Morning nausea, although it’s heavily associated with pregnancy, happens a lot more often than people realize. For those without a bun in the oven, nausea in the morning is usually a sign that something is going wrong overnight. More often than not, it has to do with the nighttime routine. So, if it’s happening to you, don’t fret! By keeping a food journal and watching out for common culprits, you should be able to get to the bottom of what’s causing your nausea and how to fix it.
Common Reasons for Morning Nausea
Life is hectic for a lot of people. They’re getting home late, in a rush to eat, typically overeating or indulging in fast foods. Then they go to bed with their dinner still digesting, which leads to acid reflux and a host of other issues that can bring nausea in the morning.
Laying down for bed puts pressure on the esophageal sphincter, which is like a valve on top of the stomach. Under pressure, the valve opens and food comes back up. Usually you can feel it – known as heartburn – but sometimes there are just other symptoms like puffy eyes and a stuffy nose.
To reduce acid reflux, it’s a good idea to limit consumption of acidic foods.
Some foods high in acid content are:
– Black tea
– Spicy food
It’s a bit of debate, but nightshade foods are believed by many to be extra inflammatory, which can contribute to acid reflux and morning sickness. Some examples of nightshade foods are again tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and most potatoes. Some chemicals found in nightshades (and other healthy foods) are a little sketchy, such as alkaloids and glycoalkaloids, which are naturally occurring pesticides. Nicotine, solanine and capsaicin are of the greatest significance when it comes to our diet.
The biggest contributing factor to acid reflux is eating too late at night. The pressure on the stomach from laying down is made even worse by food still being digested. According to Chinese medicine, the digestive system is strongest between 5:00 and 7:00 pm, so try not to eat after 7:00.
It might seem like too simple of a solution but eating earlier makes a big difference for digestion. It only takes the stomach 30 minutes to an hour to empty out when eating pure carps, but for proteins and fats it can take 3 to 5 hours.
Is your morning sickness accompanied by difficulty swallowing? If you have a lot of acid reflux, more histamines are produced which stimulates mucus production. You wake up feeling icky with a swollen esophagus which makes it hard to swallow.
Post Nasal Drip
Post nasal drip is usually seen with acid reflux. Mucus is draining from your sinuses and going down your throat. The dripping can bring on nausea in the morning. Seasonal allergies can definitely be a factor with post nasal drip too.
A big trend in the weight loss world right now is the Keto Diet, which is a diet low in carbs and high in fats. The goal is to get your body to the state of ketosis where it’s burning fat for fuel. What many people who start the keto diet don’t know is that it can take weeks or months for your body to make the switch, and it’s a little tough along the way when it comes to blood sugar. When blood sugar falls overnight, muscles release glycogen overnight to keep it stable, which can lead to some morning sickness.
The same goes for people who are skipping dinner altogether, trying intermittent fasting, or just plain not eating enough food. Morning sickness in this regard is a very extreme form of hunger caused by putting your blood sugar on a roller coaster. If your diet is making you sick in the morning, it’s time to rethink it.
It’s so important for people, particularly women, to manage stress. Eating good quality carbs at night (not too many!) is especially important when stressed out. Think about limiting screen time and other de-stressors.
Sometimes when we have a lot going on, the body is already on edge first thing in the morning. If stress is making you nauseous, it’s highly recommended to have a quick stress-reduction routine for mornings too. There are also herbs and supplements that can help lower cortisol and lower blood sugar.
Another one that seems obvious, but it’s important. Many of us enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a night cap, which is all fine and dandy as a responsible adult. However, alcohol dehydrates you, so if you aren’t drinking a lot of water throughout the day and come home to drink only alcohol before bed you’re likely to wake up dehydrated with some morning sickness (hello hangover!)
Both stress and dehydration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, which can contribute to morning nausea, too. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot on store-bought electrolyte drinks, you can make your own! Drink each morning or anytime for nausea:
Doc J’s Electrolyte Drink
Juice from 1/4th of a lemon
3 grains of sea salt
¼ tsp honey
8 oz of water
Not getting a good night sleep can definitely play a role in morning sickness. When you’re constantly waking up due to not breathing well, there could be a food connection, especially if combined with acid reflux or post nasal drip. A great way to test for sleep apnea is a home sleep study, but if that seems a little intense you can always try using a Fitbit or other fitness tracker that monitors movement while you sleep. It will tell you how restful your sleep is.
Last but not least, we have to mention hormones as a possible cause of nausea. After all, morning sickness is so associated with pregnancy because it’s often caused by an estrogen and progesterone imbalance. Even if a woman isn’t pregnant, the hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can cause issues too. I highly recommend women who are menstruating to keep their cycle logged in their food journal.
The Quick fix for Morning Nausea!
1. Sip on something like lemon water or ginger tea
2. Eat something small and simple like apple slices or salted rice crackers
3. Electrolyte drink
Enjoy Mornings Again
Now that you know common causes of nausea in the morning, use your food journal to track your night and morning routines. Here’s a recap of what to consider:
– Food Quality
– Water Quantity
– Blood Sugar
– Stress Reduction
– Sleep Quality
– Hormone Balance
Remember, morning nausea is a sign that something overnight is not going right. Taking a look at your symptoms, diet, habits, and lifestyle can clue you into what’s happening so you can make adjustments and enjoy your mornings again.
This blog is a summary of my podcast on this topic. Click here to listen to my podcast!