’t just mean water, you need electrolytes too! You can use supplements like LMNT or simply pair your water with a salty snack like nuts. Prioritize salt since sodium is our main electrolyte but potassium and magnesium are also involved. Unsweetened coconut water can be a good choice because of the potassium intake but it does lack sodium. I suggest avoiding sports drinks due to the sugar content but something like Nuun tablets can be helpful. 

    Reminders

    Be easy on yourself. You may not be able to eat all the healthy foods you would like to right now but do what you can. Allow yourself more leeway with simple carbohydrates like crackers or chips because oftentimes these foods allow the nausea to subside then you can eat something more nutrient dense afterwards. 

    Do your best to continue taking your prenatal multivitamin. Many of them are in capsule form including my favorite, FullWell. You can open up the capsules and mix it with cold foods like a smoothie or yogurt if you find taking capsules too challenging when nausea is present. 

    Keep in mind sometimes general recommendations such as these aren’t enough and individual attention is needed. If you need help, reach out for one on one nutrition counseling

    If this has been helpful to you, share it with a freind.

    Best,

    Alyssa

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