What to eat when everything makes you sick?

It’s that feeling you wish you’d never had. You’re suddenly queasy. Your digestive system shifts violently into reverse. And that meal you just swallowed comes back to see the light of day.

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Vomiting is definitely not fun. But it has a purpose. “Vomiting is a reflex that allows the body to rid itself of ingested toxins and poisons,” says family medicine physician Matthew Goldman, MD.

When vomiting happens fairly often, it’s important to determine why and to get it under control. “Vomiting can make people severely dehydrated, which can lead to serious complications,” he says.

“Our bodies depend on good circulation to carry oxygen and nutrients around. If there’s not enough fluid, circulation doesn’t happen. And that can be life-threatening.”

That doesn’t mean you should run to the doctor every time you vomit. But when vomiting is frequent or prolonged, you’ll need to know what’s causing it so you can feel better.

It’s a complicated process

Although it’s your belly in distress, “it is changes in your immune and/or nervous system that trigger the vomiting reflex,” says Dr. Goldman.

Neurochemicals can travel different pathways to activate receptors that start the vomiting process.

A trigger zone in your brain may pick up immune changes, or sense the presence of drugs or toxins. Or the medulla (part of your brainstem) may gather relevant information from different parts of your body. Or your vagus nerve, which runs from your brainstem to your GI tract, may signal that something is abnormal in your gut.

But the end result is always the same: Your last meal rockets up — and out.

Vomiting has many causes

Dr. Goldman says that common causes of vomiting in adults include:

  • Viruses (gastroenteritis, aka “stomach flu”) and bacteria (food poisoning).
  • Overindulgence (drinking too much alcohol or smoking too much marijuana).
  • Medical conditions (pregnancy, motion sickness, migraines, vertigo).
  • Intense pain (it can release substance P, a chemical that signals the brain to vomit).
  • Medications (vomiting can be a side effect of chemotherapy, for instance).

When to see the doctor

Sometimes an upset stomach is harmless. Having one episode of vomiting isn’t usually concerning, Dr. Goldman says. You throw up and then immediately feel better.

But other times, vomiting requires medical attention. “If you’re still vomiting after two days — especially if you have significant chest or belly pain — you should see your doctor,” he says.

If these symptoms accompany vomiting, seek medical attention:

  • Blood (black specks may resemble coffee grounds) in vomit
  • Black, tarry bowel movements
  • A fever of 101° or higher
  • Significant headaches
  • A stiff neck
  • Dehydration, dry mouth or excessive thirst
  • Muscle cramping
  • Dizziness or difficulty standing
  • Confusion
  • Dark urine or no urination in more than five hours

How to recover from vomiting

Make hydration your main focus after a bout of vomiting, says Dr. Goldman. Drink clear fluids (water, diluted juices, ginger ale), and eat foods that are mostly liquid (Jell-O®, clear broth, popsicles).

Ease yourself back into your regular diet with small amounts of bland foods (plain yogurt, plain oatmeal, grits, bread, crackers). Avoid fatty foods; they digest more slowly and can cause nausea. Steer clear of sugar, and sugary or caffeinated drinks, which can cause dehydration.

It’s also helpful to avoid strong smells, which may trigger your gag reflex.

But don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you aren’t getting better. “If you can’t keep anything down, come in and get IV fluids and medication,” he says. “You might even need to have some imaging done to help pinpoint the problem.”

How to prevent vomiting

Implementing a few good habits can help you steer clear of vomiting in many cases.

Your best defense against stomach viruses and bacteria is to wash your hands regularly. Use soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds. Scrub your fingernails, and in between your fingers as well.

To prevent food poisoning, keep tabs on expiration dates. Discard any unused food that’s past its prime.

If you get motion sickness or seasickness, take medication to stop nausea before it starts. If you feel a migraine coming on, take your headache medication at the earliest warning sign.

Finally, tell your doctor when pain is intolerable. He or she can help you find ways to minimize it. And if your medication is making you queasy, ask your doctor about alternative options.

List of the best food for nausea, as ranked by health care professionals and Ranker users. Nausea is an uncomfortable feeling of queasiness that can be tough to deal with. There are plenty of causes of nausea, including medication side effects, pregnancy, bad smells, motion sickness, and other illnesses.Nausea can lead to vomiting and dehydration over time. While there are medications that can control the discomfort from nausea, many medications have side effects that are worse than the nausea and therefore not worth it.However, if you change your diet, you can control your nausea and go back to having a comfortable, healthy stomach.

When you’re feeling nauseous, your instinct may be not to eat at all and just sleep it off. Unfortunately, not eating can make nausea worse, so it’s important to eat small amounts of the right kind of food. The best foods for treating nausea are not too hot or spicy. Warm soup with crackers is a good queasiness cure. Cool or cold foods are also helpful for your stomach, such as yogurt, popsicles, and cold beverages.

What are the best foods for nausea? This list features the top foods that won’t further upset your stomach and will quell the uncomfortable feeling of nausea. If you know of any foods to aid nausea that aren’t on this list of the top foods for nausea, make sure to add them.

Nausea & Vomiting: Care and Treatment

What can be done to control or relieve nausea and vomiting?

There are several ways to control or relieve nausea; however, if these techniques do not seem to ease the queasiness, talk to your doctor.

When trying to control nausea:

  • Drink clear or ice-cold drinks.
  • Eat light, bland foods (such as saltine crackers or plain bread).
  • Avoid fried, greasy, or sweet foods.
  • Eat slowly and eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Do not mix hot and cold foods.
  • Drink beverages slowly.
  • Avoid activity after eating.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth after eating.
  • Choose foods from all the food groups as you can tolerate them to get adequate nutrition.

Treatment for vomiting (regardless of age or cause) includes:

  • Drinking gradually larger amounts of clear liquids
  • Avoiding solid food until the vomiting episode has passed
  • Resting
  • Temporarily discontinuing all oral medications, which can irritate the stomach and make vomiting worse

If vomiting and diarrhea last more than 24 hours, an oral rehydrating solution should be used to prevent and treat dehydration.

Vomiting associated with surgery, radiation therapy, anticancer drugs, alcohol and morphine can often be treated with another type of drug therapy. There are also prescription and nonprescription drugs that can be used to control vomiting associated with pregnancy, motion sickness and vertigo. However, you should consult with your healthcare provider before using these treatments.

How can you prevent nausea?

Nausea can be prevented by:

  • Eating small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals
  • Eating slowly
  • Avoiding hard-to-digest foods
  • Consuming foods that are cold or at room temperature to avoid becoming nauseated from the smell of hot or warm foods

Resting after eating and keeping your head elevated about 12 inches above your feet helps reduce nausea.

If you feel nauseated when you wake up in the morning, eat some crackers before getting out of bed or eat a high protein snack (lean meat or cheese) before going to bed. Drink liquids between (instead of during) meals, and drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to prevent dehydration. Try to eat when you feel less nauseated.

Once you feel nauseated, how do you prevent vomiting?

Vomiting can be prevented by consuming small amounts of clear, sweetened liquids such as soda pop, fruit juices (except orange and grapefruit because these are too acidic) and popsicles. Drinks containing sugar calm the stomach better than other liquids. Rest either in a sitting position or in a propped lying position. Activity may worsen nausea and may lead to vomiting.

For children, control persistent coughs and fever with over-the-counter medicines. To treat motion sickness in a car, seat your child so that he or she faces the front windshield (watching fast movement out the side windows can make the nausea worse).

Limit snacks, and do not serve sweet snacks with regular soda pop. Don’t let your kids eat and play at the same time. Encourage them to take a break during their snack time.

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Morning Sickness Relief: Treatment and Supplements

Morning sickness is the nauseous feeling commonly experienced during the first trimester. It usually starts in the morning and wears off as you become active throughout your day. While not all morning sickness remedies may work for you, there are several options you can try to find some relief.

Ways to Relieve Morning Sickness

In the Morning:

Allow yourself plenty of time to get out of bed. If you usually get up at 6:00 a.m., set your alarm for 5:00 a.m. It is a good idea to keep a stash of crackers or dry cereal by your bed so you can put something in your stomach as soon as you wake up. Get out of bed slowly as you start your day.

During the Day:

Eat small meals throughout the day to avoid getting too full or too hungry. Progesterone slows the speed of food passing through your digestive tract. To further prevent your stomach from getting too full or too empty, drink fluids a 1/2 hour before or after meals, but not with meals. Also, make sure to drink fluids throughout the day to avoid dehydration.

Get plenty of rest when you can. This is especially important if you have to get up early in the morning. However, DO NOT take a nap right after a meal because this can increase nausea.

Avoid foods or smells that make your nausea worse, and avoid being in warm places, which can increase your nausea.

In the Evening:

For dinner avoid spicy, greasy foods. Prepare foods that are bland and do not have a strong odor. You may have to avoid cooking for the first trimester.

Most importantly, go to bed early! You need your rest to have the energy to get up early and do it all over again. If you happen to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, try to eat something small from your bedside stash.

Suggested Meals

  • Cold foods (sandwiches, raw vegetables, salad when properly prepared to prevent listeria)
  • Bland foods (chicken soup, broth, plain baked potato)
  • Plain vegetables or fruits
  • Keep meals small, but eat as frequently as you need
  • Foods rich in vitamin B6

Suggested Snacks to Eat

  • Lemons (Eat them, suck on them, or sniff them.)
  • Ginger (ginger ale soda, ginger tea, ginger jam on toast, ginger snaps)
  • Peppermint tea
  • Crackers
  • Jell-O
  • Flavored popsicles
  • Pretzels

Treatments & Supplements

PregEase: natural product is shown to relieve morning sickness and heartburn. Includes a comprehensive formula with vitamins, minerals and herbal ingredients demonstrated to help easy common pregnancy discomforts.

    • Delicious, chewable, orange-flavored tablets provide safe and effective relief
    • Doctor-designed, natural formula with no artificial dyes, colors or preservatives
    • Includes Vitamins B6, B12, calcium carbonate, ginger, and many other ingredients to soothe nausea. Learn more about PregEase

Preggie Pops: lollipops in flavors known to reduce nausea. (Available flavors include ginger, mint, lavender, sour raspberry, sour lemon, and sour tangerine).

      • A natural way to ease nausea
      • Drug-free and doctor recommended
      • Great for labor
      • Alleviates dry mouth
      • Quick energy boost

Sea-Bands: wristbands that use acupressure pulse points to fight nausea.

      • For all forms of nausea, including morning sickness
      • No drugs and no side effects
      • Used by doctors and hospitals
      • The only clinically tested wristband
      • One size fits all

Nip the Nausea: Drops flavored with a combination of ginger and lemon, which collectively soothe upset stomachs and reduce nausea symptoms.

Relief Band Device: a device that can be worn continuously for relief of mild to moderate nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy.

Vitamin B6: Taking Vitamin B6 (50 mg) daily has been shown to help with pregnancy-induced nausea.

Talk with your health care provider about any supplements and treatments for morning sickness. If morning sickness is so severe that you are constantly throwing up and not keeping anything down, consult your health care provider about the possibility of having hyperemesis gravidarum.

More helpful articles:

  • Role of Vitamin B in Pregnancy
  • Natural Sources of Vitamin B6 During Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Nutrition
  • FH PRO for Women and Men: Antioxident Supplements for Fertility and Prenatal Wellness

Compiled using information from the following sources:

Williams Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 8

American Academy of Family Physicians, https://familydoctor.org

Treatments for Chronic Nausea

Our Digestive Health Center experts deliver personalized treatments for chronic nausea. We address the physical and possible neurologic causes of your condition. Using a team approach, we deliver seamless care based on your unique needs.

Your treatment may include:

  • Medication: Taking anti-nausea and anti-anxiety medications may help relieve your symptoms.
  • Medical nutrition therapy: Working with experts from Nutrition Services who specialize in helping patients with gastrointestinal disorders, we help you find foods that are less likely to trigger nausea. You may also need to start eating smaller meals and bland foods.
  • Oral rehydration therapy: Drinking a rehydration solution can help you replace lost minerals and body fluids, if your nausea causes frequent vomiting.
  • Total parenteral nutrition: Getting all the nutrition you need from special fluids you receive through a catheter (thin, spaghetti-like tube) in your vein, total parenteral nutrition can help you if your intestines need time to heal or your stomach has lost its ability to absorb nutrients from food taken by mouth.
  • Tube feeding: Helping you get adequate nutrition when your body is not getting enough nutrients from food by mouth, tube feeding works by delivering specially formulated liquid nutrition directly to your stomach through a special tube, also known as a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube.

Many people are able to feel better with simple remedies, such as:

  • Drinking beverages known to settle the stomach, such as ginger ale or chamomile tea
  • Avoiding caffeinated beverages that can upset your stomach, such as cola or coffee
  • Drinking lots of clear liquids to stay hydrated
  • Eating small meals, which allow your stomach to digest foods more gradually
  • Eating a bland diet with foods that are easy for your stomach to digest, such as plain rice and bananas
  • Avoiding foods that can upset your stomach such as spicy, fried, and processed foods
  • Taking over-the-counter medications, such as antacids, pink bismuth, and motion sickness medication

Our general gastroenterology experts will tell you which remedies may work best for your symptoms, including special techniques and support to help you make changes in your diet, if necessary.

What are the best ways to get rid of nausea?

2. Ginger

Ginger is widely used for reducing nausea. Studies have shown ginger to be effective in treating symptoms of nausea and vomiting caused by pregnancy and by chemotherapy. It has relatively few side effects and could be as effective as antiemetic drugs. Fresh ginger can be used in cooking or eaten on its own. Ginger can also be consumed as a tea.

3. Peppermint

A recent study has shown peppermint to reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy. It can be consumed in a capsule, tea, or oil.

4. Sports drinks

Salty liquids, such as those found in electrolyte replacement sports drinks may help to reduce nausea, according to research.

5. Protein

Meals that are primarily made up of protein-rich foods, rather than carbohydrates, have been suggested by researchers to reduce nausea.

6. Cinnamon

A study in 2015 found that cinnamon can help to reduce nausea caused by menstrual pain. Cinnamon is commonly used in cooking as a flavoring.

7. Avoid carbonated drinks

Carbonated drinks, such as cola, can cause bloating and worsen nausea.

8. Staying hydrated

If nausea is accompanied by vomiting, it is essential to stay hydrated by taking small sips of water on a regular basis. Eating salty foods or drinking a non-carbonated, sugary drink can be helpful to restore the sugars and salts lost through vomiting.

9. Avoid spicy or rich foods

Share on PinterestThe BRAT diet may be recommended to help reduce nausea.

Sticking to a bland diet will help to reduce nausea. Any foods with strong flavors might unsettle the stomach further.

For example, the BRAT diet is often used to relieve symptoms of food poisoning or infection.

It consists of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

Nausea is a sick feeling in your stomach that makes you feel like you have to vomit. Mild nausea can cause loss of appetite. Moderate to severe nausea usually causes some degree of vomiting.

Nausea can be a side effect of the following breast cancer treatments:

  • chemotherapy:
    • Abraxane (chemical name: albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel)
    • Adriamycin (chemical name: doxorubicin)
    • carboplatin (brand name: Paraplatin)
    • Cytoxan (chemical name: cyclophosphamide)
    • daunorubicin (brand names: Cerubidine, DaunoXome)
    • Doxil (chemical name: doxorubicin)
    • Ellence (chemical name: epirubicin)
    • fluorouracil (also called 5-fluorouracil or 5-FU; brand name: Adrucil)
    • Gemzar (chemical name: gemcitabine)
    • Halaven (chemical name: eribulin)
    • Ixempra (chemical name: ixabepilone)
    • methotrexate (brand names: Amethopterin, Mexate, Folex)
    • Mitomycin (chemical name: mutamycin)
    • mitoxantrone (brand name: Novantrone)
    • Navelbine (chemical name: vinorelbine)
    • Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel)
    • thiotepa (brand name: Thioplex)
    • vincristine (brand names: Oncovin, Vincasar PES, Vincrex)
    • Xeloda (chemical name: capecitabine)
  • radiation therapy
  • hormonal therapy:
    • Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole)
    • Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane)
    • Evista (chemical name: raloxifene)
    • Fareston (chemical name: toremifene)
    • Faslodex (chemical name: fulvestrant)
    • Femara (chemical name: letrozole)
    • tamoxifen
  • targeted therapies:
    • Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab)
    • Enhertu (chemical name: fam-trastuzumab-deruxtecan-nxki)
    • Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab)
    • Herceptin Hylecta (chemical name: trastuzumab and hyaluronidase-oysk)
    • Herzuma (chemical name: trastuzumab-pkrb)
    • Ibrance (chemical name: palbociclib)
    • Kadcyla (chemical name: T-DM1 or ado-trastuzumab emtansine)
    • Kisqali (chemical name: ribociclib, formerly called LEE011)
    • Lynparza (chemical name: olaparib)
    • Nerlynx (chemical name: neratinib)
    • Ontruzant (chemical name: trastuzumab-dttb)
    • Perjeta (chemical name: pertuzumab)
    • Piqray (chemical name: alpelisib)
    • Talzenna (chemical name: talazoparib)
    • Tykerb (chemical name: lapatanib)
    • Verzenio (chemical name: abemaciclib)
  • Tecentriq (chemical name: atezolizumab), an immunotherapy

Constipation and dehydration are other side effects from breast cancer treatments or pain medicines that can cause nausea.

Managing nausea

  • Eat small amounts of food all day long, so you don’t feel full too quickly.
  • Eat dry foods that are less likely to upset your stomach, like crackers, toast, and cereal.
  • Stay away from greasy foods that might disagree with your stomach.
  • Try ginger-based foods to help ease nausea. These include ginger ale, ginger tea, or crystallized ginger eaten as a snack.
  • Sit up after eating — lying down after meals may disrupt digestion.
  • Rinse your mouth before and after meals to get rid of any bad tastes that may make you nauseated.
  • Ask someone to cook for you or order take-out so you can avoid strong smells that may be unpleasant for you.
  • Ask your doctor about anti-nausea medications that you can take before or along with your breast cancer treatment. There are also anti-nausea medications you can take with pain medications that nauseate you.
  • Consider complementary and holistic techniques such as acupuncture, relaxation, and visualization to reduce nausea.
  • Read tips on how to manage vomiting if nausea is making you sick.

Learn more on our Eating When You Have Nausea and Vomiting page.

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Last modified on January 15, 2020 at 12:17 PM

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Nausea, stomach upset, and general digestion woes are some of the most troublesome health issues people struggle with today. It’s no surprise that digestive upset seems to be more problematic than ever due to the prevalence of processed foods and animal foods available to consumers. Over the course of the last decade, we’ve learned more and more about how these foods damage our digestive tract, lead to disease, and some even contribute to permanent gut issues such as leaky gut syndrome and IBS. Improving your diet is one of the best ways to not only avoid digestive issues but also improve day to day quality of life.

For instance, nausea and an upset stomach (and even indigestion) are gastrointestinal complaints that some people deal with on a regular basis that can be somewhat controlled through diet and lifestyle changes. Stress, hormones, a processed diet, lack of sleep, an overly acidic or an overall poor diet are all things that can contribute to these (and many other) digestive problems. Though certain foods can’t cure any digestive problem alone, it’s always best to turn to food before over the counter supplements, since many contain chemicals that may hurt your body in ways you don’t even realize, while some contain simple enzymes or beneficial probiotics and other nutrients that you can actually get through your food.

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So the next time your stomach starts to feel a little woozy or upset, give these food and drinks a try to add some nutrition and also settle the stomach.

1. Ginger

Ginger is a powerhouse food for not only nausea, but also for poor overall digestion, chronic indigestion, slow digestion, and even constipation and diarrhea. It contains natural properties that balance and soothe the entire system. Ginger powder can easily be used, but the fresh root is best if you have access to it. A couple ways to use it are to make a ginger tea, add a slice to as smoothie, steep in some hot water with lemon, or better yet, make a green juice with it and add some fresh fennel and lemon to really make you feel better fast!

2. Peppermint Oil

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Peppermint essential oil (preferably organic) is like peppermint tea times ten! It’s so powerful at relieving digestive upset that even just a tiny drop on your tongue can help your stomach within minutes. Peppermint contains volatile oils that combat nausea, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and most any other stomach problem you could think of. It’s also helpful to drop a tiny bit into a hot cup of water to make an instant tea, or try a using drop in your next smoothie for a minty fresh breakfast! Be sure to choose organic essential oils with no alcohol added and only use a very tiny drop since it’s so powerful. You can also use peppermint tea or fresh peppermint leaves as another option.

3. Wild Rice

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Bland foods are often recommended for upset stomachs, such as rice and easy-to-digest starches. However, to keep your blood sugar steady, try to choose something with a little more fiber, magnesium and other nutrients as opposed to white rice and bread which have very little (or no) nutrition. Wild rice is a wonderful food for upset stomach, but not just because it’s a type of rice. Wild rice is actually a grain-free aquatic grass that looks like and even cooks like rice, but is much more nutritious. It actually alkalizes the body unlike other rice varieties and can settle the stomach quickly. Best of all, wild rice provides the body with nutrients like potassium and iron that are harder to obtain from less nutritious starchy foods. It’s also tasty! Try making a soup with wild rice or using it as an easy-on-the-tummy breakfast option in place of other grains.

4. Vegetable Broth

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Broth is a great tool for easing nausea and providing nutrients at the same time. Try to choose an organic vegetable broth without added salts or oils. Vegetable broth is rich in minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and even Vitamins A and C that the body needs for balance and to fight off harmful bacteria. Since it’s a liquid form of nutrition and a warming beverage, it won’t cause an upset stomach like a heavier meal may. You can drink this in the morning or anytime during the day or evening when your stomach doesn’t feel well.

5. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes act like a sponge for the bad guys in your stomach. They’re one of the cheapest, humblest superfoods we have available to us all year round. Their complex carbohydrate content will help soak up toxins in the digestive tract and are at the same time very easy to digest. Sweet potatoes are also low on the glycemic index and can help calm the nerves thanks to Vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium. Remember that a nervous stomach is usually an upset stomach, so always remember to eat calming foods rich in nutrients like sweet potatoes when your stomach feels out of sorts.

Tip: Be sure to eat them pretty simple (no heavy toppings here). For instance, a simple, but way to enjoy them is to bake them whole or you can puree them as a soup, perhaps with a little cinnamon, ginger and cardamom for a sweet, anti-nausea soup. Try to choose organic potatoes when possible since most potato skins (which have a large dose of nutrition) are heavily coated with pesticides and contaminants in conventional form. If you don’t like sweet potatoes, pumpkin is another great food to eat during a time of weak digestion as well.

Keep in mind that sugary foods and even fruit on an upset stomach may make symptoms worse, as will high fat foods like animal foods, most all processed foods, chocolate, and nuts. You want to emphasize easy to digest foods that are rich in nutrients that your body can assimilate to help you feel better fast.

Also see our wide variety of soup recipes to enjoy along with Simple, Healthy Foods That Are Easy to Digest.

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What do you eat when you have an upset stomach?

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