Nausea is quite an uncomfortable feeling that may strike with or without any warning. So it’s always better to have some information that can keep us prepared for such occurrences. Unfortunately, almost 50% of adults experience nausea at some point. Interestingly, the word nausea originated from sea sickness- ‘Naus’ means ship. Although eating during nausea can be quite challenging, some foods reduce the severity and after-effects. They also help control nausea, which we will discuss in detail below.
What Causes Nausea?
Before we go into the remedies to treat nausea and the foods that help reduce it, let us first go through the primary causes. Some prevalent causes of feeling nauseous are:
Nausea is one of the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis, meaning viruses cause it. The most common virus are rotavirus, adenovirus and norovirus. The infected area includes the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Gastroenteritis caused by a virus is relatively prevalent. However, it generally does not last for long and does not necessitate too much medical intervention. The most severe risk is dehydration due to fluid loss through diarrhoea and vomiting.
2. Food Poisoning
Food poisoning and contaminated food cause gastroenteritis. The contaminated food causes infection in the body. The most prevalent causes of food poisoning are infectious microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites or the toxins that they release. In addition, contagious organisms or toxins can contaminate the food they secrete during processing or manufacture. It can also result from improperly cooked food at home.
Gastroenteritis is an inflammatory disorder that affects the stomach, intestines and gastrointestinal lining. It is a common cause of nausea. Although it usually gets better without medicines, it might be more severe in some instances.
3. Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatment can cause nausea and vomiting. These are its significant side effects, affecting the majority of chemotherapy patients. Unfortunately, nausea and vomiting are common side effects of radiation therapy too. Side effects, including nausea and vomiting, need to be minimised so that treatment can continue uninterrupted and the patients are relatively at ease.
After undergoing several rounds of treatment, nausea and vomiting can develop even before a treatment session. It is known as anticipatory nausea and vomiting. The trigger can be by odours present in the treatment room. Anticipatory nausea and vomiting are more likely to occur during chemotherapy sessions.
4. Motion Sickness
Motion sickness affects people who get carsick, seasick, or airsick. Cold sweats, nausea, and vomiting are a few symptoms. Motion sickness is more common in women and children, although it can affect everyone. People can take precautions to avoid getting sick when travelling.
Motion-sensing regions of your body, such as your eyes, inner ears, muscles, and joints, send messages to your brain. But unfortunately, these organs of the body transmit conflicting signals to the brain. As a result, the brain stays clueless about the state of the body, i.e., if it’s stationary or moving. Therefore, we feel nauseous and sick because of our brain’s perplexed reaction.
The abrupt surge in hormones in your body is one of the causes of pregnancy nausea. It’s generally mild nausea and gets better halfway through pregnancy. However, hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe morning sickness form that affects certain pregnant women. It occurs due to extreme nausea and vomiting, causing dehydration or reducing more than 5% of total pregnant body weight.
Some other factors such as infections, surgery, gut diseases, medications of hormone disorders, and food allergies and intolerances can cause nausea.
Nine Foods that Soothe Nausea
Several food items help control this nausea and provide instant relief. In addition, these foods bring several health benefits.
Traditional folk medicine uses ginger to treat various gut diseases. Ginger’s medical benefits come from gingerol. It is the primary bioactive element and provides ginger with a strong flavour. Dried ginger has a higher concentration of Shogaols. Shogaols are compounds that give ginger its antioxidant properties. Raw ginger, on the other hand, contains more gingerols.
As per studies, ginger and its components promote active digestion and expedite the emptying of the stomach. In addition, ginger helps to alleviate nausea. Furthermore, the root contains anti-inflammatory qualities that help with digestion and hormone secretion that regulate blood pressure. Therefore, it further supports the body to relax and feel less nauseated.
Although there is insufficient scientific evidence, approximately 0,5-1.5 grams of ginger is sufficient to alleviate the nauseous feeling.
Clear Beverages and Water
Nausea is also a symptom of dehydration. The body loses ample water during nausea and vomiting. So it becomes essential to keep the body hydrated. Excessive acidity in the stomach can induce nausea in people. Drinking water dilutes the acidic state of the stomach and soothes and eases nausea. Water is often the best source of hydration. However, you can also consider other beverages like ORS, coconut water, chaas or buttermilk.
You must also avoid extremely sweet drinks since they exacerbate the nauseous feeling. Sipping at intervals is better than drinking all at once.
Proteins help your body create enzymes that aid digestion. Digestive disorders are one of the significant reasons for nausea. As per research, eating more proteins than carbohydrates may help prevent nausea. Protein induces the release of gastrin secretion. It improves the digestive process of the body and eases nausea.
Nuts are one of the best sources of proteins. Therefore, they can counter nausea. However, an excess of protein may also make you feel too full and worsen nausea. In addition, people with an allergy to nuts must steer clear of this.
A strong odour can trigger nausea. Some of us highly sensitive to smell can get nauseated because of it. Many food items contain a strong scent that induces the brain to send signals to the body and makes it feel nauseated. However, cold food often does not emit a strong odour because of the reduced movement of particles. These food items are ice creams, chilled fruits, yoghurt, custard and frozen popsicles. Therefore, having an ice cream or a popsicle might help. It is an alternative to keep the body fluids down and prevent vomiting.
Soups and broths serve as a perfect alternative to heavy food during nausea. Also, the body tends to retain more fluids than solid food content. Therefore, during nausea, the body absorbs liquids more easily. Additionally, they restore electrolytes and keep the body hydrated. Consequently, they are essential if you’ve been vomiting or have extreme nausea. Further, if the cause of nausea is congestion due to coughing, you can get relief after consuming chicken broth.
Usually, 240ml of chicken broth contains 16% daily salt intake, 8% DV for niacin and 8% DV for potassium. Chicken broth is also a nutritious source of vitamins, proteins, minerals and calories.
Bananas are an energy-rich, nutritious food that aids the body’s recovery process. Sometimes nausea is caused by excessive acid content in the stomach. It irritates and harms the stomach membrane and induces a nauseous feeling. Consumption of bananas promotes the release of mucus from the stomach lining. This mucus creates a barrier between the membrane and the acidic gastric contents, causing nausea and heartburn. Bananas soothe and relax an upset stomach. Moreover, it helps restore the body’s average potassium content that you might otherwise lose due to vomiting after nausea.
Nausea can result from an upset stomach, leading to diarrhoea and vomiting. Rice is a binding food that makes the stool firmer. They are bland and low-fibre foods. Also, they are rich in starch. Therefore, during nausea, one should consume bland, starch-rich food. Bland foods also have a very mild taste. Therefore, bland foods do not upset the stomach. In addition, they provide calories while at the same time soothing the upset stomach. Also, they help replace nutrients that your body has lost due to vomiting and diarrhoea.
Rice is one of the best sources of carbohydrates. Therefore, having a starchy diet during nausea can help in the passive restoration of electrolytes in the body. You can also consume it with hot potatoes, which add to the starch intake of the body.
Apples are an excellent food source to consider while feeling nauseous. They effectively help restore appetite too. Apples are rich in fibre and provide a broad range of vitamins (Vitamin A, B1, B2 etc.). They also contain tannins that give a thirst relieving and soothing impact on the body. Additionally, fibre helps to reduce nausea by slowing and easing digestion.
Apple juice can serve as a suitable drink in countering nausea. However, you should not have it if you don’t like its smell since it might adversely affect the body and trigger a purge.
Dry food materials such as toast and crackers form an essential remedy for people experiencing nausea. An empty stomach is one of the primary causes of nauseous feelings. In such circumstances, strong-smelling food materials may have an adverse effect by triggering nausea and subsequent vomiting. However, you can avoid this by consuming toast, pretzels and crackers, and similar food. Toasts are simple, bland food. They do not have a strong taste, aroma, or any other nausea-inducing component.
Research shows that 90% of gynaecologists recommend crackers, toasts and pretzels for pregnant women to counteract nausea caused due to morning sickness.
You can undertake certain precautions to prevent the feeling of nausea or prevent the worsening of conditions. Apart from taking the food as mentioned above, the other steps that you can take are:
- Avoid Skipping Meals: Skipping meals can lead to an empty stomach which is one of the primary causes of nausea. Instead, eating frequently provides the body with its correct nutrition. Subsequently, it helps prevent causes that induce nausea and similar syndromes.
- Drink in Small Amounts: Small amounts of food and water keep the body hydrated and nourished at regular intervals without putting excessive pressure on the body’s metabolism.
- Don’t Lie Down Immediately After Having Food: Avoid lying down immediately after meals since this is a primary reason for nausea. Instead, keep at least a gap of 30 mins for the time of eating to lie down.
- Avoid Cooking during Those Times: Cooked food can often give out strong odours and smells that the body may not be able to tolerate, leading to nausea. Especially when feeling nauseous, avoid overly-aromatic food.
- Keep Your Mouth Clean from Inside: Proper dental hygiene is necessary to prevent feeling overly nauseous and uncomfortable. Brushing the teeth regularly and rinsing the mouth can keep the mouth clean, preventing nausea due to infections.
Foods to Avoid During Nausea
You should avoid the following category of food if feeling nauseous:
Fatty, Greasy or Fried Foods
Fat is the slowest digesting macronutrients compared to carbs, fibre, and protein. In addition, greasy foods slow down the process of stomach emptying because of their high-fat content. As a result, food sits longer in the stomach, causing nausea.
When fat enters the intestine for digestion, they signal the liver/gallbladder to secrete additional bile to emit the fats. In case of lack of enough bile and emulsification, these fats irritate the intestine’s inner lining and cause nausea.
Very Sweet Foods
Overeating any kind of meal can cause nausea. Consumption of excessive sugary food draws water to the digestive tract and results in an upset system. It gives a nauseous feeling to the person.
Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, honey and vegetables. Fructose malabsorption is a disorder in which the body fails to absorb fructose adequately. It can result in nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and constipation.
Excessive sugar consumption causes insulin resistance. It is a condition wherein the body fails to react to the enzyme insulin in the bloodstream actively. As a result, blood sugar levels are affected. Nausea is one of the symptoms of hypoglycemia in which the blood glucose levels are lower than the healthy level.
Spices contain a mixture of acids. Our stomach already releases acidic content of its own. With overconsumption of spices, both the acids become excessive in amount. It irritates and damages the stomach lining, resulting in nausea. In addition, food with many added spices irritates the ulcers present in the mucosal lining of the small intestine. It is known as the duodenum. The aggravated ulcers are exceedingly painful, resulting in nausea and stomach pain.
Fruits with Strong Odours
The brain region regulating nausea can get activated by drugs, chemicals, stomach discomfort, motion, and psychic stimuli. The smell is a form of psychological stimulation. The brain triggers psychological stimulation and sickens people when smelling the same or similar odour.
Some people are born with an unusually high sensitivity to scent. It is hereditary and is related to the SCN9A gene responsible for sodium channels in the body. This heightened sensitivity can also occur during pregnancy.
Alcohol raises the production of acid in the stomach. It further slows down the emptying of the stomach. Either of these conditions can cause stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. The body generally breaks down alcohol and is subsequently obliterated. However, certain people with alcohol intolerance fail to break down alcohol completely. Instead, it turns the rest of it into the toxic chemical acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde leads to severe unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and headaches.
The Bottom Line
The persistent, uncomfortable feeling brought by nausea usually goes away with time. Food plays a vital role in speeding up the recovery process. However, if nausea persists over a few days, consult a physician immediately since these can often indicate more serious diseases.
However, minor nausea feelings that arise from motion sickness or pregnancy or mild infection can easily be alleviated by incorporating and following a proper and precise balanced diet. In addition, you must take care to replenish the sodium, potassium and electrolyte content in the body that can aid in the recovery process.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What relieves nausea fast?
A. Food items such as bananas, apples, toast, rice and fluids can help in reducing nausea. However, you must consume it in a limited amount since overconsumption can adversely impact and trigger sickness. The best solution is to follow the BRAT diet.
Q. Which food should you eat if you have nausea?
A. You can consume various foods to reduce the effects of nausea. These include ginger, water, and nuts. Furthermore, you can eat cold foods like chicken broth and follow a BRAT diet. Herbal tea, sports drinks, and carbonated drinks also help you.
Q. Is sprite good for nausea?
A. You can use sprite and other carbonated drinks to reduce nausea in limited amounts. However, if taken in excess, it may trigger acid reflux and GERD, which increases nausea. Therefore, you must take care to consume it in limited amounts.
Q. Is Orange juice good for nausea?
A. No, orange juice is not suitable for nausea. Since orange has a strong odour and a tangy taste, it might adversely affect and trigger nausea. Instead, you can use apple juice as an alternative for nausea.
Q. Why does coke help with nausea?
A. Carbonation in coke relaxes and replenishes the electrolytes in the body while restoring balance among the body fluids. However, it might instead trigger nausea if taken in excess due to its excess sugar content. So to reduce nausea, you must take it in a limited amount.
Q. Does ginger help nausea?
A. Yes, ginger helps in reducing nausea. It has natural therapeutic properties and is an effective and economical treatment. Moreover, it is safe to consume.