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Smart Eating: Move on, motion sickness

Smart Eating: Move on, motion sickness

Feeling nauseous can disrupt the loveliest of holidays or the most exciting of journeys. Here’s what you need to know about keeping this condition at bay.

Smart Eating: Move on, motion sickness

Motion sickness, or kinetosis, is common and often experienced at those times when excitement should prevail: in the car at the start of a holiday, or on an otherwise enjoyable boat ride to an island destination. For a large percentage of the population these otherwise positive moments are tainted by a general feeling of physical unease, which has the potential to progress to more serious symptoms.

Motion sickness occurs when the inner ear, eyes, and other areas of the body that detect motion send unexpected or conflicting messages to the brain. One part of your balance-sensing system (your inner ear, vision and sensory nerves that help you keep balance) may sense your body is moving, while the other parts do not sense motion.

Motion sickness is more common among women, particularly those who are pregnant or using hormonal contraceptives, and children between two and 12 years of age. People who suffer from migraines are also more likely to experience the condition, as is anyone with labyrinthitis, a disorder affecting the inner ear, which is responsible for the initial detection of movement.

Motion sickness varies from person to person and can occur while travelling in cars, boats or planes. The term car sickness or sea sickness defines the type of travel or motion that is causing the condition. Motion sickness is therefore identified based on a description of the symptoms and the circumstances in which they occur.

The onset of symptoms begins typically with a general feeling of uneasiness or nausea, often accompanied by sweating or dizziness. The face may become pale, with an inability to concentrate, which often leads to sleepiness. Other symptoms may include increased saliva production, a common prelude to vomiting, swallowing excessive air and even hyperventilation, which, if severe, may lead to fainting.

The secondary symptoms are more serious and are a result of the initial or primary symptoms. For example, nausea and vomiting make the person feel weak, while prolonged vomiting can lead to low blood pressure and dehydration.

Secondary symptoms are less common, as the primary symptoms tend to gradually subside when the motion stops or the person leaves the vehicle. On longer trips it is also common for those suffering from the condition to adapt to the motion and symptoms to subside.

Fear, anxiety, and poor ventilation tend to increase the likelihood of experiencing motion sickness. Keeping the nervous system strong and not weakening it with stimulants such as coffee or energy drinks while travelling can help keep the symptoms under control.

Overworked adrenal glands can be nourished by avoiding foods high in sugar and ensuring adequate sleep in the lead-up to long trips, as well as maintaining good levels of B vitamins and nourishing herbal remedies such as licorice.

Travelling on an empty stomach is best avoided; instead, try to consume small and light meals regularly.

As with any condition involving nausea, it is important to consume low-fat, bland foods. Foods high in fat can increase the gallbladder’s workload, adding to nausea if not digested well.

Strong-smelling or strong-tasting foods are also best avoided, as they can provoke an undesirable reaction when already feeling nauseous. Carminative teas that will help to soothe the digestive tract and ease nausea are good to take on any trips where motion sickness is likely to occur. (Carminative refers to a herb or preparation to prevent or relieve gas in the gastrointestinal tract.)

Eating protein is often recommended over consuming heavier foods high in carbohydrates, while consuming water regularly will help to reduce the chance of secondary dehydration.

Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting messages about movement.

This is thought to result in higher circulating levels of a hormone called vasopressin, along with disturbances in the normal movement of your stomach, termed gastric dysrhythmia. Both changes in the body have been strongly linked to nausea.

Although medication is one way to reduce kinetosis, some studies suggest the properties of ginger may assist. While not all research is conclusive, it has been hypothesised this root could help to block neuronal pathways responsible for involuntary stomach movement and prevent the release of vasopressin from the brain. Ginger can be blended into juice or a hot drink, or used in bread or biscuits.

What to eat & drink to alleviate motion sickness


A strong carminative, peppermint can be chewed fresh or made into tea for therapeutic refreshment. Caution should be taken if ulcers are present in the digestive tract, as peppermint can make ulcer-associated symptoms worse.

Chamomile Tea

Another carminative, this is great for settling an upset stomach. Chamomile tea is the ideal choice for travelling mug. It also relaxes the nervous system, keeping associated anxiety at bay. Swap for coffee for a nourishing tea.
To make chamomile tea, take 8-10 flowers, add to a cup of boiling water, cover and let steep for 7-10 minutes.


Staying hydrated will help prevent secondary symptoms such as dehydration. Swap sugary drinks for nature’s solution to thirst; this will reduce the damaging effects of sugar on the adrenal glands and nervous system.


This nutritious rhizome is the perfect travel snack to avoid motion sickness. Have it in any form: sliced fresh to make a tea in a travel cup or included in a fresh juice. Its carminative action helps ease discomfort in the digestive tract.


Fennel is known for its ability to aid digestion. Reducing the workload of the digestive system when motion sickness is anticipated will help reduce feelings of nausea. Try a light salad with strips of fresh fennel.

Protein Shake (Milk-Free)

Replace that high-carb roadside meal with a light source of protein. Make a shake with protein, berries and coconut water for extra hydration and a meal that won’t burden a sensitive digestive system.

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