Long COVID: Nausea

Managing Nausea

Gastrointestinal symptoms may develop during initial COVID-19 infection and/or long COVID. Two of them are nausea and vomiting. Eating can be challenging when you are sick. If you have nausea, eating and drinking are even more difficult. It may lead to inadequate nutrition. 

Food and drinks are necessary for normal body functioning and to prevent dehydration, electrolyte (i.e. mineral) imbalances, and worsening symptoms. It is important to focus on the quality of food. It should be nutritious and provide energy to help your body recover.

Below are some strategies to help you manage nausea. The foods are recommended by dietitians. However, it’s okay to choose other foods. Your Goodpath coach will offer guidance based on your food preferences. 

Help with Nausea

Include Healthy Protein

Protein is necessary to maintain muscle and body weight. Too little protein can worsen nausea. To ensure you’re meeting your protein needs, it’s best to include a variety of protein-rich foods for meals and snacks. 

You should include lean meats, chicken, eggs, fish, dairy products, and plant-based sources (soy, legumes, raw nuts, and seeds) if you can. Here are some examples that are more manageable when you have nausea:

  • Peanut butter and banana

  • Sliced lean turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich

  • Chicken noodle soup 

  • Miso soup with tofu

  • Unsweetened plain Greek yogurt with a handful of raw nuts

  • Hard-boiled egg on toast

  • Steamed fish with rice

  • Oatmeal topped  with nuts or mixed with nut butter

A homemade protein shake is an excellent choice. Try some of the following ingredients:  banana, Greek yogurt, frozen pineapple, ginger, turmeric, or chia seeds.

Protein and Healthy Fats

Look for ways to combine proteins and healthy fats. For example: 

  • Drizzle olive oil on chicken or fish

  • Have half an avocado with eggs

  • Top oatmeal with raw nuts

  • Hummus with crackers etc. 

Include Water and Other Fluids

Often, it is hard to get enough fluids when you have nausea as drinking can make it worse. It may lead to dehydration with symptoms like lightheadedness, muscle cramps, and weakness. The following may help you better tolerate fluids. Try:

  • Drinking slowly

  • Taking small sips of fluids throughout the day

  • Using a straw

  • Drinking fluids at least 30-60 minutes before and after meals, but not with your meals. If you are extra full it may worsen your nausea

The following fluids are good choices:

  • Shakes and smoothies

  • Frozen fruit pops (Popsicles)

  • Gelatin (Jello)

  • Broth or soup (even better with protein and healthy fat)

  • Tea (hot or iced)

  • Ginger, chamomile, and hibiscus tea are great options 

  • Coconut water

  • Soda water (if tolerated) with lemon, lime, or mint leaves. Stir it to remove some of the carbonation. 

  • Milk (if tolerated) or non-dairy alternatives

Eat Bland Foods

Bland foods are usually better tolerated with nausea. They are easy to digest, low-fiber, low-fat, and mild in taste. Some examples include:

  • Baked, steamed, or grilled, chicken, fish, or tofu

  • Soups, broth-based (not creamy)

  • Plain cottage cheese or yogurt

  • Cooked vegetables (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans)

  • Cooked or poached fruit (no sugar added)

  • Bananas

  • Toast, oat bread, crackers, or rice cakes

  • Cream of wheat or rice, oatmeal, or grits

  • Pasta or rice

Help At Mealtime

Try these measures - they often help with nausea:

  • It’s better to have smaller amounts of food throughout the day. A full meal on an empty stomach can worsen nausea. The goal is to avoid feeling too hungry or too full 

  • Small amounts of certain foods (see above) may help relieve nausea and maintain your energy level

  • If the smell of food causes nausea, limit your time preparing food. Have prepared foods that don’t require cooking or ask someone else to help. Or, prepare meals in batches and keep them in the freezer

  • You may prefer cold or room temperature foods, as they tend to have less of a smell

  • Make sure your surroundings are comfortable - not too hot, etc.

  • Eat slowly and chew foods thoroughly

  • Keep your mouth clean - nausea (and vomiting) often leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth which may worsen your nausea. Brush and floss your teeth and rinse your mouth regularly and try sugar-free mints

  • Do not lie down flat for at least two hours after eating. It can worsen your nausea

Foods and Drinks To Avoid

The following types of foods often worsen nausea. It’s best to avoid:

  • Fatty, greasy foods such as fried foods, creamy soups, etc.

  • Sweets such as candy, cookies, rich desserts, etc.

  • Hot or spicy foods such as salsa, jalapeño peppers, etc.

  • Food with strong odors such as fermented foods, vinegar, sardines, cabbage, etc.

  • Caffeine-containing drinks such as energy drinks, coffee, tea, soda, etc.

  • Alcoholic drinks

Ginger

Ginger can help lessen nausea. Not only that, it boosts immune system functioning, reduces inflammation, and promotes better digestion. Try adding fresh ginger to your diet. Here are some ideas:

  • Add ginger to broths or soups

  • Boil fresh ginger in hot water to drink or add it to herbal teas

  • Chew on a thin slice of ginger a few minutes before each meal

  • Add fresh ginger to a smoothie or juice

  • Sprinkle grated ginger on top of rice or vegetable side dishes

Additional Suggestions: 

  • Essential oils may help relieve nausea. Try lemon or peppermint oil in a diffuser. (Warning: do not directly inhale the vapor from an oil diffuser or steam dispenser, as it can irritate your lungs) 

  • Vitamins, minerals, and other supplements may worsen nausea. Talk with your doctor or Goodpath coach if you have concerns