Nausea and vomiting have to be some of the most uncomfortable and debilitating symptoms that come with the intense pain of a migraine attack. While it usually ends in stage three, nausea can occur in any of the four stages of migraine. Researchers think nausea begins in the brain, stimulates our nervous system and causes our digestive process to dysfunction resulting in nausea. We’ll do anything to find migraine nausea relief, right? For the best success, you’ll want to treat it early, at the very first twinge of symptoms. Read on for 15 migraine nausea relief tips to help you manage this hideous symptom so you begin to feel more comfortable in no time. You will also learn why throwing up relieves migraine attacks for many of us. But let’s hope we can quell that icky feeling as soon as you notice it.
** While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor.
Why do migraines make you throw up?
Migraine nausea occurs in as many as 90% and vomiting occurs in nearly 70% of those with migraine disease. Like most migraine symptoms, doctor’s are still unsure exactly what’s happening in the body during a migraine attack that causes nausea & vomiting. So, the short answer is we’re not exactly sure why migraines make you throw up. It might be because the digestive process significantly slows down or even stops during a migraine attack. In addition to migraine making you throw up it can lead to constipation. Besides nausea and constipation, this slowing or stopping of the digestive process may also make it difficult for you to absorb your migraine medication.
It’s important to treat migraine nausea early and effectively.
No one nausea medication works perfectly for everyone to provide migraine nausea relief. Because some come with side effects, it’s important to talk openly with your doctor about trialing nausea medications to find the best fit for you. Treating migraine nausea early and aggressively is critical. The earlier you treat nausea the more likely your migraine nausea treatment of choice is to be effective. Thomas Berk, Medical Director of Neura Health wrote an amazing guest article discussing migraine nausea medication. Take a peek if you’d like to learn more.
Doctor Richard B. Lipton’s recent migraine nausea research study found that persistent nausea is associated with eventual progression of migraine disease. Meaning those with persistent nausea are more likely to progress from episodic to chronic migraine. Persistent nausea may also be a sign of a worsening response to the migraine treatment you’re using. If you’re experiencing frequent nausea alongside your attacks, reach out to your doctor for direction. Because when it comes to migraine nausea one thing is clear. The better we are at effective migraine nausea relief the more likely we’ll effectively keep our migraine attacks from worsening.
What helps with migraine nausea relief?
For most, what helps with nausea best are medications and there are many medications for migraine nausea relief available to choose from. But, medication is not the only migraine nausea relief strategy. There is also a lot you can do to boost medication, soothe nausea while you wait for medication to kick in or if you don’t have medication on hand.
Your doctor is always the best person to discuss medication recommendations. We will mention medications briefly, but the emphasis here will be on how to get rid of nausea and headache without or alongside your prescription. We polled our migraine community to learn the nausea relief treatments they reach for most often. Here are some of their strategies that help with migraine induced nausea worth trying.
1. Wondering what to eat when nauseous from migraine? Try warm foods and warm liquids
Remember we talked about how the digestive process slows down or stops during a migraine attack? This means fluids are often better tolerated when you’re nauseous. Broths and soups may be a good first step to soothe your queasy tummy. They also provide hydration and electrolytes, which are particularly important if you have been vomiting. Warm teas like chamomile, ginger, cinnamon and peppermint can also be an effective treatment strategy for migraine nausea relief.
Aside from fluids, you will want to know what to eat when nauseous from migraine. You probably won’t feel like eating much, but when you do try warm foods. Warm foods feel more soothing on the tummy as opposed to cold foods like salad which is harder to digest. Foods that are bland and easy to break down like mashed potatoes, rice noodles, scrambles eggs and dry foods like crackers and pretzels are often well tolerated too. The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) is a popular go to for nausea relief. This recipe for chicken and brown rice soup from the Dizzy Cook combines many of these soothing foods and includes protein which can help to normalize stomach activity. Be sure to stay upright for at least 30 minutes after eating to avoid making nausea symptoms worse.
2. Cool moving air, heat and light pressure on tummy
It’s unclear why cool, moving air helps to bring about migraine nausea relief, but for many of us it helps. Maybe because nausea often comes along with cold sweats, moving air just plain feels good. If you live in a cool climate open a window or step outside and let the cold air wash over you. If you live in a warm climate like I do in Florida, lower your air conditioning thermostat. Moving air helps with nausea and for me vomiting too. I use a small portable fan that plugs right into my cell phone for an instant breeze of migraine nausea relief anywhere, including if I happen to be hanging over a toilet. Seriously does vomiting make you instantly hot too?
Speaking of hot, many in our community reported using a heating pad on their tummies to relieve nausea. Adding heat to your tummy can increase blood flow to the area and aide in the movement of muscles and digestion helping to curb that slowing digestive process that happens during attacks. We often automatically hold and press our tummies when we’re nauseous. That’s because warmth and light pressure are soothing. I get similar relief from this weighted heating pad that works by applying similar warmth and pressure.
3. Ice for migraine nausea relief
Placing a cool compress on the back of your neck or across your wrists may help calm nausea. If you’re using an ice pack from the freezer, wrap it in a hand towel before applying it directly to your skin. I really love cold products made specifically for migraine relief like this cold wrap made by Huggaroo. And this Ice Halo and Ice Towel from Koldtec. Use code MIGRAINESTRONG to receive $10 off your purchase.
I often reach for a soft cold compress for my forehead or an ice roller that can be used to massage the tension out of my neck during attacks. The roller stays cold for more than an hour and won’t freeze your hand while you’re using it. A flexible gel neck wrap can provide cooling relief to keep you from getting those nausea cold sweats as well. So ice for your face, head or neck and heat for your tummy are nausea relief strategies worth trying. Cold washcloths for nausea have been used for generations long before we had all these nice products. Grandma knew what helps with nausea.
I’m not saying migraine nausea relief is mind over matter, but the more you focus on it the worse it feels. Many members of our migraine community use distraction to manage migraine attacks. Try to shift your focus away from the queasiness. Binge on your favorite television show, engage in a creative activity or sit outside and focus on nature. Try activities that don’t require lots of movement like rock painting, needlepoint, crocheting etc. I have a friend who sits in his backyard and photographs the birds. Creative experiences take up so much room in the brain it’s difficult to focus on nausea or pain. Changing your focus really can help provide relief.
5. Tips for hydrating when nauseous
Hydration is important especially if nausea escalates from feeling like you’re going to throw up to actually doing it. We know it’s annoying to be told to drink water, but there is so much information available on migraine and dehydration it’s impossible to ignore. Dehydration can make migraine attacks worse and create dry heaves if you do get to the point of vomiting. Some find room temperature water easier on the tummy than drinking it cold. Sports drinks like Gatorade, Pedialyte or Smart Water can help replenish lost electrolytes after repeated vomiting. Using a water bottle is a great way to keep track of your daily water intake & avoid dehydration. I am currently using this motivational water bottle from HydroMATE.
Some people find fizzy drinks help to relieve migraine nausea while for others fizzy drinks make their nausea worse. You’ll want to slowly test fizzy drinks for yourself. Adding a splash of tart cherry juice to water or fizzy water improves that taste and is also said to help ease pain. I use RW Knudsen brand because there are no added migraine triggers hiding in there. Cherries is their only ingredient.
6. Mindfulness, being still and deep breathing
Calming your mind can help in relieving uncomfortable tummy feelings. Limiting motion was a popular mention in our nausea relief poll. Deep breathing while being still is a mindfulness technique that works especially well for nausea. Sit upright, breathe in slowly through your nose, hold your breath for several seconds and slowly breathe out. Repeat several times until nausea subsides.
Inhaling peppermint while practicing the above technique can provide migraine nausea relief as well. Quease Ease by Soothing Scents is a blend of essential oils made to specifically target nausea. This is also the perfect time for you to reach for your favorite relaxation app like Calm or Headspace. If you’re a visual person a deep breathing exerciser can help you to visually see if you’re on the right track and give your brain more to focus on.
Seabands elastic wristbands and Blisslets stylish bracelets (save 15% with promo code MIGRAINESTRONG15) work because of a plastic knob sewn into the inside of the wrist-band which puts pressure on and stimulates the P6, or Nei-Kuan, acupressure point. Placing pressure on this point is said to relieve nausea and vomiting. If you don’t have these bands available, try placing your thumb on your inner wrist about two inches down and apply gentle pressure. This thumb press is a treatment used by one of the world’s most prominent cancer centers to help with nausea.
8. Ginger for nausea
I’m telling you ginger for migraine relief knows no bounds. This one of our most popular migraine nausea natural treatment options. Ginger is gastric calming which helps to ease nausea and vomiting. There are loads of options and forms to try including ginger spice, fresh ginger root, ginger tea, ginger chews or Pure Encapsulations ginger capsules and more. This warming spice gives migraine a one two punch by helping to abort pain as well as the nausea that comes with it. Along with Pure Encapsulations, Gaia Herbs Ginger Supreme is the one I reach for most often but it was not available at the time of publication. Here are some ginger nausea relief drops you may like by the same brand.
Here are more great migraine safe ginger options suggested by our community. When using ginger herbal tea find one with ginger as it’s only ingredient. Yogi ginger tea was a popular mention. These rescue chewable tablets and Gin Gins ginger chews by The Ginger People are a soothing migraine nausea remedy that was mentioned often. If you find relief with ginger search that brand in Amazon as they make many other yummy and effective products. Natural Organic Ginger Tummy Drops are helpful for many as well.
Does ginger ale help with headaches?
Yes and no. To get the benefit of ginger, the beverage should actually have real ginger in it. Some do and some don’t so you have to read the labels. The most popular ginger ales have a miniscule amount of ginger extract. However, there are some smaller brands that have real ginger root in them. You can sometimes feel the relief of the spicy heat when it’s there.
But, headache and nausea relief may occur after a nice cold glass of ginger ale due to other factors like getting much needed hydration, possibly correcting low blood sugar, the fizzy nature and/or the placebo effect. I don’t know about you, but if my nausea goes away and someone thinks it’s the placebo effect, the intervention was still a migraine nausea remedy in my book. While we have never done a formal poll in our Migraine Strong Facebook Group, I’ll bet most people would say yes, ginger ale helps with headaches and nausea. On a side note, we have an awesome Instagram community as well. Check it out if you’re there.
9. Peppermints & essential Oils
Peppermint is a well documented Ayurvedic remedy for migraine nausea. Peppermint & ginger were by far the most popular nausea relief poll answers we received from our community. As another gastric calming herb, eating peppermint or drinking it in the form of tea can relieve migraine nausea symptoms. Old fashioned peppermint candies help ease nausea for some people. These awesome peppermints are made locally in Florida where I live and are so popular in my area they can even be found in many nearby cancer treatment centers & hospital gift shops. An unexpected nausea relief product in my toolkit is Erbaviva Organic Quease Ease Lip Balm. I received it in a subscription box and so far really like it.
Peppermint essential oil can be used as a migraine nausea remedy by rubbing peppermint oil on your temples or behind your ears. Just smelling peppermint can be helpful too. Run a bit of peppermint oil roller ball under your nose or use this peppermint oil in your essential oil diffuser to feel its benefits. I use my cell phone fan linked above after applying peppermint oil under my nose. Cooling migraine roller balls by Forces of Nature are not only comforting during attacks, they helps provide migraine nausea relief too. Use code NatureMS19 for 20% off your purchase.
10. Isopropyl alcohol pads
This lesser known migraine nausea relief tip is backed by a tiny research study. Two trials with about 200 adults found inhaling (smelling) isopropyl alcohol improved mild to moderate nausea and vomiting. Just hold the alcohol pad in the palm of your hands and take a breath through your nose every two minutes for a maximum of three inhalations. This is an inexpensive and easy way to find fast relief.
11. Over the counter medication
There are many over the counter medications available to help manage migraine nausea symptoms. When tummies start gurgling our community mentioned using, Tums, Dramamine, Bonine, meclizine or Benadryl for migraine nausea relief. Remember these medications are for short term use. Vitamin B6 has also been used effectively to relieve nausea. As always, consult your doctor even when thinking of trying over the counter medications or supplements especially if symptoms persist.
12. Prescription medication for migraine nausea relief
Prescription medications can also be valuable tools. Members of Migraine Strong mentioned Zofran, Reglan, Phenegran, Compazine and more. There is a wonderful bonus with these anti-nausea meds – they do double duty as migraine abortives. That’s right – they not only help with nausea, they help with migraine headache.
Benzodiazepines like valium can also be prescribed to those with vestibular migraine as a rescue drug to kick out dizziness and relieve vestibular migraine nausea. There is a lot of talk in vestibular groups that taking these medications will prevent your brain from compensating for daily dizziness, but one of the leading vestibular migraine doctors in the U.S., Doctor Hain, says he hasn’t seen a single patient fail to compensate when using benzos when low dose and short term. Not all benzos are recommended though. Check out his informative article for more information. Benzos should be used short term to prevent dependence/addiction issues. If you haven’t already, plan to discuss a migraine nausea rescue plan with your doctor during your next visit.
CBD may help reduce that crummy nauseous feeling. (Some even reported relief from medical marijuana.) I often reach for Lord Jones brand or Primal Botanical which is the loveliest CBD small business owned by a nurse with migraine. She makes a variety of CBD oils, rubs and soaks. You can receive 10% off your purchases from Primal Botanical with code STRONG10. Join the Facebook group Migraine Buds Chat to learn more about the benefits of CBD on migraine nausea relief.
14. The Allay Lamp
If you haven’t read my experience using the Allay Lamp, you really must. This little delightful green lamp development through migraine research is the most effective strategy I have used to relieve nausea and vomiting with my migraine attacks. It doesn’t abort my attacks, but turns down the pain just enough that I haven’t thrown up even once since using it. That means this little lamp could help prevent my attacks from progressing from episodic to chronic.
I know, gross right? But if you are really feeling the urge, don’t fight or try to suppress it because there’s really only one solution. Sometimes, it’s the only way to make the symptom go away completely. Just be sure to replenish your fluids afterwards. It’s especially important to rehydrate in the days following migraine nausea and vomiting. It may be the perfect time to try that celery juice everyone raves about because it’s so hydrating. It’s literally a tall drink of water (94%) with natural electrolytes that help our bodies maintain a balance of fluids.
Why does throwing up relieve migraines?
Doctor’s don’t know exactly why throwing up relieves migraine headaches. Seems like we say that a lot when it comes to migraine symptoms right? There are several theories why throwing up relieves migraine attacks though. The most prevalent theory is that vomiting stimulates the vagus nerve. Your vagus nerve runs from your brain to your gut. The act of vomiting may be enough to stimulate that nerve resulting in the end of pain.
Remember that slowed digestive process we mentioned? Another theory suggests vomiting may be the end of that process. Vomiting associated with the end of the digestive slowing process may mark the end of your migraine attack. A third theory is that vomiting sends messages (via neurotransmitters) to your brain that announce the end of an attack.
Know when to see your doctor for migraine nausea relief.
When you have persistent nausea with your migraine attacks it can be difficult to take medication to abort it if that medicine needs to be swallowed. Talk openly with your doctor about this concern. Several medications are available in injectable, nasal spray, patch, eyedrops (Timolol) and suppository forms for use when you can’t keep anything down. If your nausea is accompanied by new symptoms, lasts more than two days, is frequent with your attacks or results in dehydration, contact your doctor for direction.
It’s important to remember that these are tips and tricks for managing nausea are personal treatment strategies used by migraine patients. Tips were gathered by poll results from members of Migraine Strong.
While throwing up can relieve a migraine attack, never intentionally induce vomiting. Always talk with your doctor before trying any medical treatment strategy, medication or supplement.
This article has been updated and refreshed.