How To Prevent + Treat Nausea, Naturally: A Functional Medicine Perspective

Pharmaceutical Overload: Why You Might Not Need That Prescription Dr. Will Cole

We are all familiar with the feeling of nausea. What starts as a sour stomach can leave you hovering over the toilet vomiting up your latest meal – an unpleasant description for an equally unpleasant situation. A virus, motion sickness, or food poisoning are all factors that can cause you to sprint to the bathroom. But what is nausea exactly?

You’d be surprised the amount of science behind queasiness. My inner nerd could write a whole book on this sensation. Your body is an intricate web with all of your systems interwoven each designed to complete a specific tasks toward one common goal: to keep you healthy. So, here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about preventing and treating this health woe:

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The Cause

Nausea is your body’s way of letting you know that something isn’t quite right or normal and it needs to be addressed. Many things can trigger nausea such as medications, migraines, viruses, toxins, and pregnancy.

1. Central nervous system

Your entire nervous system is made up of two parts, one being the central nervous system (CNS) which includes your spinal cord and brain. It is responsible for taking in information and overseeing the activity of the different systems in the body. Migraines, seizures, strokes, or tumors are all disruptions to the CNS and can trigger (1) nausea.

2. Peripheral nervous system

Every nerve that is outside of your spinal cord and brain is considered part of your peripheral nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is a smaller subset within this system and is in charge of all the internal organs including the digestive system. Hence, the feeling of queasiness.

3. Chemoreceptor trigger zone

The chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) is responsible telling your body’s vomiting center to communicate with the autonomic nervous system that vomiting needs to start happening. Because it is located outside of the blood-brain barrier, toxins and bacteria are immediately detected. Vomiting is your body’s way of getting rid of these before they can do even more damage to your body.

4. Vestibular system

Your inner ear plays host to your vestibular apparatus which controls your balance. When you experience motion sickness it is believed to be a result of a mismatch between your visual and vestibular system. If you have trouble reading while in a car it’s because your inner ear knows that you are moving but your eyes think you are sitting still. Studies have shown (2) that incidences of motion sickness increase with less visibility. So instead of reading during your road trip turn up the radio and enjoy the scenery.

The Treatment

Some things like migraines and food poisoning you have no control over. But what about motion sickness? Try some of my favorite ways for prevent and relieve your symptoms:

1. Look ahead

Put down your book or phone, focus on the world outside your window, and enjoy the ride. Call shotgun and sit in the front seat to keep your eyes looking forward. This can help create less confusion between your inner ear and eyes.

2. Pressure points

Accupressure uses pressure on certain points on your body to relieve symptoms. It is similar to acupuncture but without puncturing the skin with needles. Pericardium 6 is a point located on the wrist and has been shown (3) to help relieve and prevent nausea. In fact, there are specialty bands designed to put pressure on this point and can be worn throughout the day.

3. Ginger

The use of this spice can be traced back thousands of years to treat digestive problems and nausea with the studies (4) to back up the effectiveness of its popularity.

4. Aromatherapy

Your essential-oil-obsessed are on to something! They help with a variety of different health problems, nausea included. Hospitals even use aromatherapy to reduce nausea (5) for recovering surgery patients. Peppermint, lemon, and ginger are great options together, or combined to diffuse at home or in the car with a car diffuser.

5. CBD oil

Don’t worry, this will not get you high! CBD refers to the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol that this oil is made of. By taking this orally it activates the monoamine neurotransmitter, 5-hydroxytryptamiine-1A (5-HT1A) which can reduce (6) nausea.

Even though nausea is never fun you can take comfort in knowing that your body is functioning the way it is supposed to by alerting you to a problem. However, if nausea is common and doesn’t go away it can be a sign of a bigger problem that needs to be looked at more closely.

If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.

Photo: Stocksy


  1. Kuo B., Singh P. (2017) Nausea and Vomiting Related to the Central Nervous System Diseases. In: Koch K., Hasler W. (eds) Nausea and Vomiting. Springer, Cham
  2. Turner M, Griffin MJ. Motion sickness in public road transport: passenger behavior and susceptibility. Ergonomics. 1999;42(3):444‐461. doi:10.1080/001401399185586
  3. Genç F, Tan M. The effect of acupressure application on chemotherapy-induced nausea, vomiting, and anxiety in patients with breast cancer. Palliat Support Care. 2015;13(2):275‐284. doi:10.1017/S1478951514000248
  4. Lete I, Allué J. The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy. Integr Med Insights. 2016;11:11‐17. Published 2016 Mar 31. doi:10.4137/IMI.S36273
  5. Hunt R, Dienemann J, Norton HJ, et al. Aromatherapy as treatment for postoperative nausea: a randomized trial. Anesth Analg. 2013;117(3):597‐604. doi:10.1213/ANE.0b013e31824a0b1c
  6. Parker LA, Rock EM, Limebeer CL. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1411‐1422. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01176.x

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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

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Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.

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