Nutritionist Miriam Erick has been helping women with severe morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), figure out what kinds of foods to eat for decades.
Her four books on the subject include "Take Two Crackers and Call Me in the Morning: A Real-Life Guide for Surviving Morning Sickness," and her biggest piece of advice is "Listen to your cravings - if your body is telling you that it wants something, then just eat whatever that is." Her only caveat: no alcohol - but, other than that, the world is your oyster. Or, maybe, oyster cracker.
Here are some other hints from Erick:
- Bland is not necessarily best for everybody, even though the most common advice is to stick to bland foods such as applesauce and mashed potatoes. It's not unusual for women with HG to seek out spicy or sour food, so follow your instincts.
- Fluids can be more difficult to stomach when you're nauseous, so don't fret about liquids and focus on food first. If you think you can manage it, frozen watermelon cubes or grapes can be good alternatives to traditional fluids. If soda sounds good, don't worry about the sugar too much if it means you're getting necessary fluids into your body.
- Forget ginger - if you want to. Ginger tea is commonly recommended to HG patients to help curb nausea, but, anecdotally, many HG patients say it doesn't help. Noting that constant vomiting will naturally cause a raw throat, Erick says ginger may irritate the throat, which could be why it doesn't agree with some women.
- No matter what it is that you want to eat - whether it's raw cauliflower, Key lime pie or jalapeño poppers - find that one item and eat it in small amounts throughout the day. Eventually you may be able to add a few more items that you can keep down, but it doesn't really matter as long as you're getting some nutrients and calories.
- Give salt a try - the mariner's cure. While reading Julia Alvarez's novel "Saving the World," a passage referring to seawater as a cure for seasickness started Erick on a new line of thinking. Try adding salt to a glass of water or just eating salty crackers or chips; the salt might help quell the nausea, or, at least, make you thirsty for fluids.
- Outside stimuli can have a powerful effect, so you may need to retreat to a small, dark space such as a closet when trying to eat. Not only can noise and light stimulate nausea, but smells - from your kitchen or even your spouse - can also make food even less palatable. Sometimes choosing food that doesn't have a strong odor, or sticking to cold items, can also help.