High Carb Diets Can Cause Morning Sickness


Paralyzed with morning sickness

It’s hard to believe that the very diet which every doctor and internet pregnancy-help-page recommends for morning sickness actually contributes to or even worsens the problem.

But it’s true.

Diets high in refined carbohydrates actually make morning sickness worse.

The problem With Bland Morning Sickness Diets

The so called BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) consists of bland, dry, high carb foods and is recommended to relieve morning sickness. On this diet you could also eat candy, potatoes, pasta, saltine crackers – you know, really healthy stuff. The diet eliminates fat and protein in the name of keeping women off the bathroom floor.

The diet is conventionally prescribed to calm the stomach of anyone feeling nauseous, suffering from the flu, or who has been vomiting. Eating these foods may provide some immediate reliefe but to continue the diet for weeks on end is another story entirely. A diet like this will affect a person’s hormonal balance and nutritional status. It does not provide a growing fetus with the nutrients it needs and will only deplete the mother further.

The BRAT diet is emotionally satisfying (at first), because candy, bread, or any kind of carbohydrate eaten alone and not combined with protein or fat releases a flood of serotonin to the brain by way of the tryptophan surge that happens after after consuming these high glycemic foods all by themselves. This can make the diet addictive and a pregnant woman may defend it to the bitter end.

But in reality, the BRAT diet:

  • disrupts hormone balance
  • disrupts mood
  • causes spikes and dips in insulin
  • contributes to insulin resistance
  • eliminates brain building omega 3s
  • eliminates many nutrients such as vitamin A and D
  • eliminates bone building minerals

While the diet may keep a woman from puking, it doesn’t usually make her feel great. That is usually not happening until around week 12 when the hormone hCG tapers off.

hCG: The Culprit Behind Morning Sickness

It is believed that the particular hormone responsible for morning sickness is hCG. The hormone hCG is only present in early pregnancy because it triggers the production of progesterone. Once it’s done its job it subsides. Once it subsides, woman feel better.

The body may produce more or less hCG for various reasons. For example, if hCG levels are high, it could be a sign that the mother is carrying twins, but generally it means that hormones are out of balance. High insulin can elevate hCG and make morning sickness worse.

Hormone balance dictates more than just physical comfort; it can determine the outcome of the pregnancy. If hCG is too low, a miscarriage is likely, as hCG is needed to stimulate progesterone and adequate levels of progesterone are required to hold onto the fetus in the 1st trimester. Women with low hCG often don’t experience morning sickness at all. Now, that doesn’t mean that if you aren’t nauseous you’re going to have a miscarriage but if you are at risk, i.e. you’ve had one before, you might want to take it as a warning sign.

(Robert Greene writes extensively about hormone balance. While he recommends a mostly vegetarian diet, which I don’t, he provides a wealth of information about the role of hormones during pregancy.)

Morning Sickness in Evolution

Morning sickness actually has an evolutionary component. Some women even carry a rare gene for a more severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).

As all pregnant women know, nausea makes us more careful about what we eat. This can be very useful in the wild when choosing safe foods. Unfortunately, modern food processing has totally messed up nature’s intentions here.

We were designed to avoid certain vegetable toxins and potentially harmful meats, etc. while the immune system is suppressed and the embryo is vulnerable, but substituting potentially dangerous foods with empty foods is just not a sensible alternative.

Balancing Hormones and Avoiding Morning Sickness

Natural hormone balance starts with a balanced diet – one that is not high in carbohydrates and low in fat and protein. The high glycemic diet recommended by your ubiquitous “expert” causes a surge of insulin. High amounts of insulin circulating through the blood disrupts hormones on many levels. It can lead to PCOS by causing the ovaries to produce too much androgens (male hormones), it can deplete the brain’s neurotransmitters that we need in order to feel good, it can cause a rise in estrogen and a dip in progesterone, it can lead to leptin resistance and weight gain.

Insulin circulating like mad throughout the body causes countless disruptions and imbalances.

And guess what, we pass those hormonal imbalances on to our baby by way of something called hormonal imprinting (I talk a lot more about that in my book).

What to Eat to Prevent or Relieve Morning Sickness

There is no ideal first trimester diet. Every woman has her own aversions and tolerance levels to meat and fat.

The most important thing is to start off eating healthy and STICK TO IT.

The damage that we can do to ourselves when we give in to “cravings” can set a woman up for weeks of discomfort. I hear so often statements like these: “I’m eating Primal and I’m nearly perfect, except for when I just can’t stand the nausea anymore and I eat some bread, but then I’m right back on it again. Now I’ve been eating Primal again for two days but I feel horrible. I don’t know what to do. Primal foods aren’t working!”

Ah hem. If you’re eating bread and other modern snacks every day you’re sabotaging your efforts.

My best advice is to tough it out. The first trimester is full of discomforts. You’ve got some amount of morning sickness. You often feel so tired it’s like you’re drugged (this is the effect of progesterone. When your brain builds up a tolerance to it and the fatigue will subside). Your uterus is gearing up to expand and probably feels majorly crampy. Your nose may be stuffed up, your breasts may be tender, you may be weepy, you may have headaches. Pregnancy takes a little getting used to no matter who you are but what we eat dictates whether these symptoms are unbearable or just a bit of a nuisance.

Eat a diet which consists of veggies, a small amount of fruit if you don’t have fructose malabsorption, healthy fats like olive oil, lard, and pastured butter. Eat meat if you can stomach it, organs are best. Chances are you will hate some meats and not others. I found chicken utterly repulsive but could handle fish just fine. I ate a lot of fish in my first trimester. Eat eggs. Drink plenty of water and green tea. Drink bone broth (even if you don’t eat the chicken). Eat lettuce and carrots and other innocuous foods with lots of nutrients. Don’t let your stomach get empty and eat small amounts of food at a time.

If you are vomiting, avoid foods all together and drink high nutrient liquids like bone broth, fresh squeezed vegetable or orange juice, or do an intermittent fast.

And, drum roll, I know you’re tired but EXERCISE! I guarantee this will help you feel not only more energetic but less nauseous. Exercise helps to balance hormones. Without it you’re setting yourself up for hardship.

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  1. Magnesium citrate in leamony tea before bed. I’m almost never nauseous (one retching episode total this time around) but frequently feel generally gross, and supping mag and vit D seems to keep it fully in check. And that includes eating like crap because it was all I could face for a while there!

  2. I started eating Paleo a few months before becoming pregnant with my second. I found it strange I couldn’t tolorate eggs or meat, mostly meat. And this was before I was high fat– you know how a lot of people start off paleo and are still sort of afraid of fats, that was me. Anyway, the only good thing I could stomach was going to the health food store and having a HUGE salad, I did this as often as we could afford. For some reason making it myself just wasn’t as good. I think for me, if I would have stuck to having at least some sort of yogurt smoothie with coconut oil or something with lots of fat. So I have something to try next time. Thanks for blogging about this. Can’t wait for your book!

  3. I remember my midwives telling me that nausea was also a way to let a woman knows he was pregnant (before we had tests or calendars). Also that ideally, you’d have plenty of fat reserves and not need much food anyway, so the decrease in ability to eat lessens your potential exposure to poisonous food that could harm the fetus. Helped me see it in a different light, even if I still felt like crap! Warm water with freshly grated ginger often made the difference between barfing or not. I drank a lot of tea and ate not much of anything for about four weeks. I also seem to remember my midwives attributing the extra hormones to the ovaries overshooting production, and once the placenta develops and takes over production it is better able to regulate. Anywho, good post!

    • Plenty of fat reserves and nutrient reserves. Americans have been found to have terribly low nutrient reserves even when their blood tests for nutrients come out looking healthy. Just thought I’d throw that out there since not everyone (or anyone?) is going into pregnancy as healthy and robust as a primitive person.

      That’s quite an idea that nausea would have been the first sign of pregnancy. Of course! Even for women who don’t puke or feeling utterly terrible, you still feel different about food, you still perceive smells differently, you still don’t typically have a huge appetite. I like that too, Susie. Oh we are so out of touch with our bodies! Now-a-days, if a woman doesn’t take a pregnancy test she won’t know she’s pregnant. If she feels morning sickness, she’d ask herself what is wrong with her. She’d wonder if she were food poisoned or something. In this modern world we have very little understanding of how our bodies work and just don’t know what to expect from them.

      Thankfully, getting back to eating as we were designed to eat changes all of that.

    • Oh wow, that explains why I don’t want to eat anything. I’m not having any aversions, but feel full after eating very little, so I make what I eat count – liver, eggs mostly, fish, lots of butter, lots of leafy greens. I think I’m trying to micro-manage my nutrients and stuffing myself just to get everything. I think I’ll take it easy now. I’ve been primal for about a year and a half, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t have those important nutrients in reserve right?

  4. No other advice! You covered it all. :) In my first trimester, all I wanted to eat was red meat, eggs, and applesauce (fresh apples made me more nauseous). I couldn’t stand chicken or fish. Strongly brewed ginger tea helped me psychologically if not physically and I just kept as active as possible. When I was exercising, I didn’t have nausea which was motivation enough to keep going. Thanks for this post! It was really informative and a good one to pass along to other moms-to-be.

    • Chi-Chi, exercise was sometimes really tough to get started in the first trimester but without fail when I exercised I didn’t feel nauseous, and afterwards I felt better than I did before. For me too, that was motivation enough to exercise regularly. It made such a difference in the way I felt.

  5. I originally left this comment on Facebook, but I decided to move it here instead. Copper toxicity causes severe nausea, and women who are deficient in B6 and zinc tend to be copper toxic. Also higher estrogen levels cause the body to store copper, could be why a lot of women claim they were sicker while carrying girls. There is also a condition known as Pyroluria that is a genetic B6 & zinc deficiency, some of its symptoms are morning nausea, protein intolerance and poor appetite in the morning which would all attribute to severe morning sickness in pregnancy. http://www.primalbody-primalmind.com/?p=398” I had HG during my pregnancies and have Pyroluria. I guess I bring this up because while I wholeheartedly agree that high carb diets attribute to morning sickness, for some of us there is more to it than just “toughing it out”.

    • Thanks for the comment Gena! That is good information. There are, indeed, more reasons for morning sickness than just the way we eat here and now. Our past habits play a huge role. Ideally, we would come into pregnancy in a much better state and would experience much less discomfort. Like I said in another comment, women with previous imbalances aren’t necessarily going to even out within a few days of picking up a Primal diet.

  6. Oh my, this couldn’t have come at a better/worse time!!LOL
    I am about 8 weeks along.
    My co-worker brought in muffins this morning, I thought that chocolate sounded good, and planned on “just” eating the “muffin top” as that’s all I use to eat….oh dear! My stomach has killed me all day, I’ve been using the bathroom non-stop(which doesn’t work so well when I’m driving 300miles for the work day!!) And I FULLY AND TOTALLY regret my one back slide since going fully paleo 1.5-2 weeks ago(again, I was off the bandwagon for a week or 2 since “strangely sick” and before that I’ve been paleo for nearly a year.)

    The past two weeks I’ve been eating a lot of animal fat(uncured/treated bacon, pork chops, etc) raw carrots, apples, grapes, almonds and bone broth…..that’s all I’ve been able to stomach, but I’ve been eating enough little meals that I don’t get sick. I’ve also not been able to handle water or coffee(which I generally drink nealy 40oz of h2o and a 20oz cup of black coffee in the mornings.) the only liquid that has been able to rest on my stomach has been tea, “calm” tea especally

    • Oops, hit enter too soon!Lol

      ……..The only liquid that has been able to rest on my stomach has been tea, “calm” tea especially, but also a few other mixes that a friend got from a local Asian tea store!

      Anyways….rambling again!Lol

      Red meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, coffee and water are all things that I generallyin taket a lo of, none of it has set on my stomach for longer then a few minutes in the past month! So it’s great to read this……and as someone else said, can’t wait for your book!!!:-)

    • Sounds like you’re doing ok! Narrowing it down to few select foods that you find tolerable and give you nutrients, protein, and fat will get you through a couple more weeks and then you’ll be back to eating whatever you want. There’s nothing at all wrong with limiting your diet for a while.

  7. Well done. As a Certified Professional Midwife,
    We often tell moms to eat protein, EVERY TWO HOURS
    To alleviate morning sickness, with great success. I would not
    At all recommend a pregnant woman fasts. Period. Growing
    A baby takes fat, protein, calories. Instead, we
    Recommend 80 to 100 grams of protein, minimum.
    Paleo is the way to go to avoid gestational diabetes and
    Excess weight gain. I love a weight gain of 25–35 pounds,
    Depending on the woman. (apologies for typos, writing from
    My iphone)

    • Beth, indeed, protein makes a huge difference in the way a woman feels in the first trimester. I am not the type to eat more than 3 times a day under normal circumstances but even I had a few small protein snacks during this time – usually hard boiled pastured eggs.

      While growing a baby indeed takes calories and nutrients, I do not entirely agree with you that in all of the 9 months a woman is pregnant that she should not ever go a a short duration without food. Skipping meals from time to time (absolutely not for long, but that is not what an intermittent fast is all about) is so natural in the natural world. If a nutrient dense diet is adhered to during the pregnancy and empty foods like rice and bread do not become a staple, then, in my opinion, skipping a few meals in the first few months won’t cause harm. Some women suffer terribly from morning sickness – a hormone imbalance that may not be quickly corrected – and if, in the first trimester, she is miserable eating anything, then eating less seems like a better option than eating junk. Although, eating protein usually helps immensely, while an empty stomach can exasperate the issue, making a fast kind of a moot point anyway. :P

      I respect your opinion though. Eating is serious business for pregnant women.

      My belief is that we all have different protein needs at different times. Counting protein grams can be just about as frustrating as counting calories. I think we should all strive to eat a nutrient dense diet and listen to our bodies. I had days where I ate 7 or 8 eggs, where beef and chicken were nasty but pork was ok, others where I preferred carrots, sweet potatoes, and milk, and still others where food was just plain repulsive. In the grand scheme of things, those days are ok too.

  8. I’m twelve weeks along (yay!) with baby two and have been lucky this time not to experience much nausea at all. My primary “morning sickness” symptoms have been extreme fatigue and TOTAL absence of appetite. I don’t do very well when I don’t eat while I’m pregnant (lots of lightheadedness, faintness as I’m on my feet at least half the day, every day) so I forced myself to eat: protein first (preferably some kind of animal), then green veggies, then another color vegetable if possible. For the first several weeks I found that eating the meat made me nauseated, so I would get down as much as I could and then switch to the vegetables (broccoli and yams were particularly soothing). Occasionally my appetite will roar back with cravings for things like raw tuna, shrimp, and crab. I’m not comfortable eating raw while pregnant so I do the best I can with cooked versions of those foods. I can definitely agree tho, that on the days where I just forced a bowl of cheerios down to have something on my stomach before leaving the house were days I dealt with nausea.

    And amen on the exercise. I’m still doing CrossFit and some days I feel like I can’t even keep my eyes open before a workout, but the workout makes me feel more energized the next day. It’s also definitely worked as a huge mood booster.

    • Congratulations Sarah! That kind of sounds like me. I would force down a few bites of protein and then eat veggies. They were soothing to me too. I had been eating all raw meats before I found out I was pregnant and when I hit about 6 weeks they became totally repulsive to me. I thought it was pretty interesting how that worked. I didn’t start eating raw eggs and sashimi again until well into the second trimester.

      Good for you for keeping up the crossfit. The worst part of the first trimester for me too was fatigue. It takes some discipline alright but it’s so worth it.

  9. When I was pregnant with my daughter who is going to turn three years old in summer I learned about my pregnancy when I was already nearly eight weeks along. I wasn´t Paleo then but my diet was not bad (as common sense told me that vegetables are more nutricious than grains so I rarely had large servings of grain-based food). Before I did the pregnancy test I had already felt “strange” for at least two weeks (as I did not know I was pregnant there definitely weren´t any “psycholigical” aspects involved!). I had strong aversions against things I used to enjoy. I couldn´t stand coffee anymore. I lost my taste for dairy products. I experienced “evening sickness” so I only wanted very little food for dinner. Later, tomato soup become an important food for me (it wasn´t a craving, it was rather one of the only things that didn´t make me feel sick. Interestingly, I hadn´t eaten a lot of meat before my pregnancy but I definitely started to feel I needed it. I lost about 4 pounds in my first trimester (which might also be caused by the fact that I cut back on exercise intensity once I learned about my pregnancy; I always lose some weight when I switch to more moderate exercise, might have something to do with the glycogen stores and not be pregnancy-related). Once I reached my second trimester my “evening sickness” went away.

    • I had more of an evening nausea myself on the days when I felt it. I am a morning person and there is just about nothing in the world that can beat me down before noon. :)

  10. I have some concerns with the recommendation to gain 25 -35 pounds. That would have left me with exactly 19 pounds of fat to lose. I think mother nature is smart enough to not make succesful breastfeeding on huge fat stores. I was at prepregnancy weight 2 weeks adter delivery and made massive amounts of milk. A genetic rhing I be

    • Belinda,

      I’m glad you brought that up. 25-35 lbs is WAY too much. Mother nature isn’t the one dictating that by any means – rather its the 21st century conventional wisdom at work, fittin recommendations to match the overweight majority.

      In my book I outline what ideal weight gain really means. Taking a look at the history of weight gain recommendations yields a very different story.

      I too didnt gain much fat with my first pregnancy and again havent gained much this time. After Evelyn was born I barely had any work to do at all. If you can call losing 7 or 8 lbs work. My hormones are amazingly well balanced, even without so much extra cushion and with Evelyn I breasted with ease from the beginning through 1.5 years.

      It’s not like I didn’t have any fat on my body, but not stores and stores of unnecessary extra.

      • I gained exactly exactly 30 and I don’t feel like it was way too much — it was right for my body and I am completely comfortable with the weight gain and the fact that I am still holding on to 10 of those pounds. I suspect they will melt away when I stop breastfeeding.

  11. I am happy as well that the weight gain issue is adressed here! With my first pregnancy gaining weight was actually hard work! I had to eat way more than my appetite dictated to even gain the 15-17 pounds I did, in the end. Sadly, I added unhealthy stuff (ice-cream and cake) in order to finally start gaining as it just wasn´t possible on healthy stuff. Now I thing that this was due to the fact that I had never followed a restrictive (calorie-wise) eating style. I have always been an person who loves to work out and followed a very active lifestyle (exercise and walking/biking everywhere) and eat to meet my body´s needs. I think I averaged about 2000 kcal/day when I was getting pregnant. I think it is very difficult to follow an intuitive, healthy eating style (I wasn´t primal then) and increase calories beyond what I was eating then. As I cut back on very intense exercise my appetite naturally decreased somewhat. Sure, if your diet consists of empty foods you have to eat a lot more because you have to get the nutrients from somewhere. Also, a lot of women don´t seem to be aware that giving birth won´t make them magically drop 45 pounds without an effort! Another aspect is that the advice towards the additional “200-300 kcal/day” is more a wild guess than scientifically based. Feto-placental growth requires less kcal per unit weight as less fat is contained in those tissues (9000-15000 kcal depending on the size of the baby and placenta). From my obervations an upper limit of around 26 pounds seems to make most women happy: Those I know who didn´t gain beyond that number lost the weight (usually 6-10 pounds) that was left easily and didn´t go through post-partum misery caused by too many fat stores they couldn´t loose…

  12. I didn´t want to express by any means that a weight gain of 30 pounds is excessive! I am just convinced that most women do fine on a lower gain. Also, there is aome “logic” I do not get into my head: If the fat stores where necessary for successful breastfeeding the body would be more than happy to gradually use them up, right? Then, why are so many women who cannot lose the last 5-10 pounds while breastfeeding? When the milk supply drops just because they decrease there calorie intake a little, what are those stores for if not to provide good supply in case that food becomes scarce? Don´t get me wrong here, this is not a recommendation to overly restrict calories while breastfeeding (just to mention it: There is one single study that found out that prolactin levels actually increase in case of calorie restriction and more milk is being made, but there is no need experimenting with this :-)). I only believe that there is no evolutionary need for EXTRA fat stores in a healthy, well-nourished woman.

    • I realize that every body is different and I definitely am not placing any judgement about any individual’s personal situation but what concerns me about that amount of weight gain is the type and the amount of food one would have to eat in order to gain 19 pounds of fat in a nine month period, plus the lack activity that a person would likely be experiencing. If a pregnant woman eats and lives as much as possible like a hunter gatherer (which I personally feel is optimal), she won’t gain that much weight. If she exercises daily, eats ample nutrients and sufficient calories, and doesn’t overload on dairy, grains, and/or processed foods, her body isn’t likely to store that much fat.

      That said, I realize that we are not all living like, or trying to emulating, hunter gatherers and that not all of us want to. We are also all coming into the Primal lifestyle and diet from generally less than optimal backgrounds (I know I sure was!). Our individual situations vary and, hence, so do weight gain guidelines, but for a woman eating a Primal diet and exercising regularly, that much weight gain is not necessary. Two of the most important things for a growing fetus are nutrients and good hormone balance (and no exposure to toxins). Ample nutrients can certainly be obtained from a high calorie diet and sedentary lifestyle, but maintaining hormone balance might be a little trickier.

      Restricting calories while pregnant is absolutely unnecessary and ill-advised. A lack of food is not required to keep weight gain at a manageable level. Eating ample nutrients, exercising, and avoiding empty calories will do the trick all by itself unless a woman already has metabolic problems.

      • I am confused about the topic of weight gain. If you gain, say, 25 pounds during the pregnancy and give birth to a 7 pound baby, it does not follow that you have 18 pounds of fat to lose. A good chunk of that 18 lbs is water weight (amniotic fluid), other tissue weight (placenta, uterine lining, breast tissue), and blood (you circulate much more blood while pregnant). I don’t know what that leaves for weight due to fat, but certainly much less than 18 lbs. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t expect to gain only the weight of your baby during pregnancy – these other fluids and tissues are healthy and necessary.

        Many women who breastfeed do find that any extra weight disappears. I ended up almost 10 lbs lighter than pre-pregnancy while breastfeeding, and I wasn’t eating a primal diet at that time. If you have a high metabolism (whether its due to diet or genes or both) losing pregnancy weight is easy. It is women who have a low metabolism (I would suspect due to less optimal genes combined with poor diet) who have trouble losing weight left over from pregnancy.

        • Kathryn, it doesn’t sound like you’re confused at all! That is exactly right. The placenta, amniotic fluid, increased blood volume, increased weight of the uterus, larger breast volume, and baby equal at least 15 lbs all by themselves. Gaining a total of 25lbs would leave a woman with 10lbs to lose. But gaining 35lbs would leave her with 20. That’s a lot of fat gain in such a short period of time.

          • With my pregnancies, I gained 45, then 50. I lost 20 lbs right away, then the water, blood, uterus weight. At six weeks post partum both times, I had about 10 lbs to go. I think 25-35 lbs suggested by the midwife (probably the 35) would be ideal for my 5′ 10″ body and big babies. I even had a huge placenta! Also, maybe some of the weight breastfeeding moms carry is milk or breast tissue? At least 2-3 lbs?

      • I thought this was very well said. Every woman needs to get to know her own body, learn how to feed it, and learn to recognize when there is an imbalance. Then we don’t have to fret about the numbers so much!

        With my first pregnancy I started gaining weight the first month – but, I know there were imbalances going on…. and I was new at this eating thing.
        At 5’2” I delivered my baby at almost 40 lbs. heavier – and he only weighed 5 lbs. 15oz! Thankfully, I was able to lose it all within 5 months.

        But weight aside, I now know how to improve my nutrition next time, which hopefully leads to energy for exercise, and naturally less weight gain.
        Funny thing is, people were saying that they thought I hadn’t gained any weight except for belly! I think that shows that our culture expects women to gain LOTS of weight during pregnancy, and even think it is healthy. Which is sad because I rarely see women losing that ‘pregnancy’ weight, which may more accurately be called ‘carb loading’ weight in my experience. I had an aversion to sweets my whole pregnancy, but ate lots of toast, oatmeal, chips, toast…and, oh yeah, toast!

        Thanks again for spreading the right message to pregnant mamas! I just made my first batch of pemmican and I am sure it will replace that toast thing in my next pregnancy. ;-)

  13. I’m about 15 weeks pregnant and I’ve noticed my morning sickness has only gotten worse, not better. I usually get horrible morning sickness the entire morning and exercising actually can cause my nausea. I can sleep for 10 hours and nap for another 3 in the morning. When I get hungry, I am too sick to make something healthy so I keep nature valley granola bars on hand and light &fit yogurt. I’m at my wits end and I feel like I’m dying half the day. I don’t know what else to do!

    • As Peggy’s article suggests, skip that high carb snack stuff. Try hard boiling some eggs to keep on hand, a piece of cooked meat, nuts, or a spoonful of nut butter (I keep a spoonful in a glass cup on my nightstand for a quick and easy snack during the night or first thing in the morning). Round things out with some veggies, root veg like sweet potato, a little fruit or even plain yogurt or kefir.

  14. What you write seems so logical and I am, in theory, 100% on board with your recommendations. My problem is that I find it more than merely challenging to implement these recommendations when I am pregnant and suffering from morning sickness: I find it impossible.

    I have one living child, but five pregnancies. One of which went to term, but ended in a stillbirth due to brain malformations. (Suggestions that my daughter died due to anything I did or did not eat during pregnancy are NOT welcome here! Her problem was a mutation that is possibly genetic or due to illness but not likely not related to diet. I ask for sensitivity surrounding the delicate relationship between my grief and other emotions, like guilt.)

    I am considering getting pregnant again someday to try, yet again, for a second living child. I am, of course, terrified, but an even greater deterrent than my fear for the outcome is that I am just so goddamn sick of being sick.

    Because of what I’ve been through, I’ve effectively been pregnant, nursing, or recovering from a pregnancy loss for four years straight. My first pregnancy (with my living daughter) introduced me to morning sickness, but it disappeared at 12 weeks, and I really enjoyed pregnancy after that. As I’ve acquired more experience and worse experience, I just seem to get sicker and sicker with pregnancy and sicker and sicker OF pregnancy.

    When I fell pregnant with my stillborn daughter, I was already on a minimal carb, high-protein, high-good-fat diet at the recommendation of a nutritionally based doctor. I had been on this diet for 8 weeks. I am a healthy woman who walks everywhere, practices yoga, and has a low-end-of-healthy BMI. I love vegetables and cook nearly all our food from scratch.

    But when I am pregnant, I can’t eat vegetables. I don’t just mean that I don’t WANT to eat vegetables. I mean that I gag in such a way that I simply can not choke them down. Same goes for most everything else except, unfortunately, carbohydrates. When I was pregnant this last time, I was sick like this for five months. There was a week where I did not eat anything. Literally nothing. I just couldn’t get it down. Then, all of a sudden, my fast broke when I gave into my cravings for a piece of pizza. I understood that it wasn’t a healthy choice. I knew I should eat a pile of spinach and a piece of fish instead, but I just could not do it.

    You’re going to think that I’m weak-willed, but I am not. You’re going to think I’m not committed to my health or the health of my babies, but I am.

    I get frustrated reading good information like this, because I feel like it is always written by someone whose morning sickness, for whatever reason, is just not as great as my own. I didn’t even have HG! I never went to hospital or got an IV, because I could always drink fluids.

    What would you recommend for a woman like me? I’m not about to TTC again. I’m taking some time off. Long-term plans are most welcome. I just don’t understand how to implement the good advice you give.

    • Kate, you appear to be strong willed and dedicated to your health and the health of your children. And I’m guessing that your morning sickness is pretty bad and your disdain for nausea is even worse. We all have tolerance for different things. Some women can handle feeling sick. Some can handle pain. Some can handle lots of noisy children running around. Some can’t. How could anyone fault you for that?

      I experienced morning sickness too and I didn’t like it but for me exercising helped and adjusting my diet helped. If it was not helping you, then it would be even harder to follow the recommendations.

      So what do you do? You try your best and then deal with it I guess. Pretty terrible advice isn’t it? There are herbs you can take to calm the nausea, you can try sitting still all day, you can take the first few months off and lie down. You can just whatever you need to do to get through it. I wish I knew what else to say.

      I am so sorry for your loss and I hope that if you do try again that the outcome and the pregnancy are positive.

  15. hi…thanks for that post. i would love to hear anything you know about HG. You said some women have a rare gene that makes HG likely. I gave birth to my son almost 3 years ago and I had HG – severe debilitating nausea- the entire pregnancy. so much so that it is my greatest fear in getting pregnant again…this time with a toddler in tow. I have researched about HG so much…in the past, not much since my son’s birth-maybe there is new info….and I never heard of this gene. i would love any information possible about HG and ANYTHING I can do “should” it happen again. i pretty much ate nothing the first 6 months of my pregnancy. prior to that I had a super healthy diet and lots of exercise. then I started on Zophran (I was SO against this but i was risking my babies life after so long with no food and barely any liquids…i had IV’s). after that I was still sick as i took the tiniest dose to just stop my profuse vomitting. anyways….i would just love any more ideas, info from anyone about such severe morning sickness if anyone has it. thanks so much

  16. Okay, I’ve been reading a lot more about morning sickness and aversions lately, and I’ve come across some more specific information – that morning sickness is the result of magnesium deficiency, and food aversions (specifically, aversions to fat coupled with cravings for carbohydrates) are due to a cholesterol/saturated fat deficiency.

    Not enough mag lets your cortisol go haywire, allowing your blood sugar to be easily disregulated. Hence the extreme efforts (constant snacking, protein every 2 hours, etc) to keep blood sugar regulated and avoid nausea. Pregnancy hormones inhibit ability to absorb what little mag we are getting, exacerbating the deficiency. B6 and B12 supplements are touted to alleviate morning sickness, and they work to some degree in that those vitamins help with the uptake of magnesium. But you really have to build up mag stores before getting pregnant.

    With aversions to fat and carb cravings, it’s a catch-22. Your body is using lots of cholesterol to make extra hormones, and if you aren’t getting enough in your diet, you don’t have enough leftover to make enough bile. Without enough bile, you won’t want to consume fat, even though more fat is what you need to make up the deficiency. BUT you can synthesize saturated fat from carbohydrates, so you start craving things like potatoes, sweets, etc, to allow your body to make enough cholesterol. Again, the key would be to have enough cholesterol pre-pregnancy, or if you’re already pregnant, to supplement ox bile and/or bitters.

  17. Great article! I am now about 6 months pregnant, but my first trimester was very difficult, because I found that my blood sugar was higher and even though I eat Paleo most of the time, even eating sweet potatoes or a little bit of rice put me over the edge and made me nauseated and tired. Part of that was hormones too, I’m sure. But I notice that my insulin levels are more sensitive during pregnancy, so I stick to a stricter diet of protein, veggies fats like nuts, butter, olive and coconut oils and feel so good now. If I crave sugar I eat a few berries or part of a green apple, maybe some almond milk with cocoa powder and stevia, and almond flour based goodies when I want a treat. I feel great!

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