What causes Morning Sickness? (plus 10 quick relief natural remedies)
If you’re pregnant or have been, then you’ll probably understand that morning sickness comes in all forms from very mild to very extreme, some requiring drugs or even hospitalisation. I personally didn’t get morning sickness, a part from food aversions in the early days, but it was really very manageable. While some believe it’s pure luck whether you get it or not, my research has led me to believe otherwise. Nutrition plays a key role, in fact the British Medical Journal says “Pregnancy sickness should be taken seriously as a signal of nutrient deficiencies”. A part from nutrient deficiencies, other theories describe morning sickness as a way of protecting the baby against common foods that could be harmful to it. Additionally, it can be your body’s way of telling you it’s simply having a hard time keeping up with the hormonal changes.
There’s no one reason that apply’s to everyone, so likewise there’s not one cure but I’ve summarised what we can do to prevent and/or minimise the severity of morning sickness according to the research (referenced at the end if you’re interested)
1. Address nutrient deficiencies
Three common deficiencies found to intensify morning sickness are protein, magnesium and vitamin B6.
Some women find that their nausea is reduced when they eat more protein. Protein helps to balance the blood sugar, which can exacerbate nausea when imbalanced. Vegans and vegetarians may be more prone to this, or those who consume a high sugar diet. Eating frequent, small meals that are balanced with protein, complex carbs, and fat can help. If you’re struggling to eat, start with simple food first (dry crackers) then when your stomach is less empty, you may be able to handle protein like some chicken or some almond butter on an apple or some hummus on carrot sticks. Remember protein is essential to the growing baby!
While I couldn’t find an exact research paper backing up the claims for magnesium, I’ve heard multiple stories of women with hyperemesis gravidarum (a severe type of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy) experience relief with magnesium supplementation - so it may be worth a go. Magnesium is also one of the most common nutrient deficiencies we see today so it will benefit other areas of our health such as energy (which I can relate to having little of in the early days of pregnancy!). I know taking supplements is the last thing you feel like doing when nausea hits but the good news is magnesium can be taken in other ways just as effectively! Absorbing it through our skin through epsom salts or magnesium oil means the magnesium is going straight into the blood stream to be used.
Depending how deficient you are some women have had complete reversal of morning sickness in 2 days with just 25mg/day of vitamin B6. Others may need this dose 3 times a day to notice a difference. Both Magnesium and vitamin B6 are key nutrients needed for hormone balance, and because surging hormones are considered a major contributor to morning sickness, deficiencies in these can be partly responsible for making the nausea even worse. Of course check with your GP first as high doses of B6 can have serious side effects (but most studies have linked this to 500mg or more/day). Also try to include food sources of vitamin B6 such as bananas, nuts, avocados and organic whole-grains.
p.s B vitamins are not all the same - some are much more readily absorbed by the body. In this case, Pyridoxal 5'-Phosphate is the preferred form of vitamin B6. You can purchase the Thorne Research Pyridoxal 5'-Phosphate via iherb.
2. Support your Liver
The liver is essentially going to be working over time for the next 9 months as it processes all the extra hormones your body is creating. The health of your liver will determine how well you handle the hormonal changes. If you can get your liver function on point prior to conception that’s great, but if not, no need to go on a crazy detox through pregnancy (this can do more damage than good) - just gently support your liver in other ways.
How do we do this?
While we can’t control all of our chemical exposure, do what you can to minimise it by opting for natural, organic household cleaning and beauty products (you can purchase these from iherb or if you have the time, make the cleaning products yourself). Diet and lifestyle wise, eat lots of green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower (I’m talking daily here), avoid alcohol (even for a few months prior to conception), avoid processed sugar (including fruit that’s not in its whole state like apple juice - just eat the whole apple) and practice mindfulness to reduce stress.
Related video: What you need to know before purchasing supplements
3. Optimise digestion and Heal your Gut
A healthy digestive system will not just benefit you, but research is correlating a huge connection to maternal gut health and foetal health outcomes (like eczema and allergies). Nausea can often be to low stomach acid, so optimising that is a key first step. Then we want to look at creating a healthy bacterial balance and preventing constipation which can affect hormone balance.
Here’s 3 ways you can do this:
Optimise stomach acid as heart burn/reflux has been shown to exacerbate nausea. You can include 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar in 50ml warm water or herbal tea 5 minutes before meals to assist this.
Consume prebiotic foods daily. Prebiotics feed your good bacteria which results in replication (i.e they create more probiotics). Prebiotic foods include bananas, oats, onions, apples, flaxseeds, potatoes and pasta (only when eaten cold such as in a potato or pasta salad).
Prevent constipation by drinking plenty of water and consuming vitamin C rich foods such as kiwi fruit. If you take an iron supplement, you can be more prone to constipation, but supplementing vitamin C at the same time can help support regular bowel motions.
I’m all about identifying the root cause to health complaints, rather than just giving symptomatic, temporary relief. But if you need some quick relief options to tie you over till you can address these points, I’ve listed the top 10 natural remedies for morning sickness below.
I encourage you to give these things a go before opting for the drugs - you’re doing your body (and bubs!) a huge favour by addressing underlying nutrient deficiencies and imbalances.
What have you found to work for your morning sickness? Let me know in the comments below or send me a message on Instagram!
Becky Jane x