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Morning Sickness: A Case for Protein

This is a re-post of my original article, found on the Modern Alternative Pregnancy  site.

Image by Pregnancy and Baby

If you are in your first trimester of pregnancy, you might have already experienced a spell of morning sickness. Morning sickness is a common problem occurring in pregnancy with more than half of American women suffering from nausea, vomiting, or both during the first three months of pregnancy, according to the March of Dimes. However, the severity and occurrence vary not only from woman to woman, but also from pregnancy to pregnancy. Some women never even have the slightest bit of queasiness while some are so ill that they wonder how “morning” sickness can last an entire 24 hours.

While nobody can pinpoint the exact cause, there are many theories for what is the culprit behind nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy.

Reason #1 – Wrong prenatal vitamin

You may be taking a low-grade prenatal vitamin that your body is trying to fight off and is having a hard time absorbing, thus causing nausea! Prenatal vitamins should contain 27mg of elemental iron such as ferrous fumarate, chelated, or gluconate. Brands such Rainbow LightShaklee, and Whole Foods brand are food-based and your body can absorb these vitamins. Avoid Iron-sulfate!

smackdown_prenatal_vitamin.jpgImage by  Alphamom

Reason #2 – Pregnancy detox

Studies have proven that nausea during pregnancy may be nature’s way of protecting the developing baby from toxins and the mother from illness. I have personally seen some of the healthiest women I know have the worst cases of morning sickness, which leads me to believe that their body is very inclined to fighting off toxins. So in attempt to free your body of anything that could potentially hurt your baby, you may experience nausea as your body is creating a safe space for baby.

Reason #3 – Hormonal changes

Especially in the early points of pregnancy, hormones are running amok. A suspected culprit is human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), the hormone tested for in home pregnancy kits, which hits an all-time high in those first months. But other hormones may play a role as well. High levels of progesterone, for example, result in smooth-muscle relaxation, slowing down the digestive process. These changes and surges in hormones can cause nausea in the quickly-changing pregnant body.

Image by AsiaNet India

But the one reason that I believe causes morning sickness for a lot of women (and I believe this because the cure works!), is simply…

Reason #4 – Protein deficiency

Some women say that carbohydrates are most appealing when they feel nauseated, however, one small study found that high-protein foods were likely to work better.

  • Quinoa – This plant contains a very high total protein level (12-18%) and is an excellent balance of amino acids, which your body needs to build protein. It is not a true grain (yet you will find it in that section of the grocery store), but rather it is a seed. In addition to it being a complete protein, quinoa is also a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron. And even more… it’s gluten-free and super easy to digest!
  • Meat – Avoid meat spread, pate, and deli meat. If beef, veal, lamb, or pork (including ground meat) is undercooked, it may contain E. coli. Make sure all steaks, roasts, and poultry are thoroughly cooked through.
  • Fish – Avoid raw or uncooked fish, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish (golden or white snapper), and some albacore tuna because they contain high levels of mercury. DO eat salmon.
  • Cheese – avoid soft cheese in pregnancy, such as Brie, feta, camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, and queso fresco because they may contain E. coli or Listeria. DO eat hard cheese, such as: raw cheddar, swiss, or goat. Do eat cottage cheese.
  • Nuts – Almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, and pistachios.
  • Beans
  • Organic eggs – hard-boiled or whatever way you please
  • Broth – Lots of protein!
  • Protein shake: a daily, quick fix! - Meal replacements in the form of drink shakes make for an interesting alternative protein intake and are an effective way to manage pregnancy nausea. They contain all the essentials that your body needs, and you can easily load them with protein. A shake each morning and night may the very solution to your nausea problem!
Image by Fit For Life

 Protein Recipe Shake #1:

  • 1 cup Bulgarian yogurt
  • 1 cup coconut or almond milk
  • 1 cup juice (apple, berry-based, or any you desire; just no citrus)
  • 2 cups frozen or fresh organic blueberries (strawberries & peaches work too; any fruit that has a high water content)
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • Honey
  • Ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or whatever to taste
  • Fresh ginger, to taste
  • Optional: break in one 100 mg capsule of vitamin B6

 Protein Recipe Shake #2:

  • Handful of hemp seeds (or other types of seeds)
  • Handful of nut of choice (or organic nut butter)
  • handful flax seeds
  • Dates
  • Fill blender with spinach or dark leafy green (folic acid!)
  • 1 cup of water
  • Blend until smooth, then fill blender with frozen fruit and a bit more water

Other quick cures:

Image by Steamy Kitchen

1. Ginger

A recent report in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has confirmed that ginger can help manage morning sickness in the first four months of pregnancy. This is something Dr. Susan Lanni has known all along. Dr. Lanni, an assistant professor of maternal fetal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center recommends a variety of non-pharmaceutical solutions for her obstetrical clients, and ginger is among them.

“Ginger is absorbed into the GI tract, and it works quite well on low-grade nausea,” says Lanni. “You can get ginger in a million different forms. Women can put a slice of fresh ginger between their cheek and gum and chew on it throughout the day or they can nibble on small pieces of crystallized ginger. They can also go to a Chinese food store and get a container of pickled ginger, which is moist and has a very stomach soothing effect.”

Try 3-4 slices of fresh ginger in hot water or a homemade ginger ale. You might also try organic ginger-flavored preggie pops.

Image by A Slower Pace

 2. Frequent Meals

Many women report that the worst cases of nausea come about from having an empty stomach for too long. Even if you have to snack on something light, such as a handful of almonds, having something in your stomach at all times has proven to be a great trick.

Other stomach-friendly foods suggested by authors of morning sickness books are whole wheat bread, tahini, rice cakes, green apples and natural whole yogurt. Teas of the chamomile or spearmint variety are also highly regarded. Other authors recommend foods high in carbohydrate for example rice and cereals. Try either peanut butter on apple slices or some Greek yogurt.

Image by Growing Home Blog

 3. Peppermint

  •  Young Living Peppermint Essential oil – 1 drop at a time, right on your tongue. Or 1 drop in water, used as a diluted sprizter which acts as an anti-nausea agent.
  • Mint-flavored chewing gum in between meals helps some women to reduce their morning sickness.
  • Other healthier options include tea tree oil toothpicks (found at Whole Foods) or ice-chip breath mints, which are all natural.

4. Vitamin B6

Research is also showing that taking vitamin B6 may reduce morning sickness significantly for some women.

 Image by Ask A Mum…


If nothing is easing your morning sickness, it is important to rule out Hyperemeis gravidarium an extreme form of morning sickness. If you have any of the following symptoms, you need to talk to your midwife or physician.

  • Vomiting, mucus, bile or blood
  • Food aversions
  • Increased sense of smell
  • Sensitive gag reflex
  • Excessive salivation
  • Constipation (if severe)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Ketosis
  • Vomiting small amounts food/drink
  • Dry, furry tongue, thirst
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Pale, waxy, dry skin
  • Body odor (from rapid fat loss & ketosis)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Rapid weight loss (2+ lbs/wk)
  • Secondary anxiety/depression
  • Intolerance to motion/noise/light

What was your morning sickness cure??


  1. Oranges, grapes, figs, papaya and guava are other fruits which are
    very effective in promoting digestion as well as improving excretory system to help
    in smooth bowel movement. Infant formula is, in most
    cases, not necessary and cannot (given medical research findings) be considered an alternative that is in any way preferable to human milk.
    There is a wide variety of websites, books, articles, etc.

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