April 2, 2024

#26: 5 Holistic Remedies for Morning Sickness and Nausea

Most women experience many uncomfortable symptoms during pregnancy and persistent nausea is one of the most common. In this episode, we discuss holistic remedies for morning sickness during pregnancy and explore the importance of nutritional preparation before conception. We also talk about tons of simple kitchen swaps to enhance nutrient absorption with an unsettled stomach and explore alternative therapies such as aromatherapy and red light therapy. Whether you’re preparing for pregnancy or are in the thick of it right now, today’s episode will give you the resources to manage and/or alleviate morning sickness naturally and boost your overall prenatal health.

About this episode

What you'll learn

  • The difference between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum
  • The benefit of planning for pregnancy nutritionally
  • 3 nutrient deficiencies that have been linked to morning sickness
  • 10 simple food swaps to boost your nutrition and satisfy food aversions/cravings
  • The diet that's making your nausea worse
  • 3 alternative therapies that could reduce your nausea/vomiting


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Shop my wearable red light therapy HERE


Today’s episode is going to be geared towards my pregnant mamas (or soon-to-be pregnant mamas) but stay with me if you’ve ever been nauseous before because today I’m sharing my best holistic tips for fighting morning sickness and nausea. 

I’m especially passionate about this topic because I used myself as a case study to see if my suspicions were true. My first pregnancy I lived off of Zofran, but even though I wasn’t actually throwing up, I still felt disgusting, had no appetite, and felt like I was withering away. Oh, and not to mention the guilt that I wasn’t eating what my baby needed during those first few months of pregnancy.

So before I got pregnant with my second baby, I was determined to see if there were nutritional or lifestyle changes I could make ahead of time or as soon as I found out I was pregnant that would make a difference in how nauseous I was.

Spoiler alert: there WERE. That’s why we’re having a conversation today haha.

But also because I have conversations with moms all the time about how to just survive. Because most of the time it feels like that’s all you can do – survive. And trust me, it’s a long time to feel like you’re hanging on by a thread. 

So if you’ve been worried about this stage of pregnancy or you’re currently in this stage of pregnancy or you know it’s coming again next time, listen up. What I’m about to share with you is backed by science, personal experience, and a little bit of educated guessing.

I do want to remind you though that because every woman is SO different, I really can’t promise anything. There is no sure-fire way to prevent morning sickness and you could be doing all the right things and still feel awful. Just know that this is my effort to give you as many tools in your toolbox as possible.

I also want to give a quick disclaimer that this episode isn’t going to be sharing the common tips you hear for morning sickness like drinking ginger tea or getting out of bed slowly, although those things can help. This episode is meant to give you new ideas that you’ve probably never heard before.

What is morning sickness?

Morning sickness is the persistent nausea and/or vomiting pregnant women experience [usually] during the first trimester, but in some cases it can last through the entire pregnancy. The majority of women will experience morning sickness at some point during their pregnancy, and it’s usually one of the tell-tale signs that you are pregnant.

2 out of 100 pregnant women will develop a severe type of nausea called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) where there is severe fluid loss and they lose at least 5% of their pre-pregnancy body weight in a short period of time. In this case, hospital treatment is usually required.

While we don’t know the exact cause of morning sickness, scientists have discovered biological correlations that might tell us more about what’s going on. However, it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation – we don’t really know which one comes first.

That’s why my suggestions come with the disclaimer that they might not work for you; pregnancy is such an individual experience and it really comes down to your physiology, your health, and your situation.

Don’t assume the worst though, I’m living proof that even the simplest, smallest tweak can make a difference in how you feel! So let’s talk about it.

Start fortifying before pregnancy

No matter how your body responds to the demands of pregnancy, I can confidently say that the BEST way to feel your best during pregnancy is to start fortifying and nourishing yourself intentionally before trying to conceive.

While I could make this an entire episode all on its own, and I probably will, I want to keep it really simple by saying that it is in your best interest to not just “pull the plug” and hope for the best, if you know what I mean.

In other words, preparing for pregnancy isn’t just about getting off of birth control or tracking your cycle.

You should be preparing your body for the most physically demanding thing it will ever undergo BEFORE you even start trying to get pregnant. Starting during the TTC phase, in my opinion, is too late. Because if you’re like me, and you get pregnant first try, that window of preparation was open for literally two weeks. That’s not enough time at all. And you’ll feel the repercussions of that if you’re not ready.

Think of it this way: when you’re getting ready to go to college, there’s a bunch of things you have to do BEFORE you can even turn in your application, right? You have to take a standardized test, you have to have a good GPA from the 3-4 years of high school that you attended, you might tour some campuses, you write your essays, you cross your T’s and dot your I’s, AND THEN you submit the application. 

In this scenario, the waiting phase after submitting your application is like the trying-to-conceive phase. It’s what comes AFTER all the preparation and it’s the only thing standing between you and your future alma mater.

Allllllll those other things I mentioned fall into the preparation phase BEFORE trying to conceive. 

And I will say, there are millions of women who successfully get pregnant without adequate preparation, right? But we’re not just talking about getting pregnant here, we’re talking about genuinely feeling good while being pregnant AND having a healthy pregnancy and those are two very different things.

So how do you prepare and fortify for pregnancy?

In my research, personal experience, and conversations with medical doctors, I’ve discovered a link between nausea and a few key nutrients that could give us an idea of how to prepare for pregnancy to minimize nausea. Whether nausea causes the nutrient deficiency or the nutrient deficiency causes nausea I’m not sure, but I’ve learned about a few links, so let’s talk about them.

The first one is magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is one of the four main electrolytes and it’s responsible for over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body, including regulating your blood pressure, metabolism, nervous system, sleep cycle, and neurotransmitters. Magnesium is also essential for converting the inactive thyroid hormone, T4, into the active form, T3.

This is important because low blood pressure, poor metabolism (insulin resistance and glucose spikes), poor sleep, poor stress response, and cells that don’t get thyroid hormone are all precursors to nausea. 

In addition, an increase in progesterone naturally decreases your overall magnesium levels. And in addition to that, magnesium is one of the key building blocks for your sex hormones. Combine all of these things and you have a perfect environment to be completely depleted in magnesium, which will eventually lead to nausea.

The solution? Start taking a magnesium supplement now, no matter if you’re pregnant or not. I normally don’t advise blindly supplementing, but magnesium is one of the few nutrients that I can say with 99% confidence will benefit you even without testing first. I truly think everyone would benefit from a magnesium supplement.

Now, the trick is choosing a high quality magnesium supplement. There are 7 different types of magnesium, and they all help with slightly different things; some help with constipation, some help with sleep, some help with muscle cramps, and so on. 

Instead of picking and choosing which problems you want to preemptively solve or having 3 different bottles of magnesium, I recommend getting a complete magnesium complex that has all 7 forms, as well as a good dose of vitamin B6, which is required to bring magnesium into your cells to be used properly. My favorite brand checks all those boxes and I linked it in the shownotes for you.

In addition to magnesium, we want to fortify with all the electrolytes before pregnancy. Electrolytes provide energy to your body at a cellular level, and once you get pregnant, your cells are going to go into overdrive trying to rapidly create a brand new organ and human being while still taking care of all your needs. That’s a lot of work!

Not only that, but whenever someone is nauseous or throwing up frequently, they’re usually given an electrolyte drink to rehydrate, right? We’re going to do that preemptively.

Now, if you haven’t heard me say this before, it definitely won’t be the last time either, and if you’ve heard me say it before I’m going to remind you: gatorade, powerade, and Pedialyte are NOT true electrolyte drinks. They are just sugar water with barely any minerals and pumped full of food dyes. They will not help you and these are not the drinks you’re looking for.

I’m talking about high quality electrolyte supplements that have clean ingredients, high doses of each mineral, and have to be added to your water. If you want to learn more about the power of electrolytes, listen to episode 5 (linked in the shownotes); if you want to learn which electrolyte brands I do and don’t recommend and save some money on the best brands, definitely check out my blog post about electrolytes during pregnancy. That is also linked in the shownotes.

One nutrient that I learned about very recently is vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. This vitamin is crucial for glucose metabolism. In other words, you have to have thiamine in your system in order to use the energy from your food in your body. And during the first trimester, your body’s demands for thiamine exponentially increase because you need so much energy to grow a human while still functioning yourself.

Having insufficient levels or a true deficiency in thiamine means you can’t use the energy from your food, and therefore your blood sugar and insulin levels are incredibly unstable, which can induce nausea. Vomiting also depletes any thiamine stores quickly, so it’s another chicken-egg situation where you’re not really sure which one came first, but the cycle perpetuates.

It’s interesting to note that hyperemesis gravidarum patients are treated with thiamine to reduce vomiting and nausea, and almost all HG patients are low in vitamin b1 (PMC5278861). Because of this, staying on top of your thiamine intake prior to getting pregnant could dramatically minimize your nausea.

To sum up this section about preparing for pregnancy nutritionally, I’ll remind you that nutrients like magnesium, sodium, potassium, and thiamine all play a role in the severity of your nausea and that “improving nutrient intake before you get pregnant has an even greater impact on pregnancy outcomes than just changing what you eat during pregnancy.”

And to quote Lily Nichols, “pregnancy demands an incredible amount from your body. Imagine your body as a bank account and pregnancy as a time of massive withdrawals from your nutrient reserves. To thrive during pregnancy and beyond, you must invest in your nutrient stores today.” (Real Food For Fertility).

Simple swaps for common carbohydrates

If you haven’t been listening closely up to this point, it’s time to dial in your attention because this next tip is the easiest to implement and I think it has the fastest ROI too. By simply swapping one ingredient for a better alternative, you’re not only improving the nutrient density of your food, but you’re also adding cups of water (vs drops of water) into your resiliency bucket during pregnancy.

These food swaps are all swaps I’ve made personally and have seen hundreds of women benefit from in their pregnancies, despite their nausea.

  1. Water → bone broth: everyone should make this swap right now, no matter what, but especially when you can’t keep anything down. Just by using bone broth in place of water, you’re adding amino acids, electrolytes, and collagen to your drink or meal. You can use bone broth for cooking pasta, rice, or soups, or you can just sip on it warm! I get mine in bulk from Walmart or Costco, but I also keep the flavored bone broths from Just Ingredients on hand because one packet of Just Ingredients bone broth is equal to 17 cartons of regular bone broth. You can use my code in the shownotes to shop their bone broth.
  2. Pasta → chickpea pasta: chickpea pasta is a complex carb packed with fiber, protein, and plant-based iron that is still easy on your stomach but has much more nutrients. I honestly can’t taste the difference. 
  3. Kraft mac → banza mac: just like before, this is switching your regular pasta for chickpea pasta. You honestly can’t tell a difference in the noodles with the yummy sauce.
  4. White bread + low calorie butter → sourdough + grass fed butter: sourdough feeds the good bacteria in your gut and has a lower glycemic index than regular white bread, which is better for your blood sugar. Grass fed butter is full of vitamins and minerals that you and baby need like vitamin A, electrolytes, and vitamin K2.
  5. Plain burger → add avocado, bacon, cheese, tomatoes, anything you can! Obviously this will depend on if you have any food aversions, but if you can stomach more flavors on your burger, do it! At this point we’re most concerned about getting enough nutrients and calories and I don’t care if you accomplish that with fast food. 
  6. Cheerios → multigrain cheerios: this is a swap I made for my toddler a few years ago and he didn’t even notice. The purple box of multigrain cheerios has 100% of 9 of your daily vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamin complex, iron, and zinc. Plus there’s a variety of grains, not just oats! I will note that if you have or think you have the MTHFR gene mutation, this might not be a good choice for you. I would also say that if you can keep your prenatal down, I wouldn’t make this swap because we don’t want an overabundance of nutrients
  7. Saltines → almond flour crackers: not only do almond flour crackers taste better but the have some fat and fiber in them too, so your blood sugar will be more balanced. Simple Mills is my favorite brand and they have a few different flavors to choose from!
  8. Waffles → protein waffles (recipe): I know so many women that could only stomach waffles for a while. I don’t know what it is, but they work for some! Instead of opting for the pre-made frozen waffles from the store that have inflammatory oils in them and only carbs, try making your own protein waffles at home to keep in the freezer. I have the most amazing recipe on my site that freezes well and has tons of 5 star reviews. One reader said, “I’m really amazed at how great these taste given how healthy and protein-packed they are!” Another reader said, “SO GOOD! I've made these 4 or 5 times now and I love how much protein they have. I love making extra to freeze and pop in the toaster for a quick and healthy breakfast.” I’ll link the recipe for you in the show notes!
  9. Cereal → organic granola: cereal is 100% a comfort food and I totally acknowledge that, but most of the time you’re probably reaching for a sugar cereal that has almost no nutritional value. If you can, try swapping your sugar cereal for organic granola made with clean ingredients. This will add some fiber, fat, and extra vitamins that you desperately need during this time. If you’ve never treated granola like cereal, I’m about to change your life. Let it soften a bit in your milk before eating and it’s way better than cereal. My favorite is Purely Elizabeth’s granola because all the ingredients are organic and they have the best flavors. Actually, they also recently launched their superfood cereals that are a good option, too! You can use my discount code “mama15” for 15% your order on their website linked in the shownotes.
  10. Pills → powdered prenatal vitamins: I never personally experienced this, but apparently some people get nauseous with medicine. If your prenatals make you nauseous because they’re pills or gummies, a good swap for you is switching to powdered prenatal vitamins. I didn’t even know this was a thing until I learned about Needed and it’s been a total game changer for so many of my mamas. Needed supplements makes a powdered prenatal vitamin that you can add to your water, coffee, or even foods like oatmeal and pancakes to get your nutrients in in a really easy way. If you wanna check those out, I included the link and my discount code in the shownotes.

These are some of my best swaps for nausea (and just boosting your overall nutrition in general!) but if you have any others that you’ve used, please DM me on Instagram and let me know! I’m always on the lookout for new swaps to help mamas.

Cancel the BRAT diet

My last suggestion for alleviating morning sickness is going to go against the status quo but I promise there’s an evidence based argument for it.

Whenever you’re throwing up and can’t eat much, what does your mom or doctor always suggest you eat? The BRAT diet. In other words, their recommendation for what to eat when you’re nauseous or vomiting is basically bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

Unfortunately, mama, this is only perpetuating your nausea. Yes, these bland foods are probably the only food that sound good, BUT the simple carbs from each of these foods is spiking your blood sugar dramatically, only to leave you with a blood sugar crash soon after. This vicious cycle, on top of the already lingering nausea, is only going to make your situation worse.

I’m going to quote a few excerpts from the book “Real Food For Pregnancy” by Lily Nichols to reiterate this concept: 

“Sharp blood sugar fluctuations are [a] nausea trigger, so once you can tolerate a small amount of carbohydrates, try to follow it with a small portion of protein or fat-containing foods to stabilize your blood sugar, such as nuts, cheese, avocado, greek yogurt, scrambled eggs, or beef jerky” (pg. 115). 

Again, it’s a do-your-best situation; if you can tolerate better foods, eat better foods. If you can stomach something with protein or fat, eat the protein or fat. But if all you can eat is toast, slather on the butter for some fat and extra calories; if all you can stomach is waffles, get some nut butter on there for protein, fat, and fiber.

And think back to the previous section: notice how almost all of my simple swaps were finding ways to boost the nutrition of carbs? This is why! So if you’re still a little hesitant about canceling the BRAT diet or how to do that, go back and listen to those 10 suggestions again and then try to incorporate sources of protein as much as possible.

Speaking of protein, Lily Nichols also suggests protein shakes, as long as the ingredients are good. If you’re not sure which protein powders are safe or nutritious, I have a blog post that compares the top 30 protein powders on the market you can check out. Something to note is that liquids are harder for your body to digest, so if you can stomach a protein shake, try and have toast or another chewable carb source to go with it to make digestion easier, which will in turn help your nausea as well.

To quote Lily one more time, “protein at breakfast is especially helpful for maintaining blood sugar balance throughout the day, which can help alleviate nausea the rest of the day. Even if you can only get down a sip of a protein shake, or 2 bites of an egg, or a few almonds, it can still help in the long run” (pg. 116).

Alternative therapies

To wrap up this episode, I wanted to quickly share a few alternative therapies that can help with nausea and morning sickness that you might not have tried. I’ve personally used all of these and they helped me!

The first one is red light therapy. Red light therapy uses low-level red wavelengths of light to stimulate your cells to increase energy production in the mitochondria and anti-inflammatory responses throughout the body. It also creates hormesis, which is a small temporary metabolic stress that instigates an anti-inflammatory response in our cells. Hormesis creates the same physiological response as exercise.

As a result, red and NIR light therapy can improve cellular function, boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, and improve cell regeneration, all of which are incredibly important during early pregnancy.

One of the reasons scientists think we experience morning sickness is because our body is in overdrive and just depleted in all aspects. Using red light on certain areas of the body might help invigorate your tired cells and give them a little boost of energy to help you get through the day. 

If you want to try red light therapy to help with morning sickness, use it for 8-10 minutes on areas that impact a chain of events in your body like your thyroid, liver, or pancreas. Your thyroid controls your metabolism and hormone production, your liver is in charge of detoxing hormones and toxins, and your pancreas controls your insulin response. All of these areas impact how nauseous you are, so these are the places I would start.

You can buy a little red light box that stands up on a tripod of sorts or a wearable one like I have. I linked mine in the show notes.

Another alternative therapy is essential oils. I kept peppermint oil at my fingertips most of my pregnancy for my headaches and runny noses, but it’s also been recommended for nausea. You can put some on your temples, across your forehead, and right where your jaw meets your neck or you can diffuse it in water with a diffuser.

The other oil that I found that could help with nausea is ginger or cardamom oil. Those will need to be diffused and will probably be most useful at your bedside whenever you’re resting.

Similar to essential oils, the last alternative therapy is herbs. Herbs will need some more caution because pregnancy is a unique situation, but if you’re consuming the herbs as a tincture (like with tea) or as a diffused solution, it’s generally considered safe. 

The best herbal teas for nausea are ginger, chamomile, and peppermint. Try having a cup of tea first thing in the morning with some nuts or almond flour crackers, and see if that allows you to be more mobile or eat some protein. You could also have a cup of tea right before you go to bed to help you relax and sleep better.