Tacking Nausea Part 2 – When Nausea Has Causes Beyond Migraine

Wooden background with a black paper that says “defeating nausea again”

Over the summer of 2019 I really got hold on my biggest side effect: nausea.

I was thrilled to share what it was that worked for me in managing nausea, which came on most often when my mornings were disrupted. Adding in a consistent routine and adjusting my diet to really have more balanced fiber, along with eating at consistent times every day gave me a lot of control over my migraine related nausea.

For the full piece, you can read it here.

I wish I could sit here and say I haven’t been nauseous since, but as many people with migraine know, comorbid conditions, medications, and a handful of other things can cause nausea too.

Morning Nausea

This last winter as I was struggling to manage my arthritis and dealing with a severe IBS flare I found myself incapacitated by the nausea once again.

I would wake up and feel alright, but by breakfast and into the next few hours I’d find myself laying still in the dark as my stomach would gurgle and I felt horrendous. This morning to mid day nausea was taking over my life. I’d often alternate breath mints and nausea medicine and hope that by lunchtime additional food and the calming of my morning IBS symptoms would allow the nausea to settle.

This wasn’t adequate treatment.

To get through, especially to lunch I would keep little snacks like trail mix or peanuts with me as I’d attempt to cook food. This occasionally helped lessen the nausea as cooking and thinking about food made me feel even worse. Having something to munch on while cooking really helped.

The real solution came with a vitamin.

My hair had begun falling out in clumps because of my arthritis medication that was also targeting the same kind of cells that produce hair. I wasn’t able to get ahold of a doctor but research online suggested that taking Folic Acid would help with my hair and at the very least encourage new growth.

I took 800 mcg of Folic Acid with my morning meds and one of the instant things I noticed was how quickly my extended morning nausea disappeared. I’m still taking the Folic Acid and even though much of my medications have changed and I’m mostly using it to continue the regrowth of my hair, I think this is a great secret weapon against nausea.

Mealtime Nausea

This one has always confused me. I know that a lot of times when I feel hungry my body tends to send the wrong signal and trick me into thinking I’m nauseous. This can have negative consequences like waiting even longer to eat – either opting to take some nausea medicine and waiting a bit to eat once the nausea has passed, or perhaps eating something bland that will be the most palatable but perhaps not as nutritious.

While fighting with my morning nausea mentioned above, I also tried to parse out when nausea might be happening simply because I’m hungry.

Personally, I fast overnight because it works with my IBS. I really struggle with breakfast in the morning, so I eat a decent snack late in the evening (usually just before 10PM) and then typically don’t have breakfast until around 10:30 AM.

I had initially noticed that if I didn’t have a substantial snack at night I would wake up sick, and sometimes have vasovagal syncope episodes – which I linked pretty quickly to simply being dehydrated and hungry. Connecting that to the occasional lunchtime nausea came next. I tend to eat lunch 3 hours after breakfast, but what if I wasn’t eating a substantial enough breakfast to break the fast?

I began experimenting with eating earlier on days where I felt nauseous or like my stomach was just full of water. Suddenly, the lunchtime nausea was gone and I shifted eating lunch earlier on more and more days.

Now I eat lunch about 2 hours after breakfast and only notice the occasional meal time nausea if I’ve changed what I’ve had for breakfast – which often correlates to mornings where my head pain is higher and I’m just trying to get some food in my stomach.

This goes back a bit to my first blog on nausea correlating with when I eat, but I think its super important to not get too stuck in our routines and schedules and adapt as our body changes. Something as simply as new disease activity, flares, or a change in medications can shift when and how much food we need to be eating, which can have the clearest impact on our nausea.

Getting nauseous around meal times happens all the time, and has so many things that can influence it day to day so I’ve also started incorporating other foods to keep around the house for nourishing snacks to grab to tide me over:

  • hummus with baby carrots (other veggies can be great too, I love baby carrots since they don’t require any prep)
  • peanut butter cliff bars or oatmeal bars (this is my go to if I feel like I need something a little more substantial to eat)
  • cheese and crackers and summer sausage
  • bagel chips with pesto or bruschetta
  • honey roasted peanuts

Some Final Tips for Nausea

With so many potential sources and many of them being out of our control, especially nausea triggers that may relate to stress, I wanted to share a few additional resources that have helped.

An Acupressure mat + a Humidifier – I don’t quite know what it is about this combination but when I find my stomach is upset, and sometimes cramping, laying down on my acupressure mat directly under my humidifier – so that I’m breathing in the damp air – for 5 to 10 minutes really relaxes me and can relieve my nausea. My personal theory is that in this time I’m breathing deeper and the spikes are increasing the bloodflow around muscles in my lower back having an impact on my digestive tract helping to calm things down.

A cotton ball + isopropyl alcohol – This is a tip that was shared with me online. You dip a cotton ball in the alcohol and just sniff it until the nausea subsides. This trick apparently comes straight out of emergency rooms as something they use (sometimes using an alcohol wipe instead). I find this to be most useful when I absolutely have to eat and need to get the edge off so I can at least get part of a meal down.

Peppermint Everything – I’ve shared this one before, but peppermint is great for nausea. Some people advise for those with more chronic nausea symptoms to take peppermint capsules, I would recommend discussing those options with your doctor to best understand what’s safe and what will be best absorbed. Keeping breathmints on hand too is my favorite trick. It’s a great way to nip sudden nausea in the butt, keep yourself going during a conversation or anxious moment, and sometime the perfect thing to keep you from getting sick while driving home. Peppermint oil rollers can have a similar benefit if you find that smelling the peppermint helps!

Clothes that don’t touch your neck – I never thought about this one until it really started to become a problem, but if you find yourself occasionally tugging on your T-shirts because the sensation on your neck just isn’t right, it might be worth paying a little more attention to the shirts you buy going forward. I now mostly wear shirts with loose collars and a tank top, often not buttoning up the shirt, or shirts that drape off my shoulders. I opt for cardigans rather than pullover sweaters. I also have mostly stopped wearing necklaces that sit too close to my neck. This might not prevent nausea, but it might be something that exacerbates it without you even realizing it.

Take your medications with food – Now yes, some of your medications will advise this right on the bottle, but even if they don’t it’s a super safe bet to try and take medications around a meal to help with reducing the potential for side effects. I also try to take abortive medications with some food as well. Taking meds with food – and some meds in the morning perhaps with folic acid has been noted to really reduce nausea and GI side effects, particularly for disease modifying drugs. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure about when to take medication, some meds have very strict guidelines on taking a few hours before or after meals.

Have any other tips for nausea? Weird things that have worked for you? Drop a comment, I’d love to hear.

A.

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