Affecting over 50% of pregnant women, morning sickness is thought to be a defence mechanism that protects the baby against potential toxins eaten by the mother.
The baby will not yet have developed its own defence mechanisms against toxins, and even a tiny amount can be harmful. Therefore, the baby relies on the mother to protect it.
Morning sickness makes a woman feel nauseous when exposed to the smell or taste of foods that may contain toxins which could harm the baby, even though they may be harmless to her. There are various theories as to what directly causes the nausea and vomiting, and these include:
  • Low blood sugar, which is caused by the baby draining resources from the mother.
  • An increase in the hormone progesterone, which as well as relaxing the muscles of the womb can also relax the stomach and intestinal muscles, causing reflux.
  • An increased sensitivity to smells, which overstimulates the normal nausea triggers.
  • An increase in the hormone oestrogen (although the levels of oestrogen do not appear to differ significantly between those who do and do not experience morning sickness).
  • An increase in bilirubin levels due to raised liver enzymes during pregnancy (although the levels of bilirubin do not appear to differ significantly between those who do and do not experience morning sickness).
The symptoms of morning sickness are feeling nauseous as well as actually vomiting. This often occurs in the morning and reduces over the course of the day. However, despite its name, it can occur at any time of the day. The symptoms usually stop around the twelfth week of pregnancy.
Top tips for helping to manage morning sickness include:
  • Keep your blood sugar stable: to keep the blood sugar balanced and help prevent blood sugar lows which can lead to nausea, it is important to eat little and often (every two-and-a-half to three hours), including a small snack between meals. All meals and snacks should include a small amount of protein. Include healthy sources of protein, such as oily fish, pulses, nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs and natural soya products (e.g. tofu, tempeh, miso). Examples of healthy snacks include an oatcake with hummus or nut butter, a piece of fruit with six nuts or a small handful of seeds, half an avocado, carrot sticks with hummus or a small natural yoghurt with some seeds.
  • Help your hormones: it is also important to help maintain good hormone balance by including oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and cold-pressed seed oils for essential fats. These good fats are also very important for the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. Also, include phytoestrogen-rich foods, which are hormone balancing. These include vegetables, fruit, pulses (e.g. lentils, beans, chickpeas) and natural soya products.
  • Down with the baddies: to avoid fluctuations in blood sugar, it is advisable to avoid added sugar and sugary foods, caffeine, refined (white) carbohydrates and, obviously, alcohol. For hormone balance and to reduce your intake of animal hormones, keep animal products, such as dairy to a minimum. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats (e.g. meat, cheese, butter, cream, crisps, chips, fast foods) as these take longer to digest.
  • Think nutrients: drink plenty of water and/or herbal teas to replenish fluids lost through vomiting. Ensure your diet contains plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in a range of different colours, as this helps you to obtain different nutrients. Always choose wholegrains instead of refined carbohydrates, as the latter lack nutrients removed during the refining process. Also, consider a good quality antenatal supplement, such as NHP Antenatal Support, especially if you are vomiting regularly.
  • A natural remedy: ginger is a well-known natural antiemetic (anti-nausea). Try a slice of fresh ginger in hot water to help relieve nausea.
Hopefully, these tips help to ease the discomfort of morning sickness. For more top tips and ideas on addressing hormonal issues the natural way, log onto our website at, or contact us on (01) 402 0777.
Nutritional Therapist