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What You Need to Know about Pregnancy and Food Aversions

If you’re pregnant and the thought of your favorite pizza makes you want to hurl, blame hormonal changes. But the right eating strategies can help.

What Causes Nausea and Food Aversions

The primary culprit is the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin, otherwise known as hCG. This hormone signals the other hormones in your body, affecting the sensors in the brain responsible for your sense of smell and taste, and that could explain food aversions.

Especially during the first trimester, your body is also producing increased amounts of saliva, which can also alter taste perception, often causing foods to taste metallic.

To combat the increased saliva levels, you can:

  • Drink more water
  • Avoid starchy foods
  • Use mouthwash
  • Suck on hard candy

How To Stave Off Nausea and Morning Sickness

Morning sickness is one of the most common pregnancy complications. Common as it is, it can lead to more serious nutrition deficiencies.  To make sure you are receiving enough nutrition:

  • Don’t go more than four hours without eating. During pregnancy, your body is more sensitive to low blood sugar and rapid blood sugar spikes, so maintaining balanced levels can help counteract nausea.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day. Starting at 20 weeks, the baby is putting increased pressure on your stomach and internal organs, making it difficult for you to keep down big meals.
  • Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
  • Pay attention to portion sizes. You want to make sure half your plate is veggies. The other half should be equal portions of complex carbs and protein.
  • Stay away from fatty foods.
  • Stay well hydrated.

Consider Taking Supplements

Your doctor will typically recommend prenatal vitamins. In addition, you may be advised to take DHA and Omega 3s. Both aid in the development of your baby’s brain. These fatty acids can also be obtained by eating fish, ideally ones such as salmon, trout or cod that are low in mercury.

Try a Smoothie or Meal-Replacement Shake

If you’re having trouble keeping food down, one of the best options is a smoothie or meal-replacement shake. The best option is a smoothie that you make so you can control what’s in it. Premade shakes are often high in sugar, but if this is what your body is tolerating, then this might be the best choice.

Stick to the BRAT Diet

Another option is the bananas-rice-apples-toast diet, often suggested to patients contending with nausea or diarrhea. These foods are among those least likely to induce that morning sickness.

Find What Works for You

Everybody is different. No two pregnant women will feel sick from the same list of foods, nor will they crave the same foods. Experiment until you find which foods taste good and keep you full.

If nausea and vomiting persist, alert your provider or go to the ER. Ongoing vomiting can be potentially dangerous if potassium levels dip too low, which can in turn affect several bodily systems. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help with nausea and vomiting. One of the most prescribed is a high dose of vitamin B6, which helps calm nausea. If that doesn't alleviate symptoms, your doctor can prescribe other medications.

Consider Timing

Morning sickness is the worst in the first trimester. Know that levels of hGC, the hormone largely responsible for nausea, peak in the 11th or 12th week of the first trimester, then begin to decrease at week 14. Hopefully, by the time you enter your second trimester, the nausea has gone away and you can return to a more balanced diet.

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