You know that unsettled feeling in your stomach? The one that makes you question if you’re going to vomit? We’ve all encountered this unwelcome visitor before and know that it can be difficult to eat, drink or even think about food when you’re feeling just plain awful!
Whether the nausea is long or short-term, it’s important to keep your body well-nourished and prevent dehydration especially if you have been vomiting. Here are some key recommendations to manage nausea.
Why might I be nauseas?
There are many different things that could be causing your nausea. Some possible reasons include:
Viral gastro enteritis or bacterial food poisoning is the most common cause of an acute bout of nausea and is often accompanied by a myriad of other delightful symptoms including diarrhoea, pain and fever. It may happen whilst travelling, passed on by a family member or after eating a meal that was not prepared with the appropriate food hygiene or cooking methods.
Some chronic health conditions such as reflux or a hiatus hernia can cause nausea due to the pressure and discomfort placed on the oesophagus (tube that connects stomach to mouth) and chest area. Eating itself can become uncomfortable as well as feeling full much earlier than usual. Mental health conditions including anxiety may also cause nausea through neurological or nerve pathways between the brain and gut.
Medication and Treatment
Nausea is a common side effect of different medications and treatments and is usually caused by mechanisms including irritation of the stomach lining as well as neurological changes effecting the signals sent between the brain and the body.
Due to the many different ways that pain can be experienced, it is hard to pin point the exact reason as to why it can make us nauseas. However, it is likely connected to hormonal changes in response to pain as well as a neurological reaction.
Sometimes referred to as “morning sickness”, hormonal changes as well as extra pressure and discomfort from the growing fetus may cause nausea at anytime of the day during pregnancy.
As if being “hangry” wasn’t bad enough, an empty stomach can also make you feel dizzy and nauseas due to low blood sugar levels.
If nausea is an ongoing issue that’s interfering with your day to day life, it may be worth discussing the possible causes with your GP.
What can I do to reduce/manage my nausea?
There are some food choices and strategies that may help to relieve nausea and/or help you eat despite feeling nauseas. This is important as not eating can make nausea worse.
Food and drink:
Sip on fluids frequently to prevent dehydration, choose energy dense fluids if possible as this will provide your body with some nutrition when you may not be able to tolerate food. Options include:
- Fruit juice
- Sports drinks such as Powerade
- Milo with lite milk
- Lemonade or ginger ale
- Eat small and frequent meals.
When you’re feeling nauseas it may be easier to eat 6 small meals a day rather than 3 large main meals. This is important as being too full or too hungry can both make nausea worse. Here is an example day of what this could look like:
- Breakfast: 1 Slice of toast with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and a banana
- Morning Tea: 2 slices of cheese (40g) with 5 rice crackers and 2 tbsp. hummus
- Lunch: Small tin of tuna, ½ cup cooked rice and 1 cup of greens
- Afternoon Tea: Small tub of yoghurt with ¼ cup nuts and 1 cup berries
- Dinner: 100g cooked skinless chicken breast with 1 small baked potato and 1 cup steamed vegetables
- Supper: Milo made with 250mL lite milk and a slice of raisin toast with butter
Try eating cold foods as these are not as aromatic as hot foods. Ideas include:
- cheese and crackers
- sandwiches with cold meat and salad
- puddings such as mousse, creamed rice, custard or jelly
- Ginger may help settle the stomach, try drinking flat ginger ale, ginger tea or snack on crystallized ginger
- Snack on plain foods such as crackers, toast, pretzels, potato crisps, cereal, plain pasta or noodles
Avoid high fat foods such as full fat dairy, fried food and fatty cuts of meat as fat takes longer to digest. Simple swaps include:
- Lite or skim milk instead of full cream
- Reduced fat yoghurt instead of full fat varieties
- Lean, skinless cuts of chicken or beef instead of sausages or bacon
- Avoid very rich foods that are greasy, spicy or too sweet as these are often not well tolerated
- Avoid alcohol as this can further irritate the stomach and make nausea worse
- Wear loose fitting clothing
- Rinse mouth or brush teeth after eating to remove any tastes that may linger
- Try to relax by enjoying some fresh air, walking, sleeping at times when nausea is anticipated, having a warm shower or talking to a mental health professional
- Try cooking and bulk freezing ahead when you feel well, reheating in the microwave reduces the smell from food
- Avoid lying down for at least 30 minutes after eating as this may put pressure on your stomach
- Avoid the kitchen when feeling nauseas, get a family member or friend to cook if possible. Strong aroma’s from the kitchen may put you off
A note on vomiting with nausea…
Sometimes your nausea may result in vomiting, here are a few tips to help manage this:
- Don’t eat for a couple of hours after vomiting, allow your stomach to settle.
- Start sipping on clear fluids as soon and often as possible (ginger ale, sports drink, flat lemonade, ice block, hydrolyte or juice) to avoid dehydration, work your way up to dairy drinks.
- Eat bland foods when you feel like you can eat solids comfortably such as crackers, white bread with honey or jam, potato, cereal, porridge, pasta, stewed/canned fruit. Slowly increase your intake until you return to your normal eating pattern.
- Seek medical help if vomiting persists as you may need antiemetics and rehydration if not able to drink.
If you are suffering from nausea regularly due to a medical condition or treatment, our Accredited Practising Dietitians at The Healthy Eating Hub can provide individualised nutrition advice to help you maintain a healthy weight and good nutrition during this time. See our team.