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12 Tips for When Food Makes You Nauseous

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling with nausea. It’s never been a symptom I’ve had long-term before, and it hasn’t been easy getting used to it. I’ve been leaving classes early because I’m afraid of getting sick in class. I’ve avoided eating with other people, or even being around people who are eating. I study vegetable production, and until this started I never realized how much we talk about vegetables. In the class I TA for, the professor spent a lecture discussing winter squash, and I had to leave when he started naming different squashes. No pictures, no scents, just the thought of food.

But one of the hardest things has been forcing myself to eat. I love food, I always have. I love cooking and baking, but mostly I love it because I love eating good food. I choose my career because I want to help more people have access to high-quality food. But lately, nothing is more disgusting than the idea of eating.

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful for eating when you’re constantly nauseous:

Note these aren’t for if you’re struggling with vomiting or other problems, but for ongoing nausea with no known cause.

1. Talk to your doctor about your nausea.

Nausea can be a symptom of many illnesses, and like any new symptom, it’s important to get it evaluated by a doctor, especially if it lasts longer than a few days.

2. Take anti-nausea medication if your doctor will prescribe it.

The first time I saw a doctor for this, they didn’t offer medication. Three weeks later, when I saw a new doctor, he offered it and I immediately said I’d try it. It doesn’t fix the nausea, but it does make it go away sometimes when I need it to, and it makes it easier to eat.

3. Cook foods you normally like.

Often when I’m sick, I find myself avoiding my favorite foods because I don’t want to associate them with feeling sick. But when you can’t stand the thought of any food, sometimes it can help to remind yourself that this is something you do enjoy, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.

4. Eat foods you know won’t irritate your stomach.

For me, this means a lot of rice and toast. After a few weeks, I’ve added in vegetables and protein, but I eat the same foods several days in a row once I know I can trust it. I don’t want to eat anything that will make me sicker than I already am.

5. Eat foods that don’t require a lot of cooking.

For me, one of the hardest things is walking into the kitchen and forcing myself to cook when I can’t stand the thought of food. It’s much easier to tell myself that I need to eat, then go and grab something from the fridge that’s already cooked and ready to eat. The less time I have to think about food or smell food before I eat, the better. I’ve found that minute rice, frozen vegetables, or frozen pre-cooked meals are helpful for this.

6. If you have to cook, don’t do it right before you eat.

If I plan to eat pasta, or something else for dinner that requires some cooking, I’ll do it earlier in the day. That way, if cooking makes me feel worse, I don’t have to then also force myself to eat.

7. Distract yourself from the nausea.

Usually, I try not to read or watch TV while I eat, and instead focus on the food I’m eating. However, when you don’t feel well, the last thing you want to do is remind yourself that you’re eating. I watch my favorite TV show, listen to a podcast, eat outside, or read a book every time I eat so I have something else to focus on.

8. Make sure you’re staying hydrated.

Nausea can often be caused or made worse by dehydration, so it’s important to make sure you’re drinking a lot of water, sports drinks, or some source of electrolytes.

9. Try eating smaller meals throughout the day.

Especially if you’re having trouble with an upset stomach, it can help to only eat small amounts at a time. Personally, I haven’t found that this works well for me, but it’s definitely worth trying.

10. Don’t eat in places with a strong smell.

If you can avoid it, try not to eat in places with strong scents, like many restaurants or cafeterias. It can be a lot easier to eat if you’re not already overwhelmed by the smell of food.

11. Be honest with people you trust about your struggles with nausea.

When my friends asked why I wasn’t going to a lunch meeting, I told them that I would be sick if I had to see anyone else eat food. Which was true. I obviously didn’t tell everyone at the meeting that, but it can be helpful to let your friends know what’s going on. That way, if more things come up that you need to say no to, they can understand and will help you find alternatives.

12. Exercise.

It can be hard to exercise when you’re sick, and especially if you haven’t been eating a lot you should be careful. But even going for a five-minute walk outside can make you feel better, and might even make you feel hungry.

I hope you found some of these tips helpful. What else have you found that works well for dealing with nausea?

This story originally appeared on Purple Garlic.

Getty image by Pheelings Media.

Originally published: June 13, 2022
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