Nothing ruins a long drive on a beautiful day faster than a bout of motion sickness and the nausea, dizziness, headaches, vomiting and sweating that tend to come along with it. And it’s not just driving that can set off these unpleasant symptoms: airplanes, boat rides, roller coasters — even video games are common triggers. So what causes motion sickness? And more importantly, what can you do to outsmart it? We talked to doctors for their best natural remedies for motion sickness.
Understanding the causes of motion sickness
Motion sickness occurs when there’s a disconnect between messages from your brain, which senses movement from changing scenery, and your body, which stays still in the car, explains explains Michelle Thompson, MD, who practices functional medicine in Coral Springs, Florida.
The condition is more common among women, and it can worsen with age, says Cindy Geyer, MD, a functional medicine physician at The UltraWellness Center. The reason? As we get older, the mechanisms in our ears that control balance and register motion become more rigid, so it’s more difficult to process changes in movement, resulting in nausea.
Natural remedies for motion sickness
Sure, you can take medication for motion sickness, but many people find they can actually worsen symptoms. Take Dramamine, for example. The antihistamine is known to cause symptoms like the dizziness you’re trying to treat! A better bet? These natural remedies to keep motion sickness at bay so you can get back to enjoying fun times.
Reach for hand sanitizer
Inhaling the scent of hand sanitizer relieves nausea better than prescription anti-nausea drugs, per a Georgetown University study. It turns out that the smell of isopropyl alcohol in ordinary sanitizer distracts your brain from shifts in movement, sights and sounds that throw your equilibrium off balance. (Click through to find out if hand sanitizer expires.)
Fill up on protein
Eating protein-rich foods before getting in the car can help ward off motion sickness, says Dr. Geyer. Researchers at Penn State University found that people who did so had up to 38% fewer symptoms, like excess salivation and stomach discomfort, than those who didn’t eat anything. They also felt less nauseous when motion sickness was induced. Why it works: Protein signals the body to secrete gastrin, a hormone that helps soothe an upset stomach. Dr. Geyer recommends eating a protein-rich snack like Greek yogurt 15 minutes before your departure to keep nausea at bay. Another great protein-rich snack? Proffee! Click through to see how protein coffee can help you lose weight.
The scent of lemons distracts the brain from the changing sights, and Austrian scientists say smelling the fruit — or its essential oil — eases queasiness for 73% of those who try it. To get the perks, take a whiff of lemon (squeeze the juice into your water bottle or simply keep a vial of lemon essential oil handy) when your stomach starts to churn. Brazilian scientists say its active ingredient, limonene, soothes stomach upset and calms the brain’s nausea center. the effect is so powerful that taking deep sniffs can ease even severe nausea in 60 seconds.
Popping a piece of gum helped volunteers in a study published in the journal Experimental Brain Research avoid nausea caused by virtual reality (VR) technology (scroll down for more on this ‘cybersickness’). In the study, subjects who chewed peppermint or ginger gum while completing a 15-minute helicopter flight using a VR headset experienced fewer headaches and less nausea during and after the game than those who didn’t chew gum. The researchers say chewing gum may help sync the movement signals from the eyes and body, preventing motion sickness.
Sip ginger ale
“When my family went on a boat trip in California, the choppy waters got to my son, leaving him feeling queasy,” recalls Detroit father-of-two Anthony Youn, MD, author of Younger for Life. To quell his son’s nausea, Dr. Youn offered him his favorite motion-sickness cure: a half cup of ginger ale containing real ginger. (A brand to try: GuS Soda Ginger Ale, buy on Amazon, $2.69)
“Ginger is believed to calm intestinal spasms and slow mobility, soothing the gastrointestinal tract,” explains Dr. Youn. After taking small sips for about 10 minutes, Dr. Youn’s son was back to smooth sailing. (Click through for more healing ginger drinks.)
Motion sickness makes you more likely to experience ‘cybersickness’
If you’re prone to motion sickness, you’re also more likely experience cybersickness, or feelings of nausea, dizziness or stomach upset after spending time on a computer, cell phone or other electronic device. Also known as virtual reality sickness, it’s caused by eyestrain and watching objects move on a screen, like when you scroll through pages. And it’s more common in women, according to researchers at Iowa State University. Study coauthor Jonathan Kelly explains, “Women reported experiencing more motion sickness and screen-based sickness than men, and this increased susceptibility is part of the reason that women experience more cybersickness.”
Fortunately, a few easy tweaks can help you avoid symptoms. Heather Moday, MD, director of the Moday Center in Philadelphia, advises taking a 5-minute break if you start to feel dizzy or nauseous during the day. Increasing font sizes and dimming the lighting on your electronics can help ease eyestrain, while using the arrow keys to scroll instead of a mouse can help you control how quickly items on the screen move. Finally, if possible, avoid watching videos where the picture changes rapidly and playing video games with constantly moving images, says Dr. Moday.
Looking for more healthy-travel advice? Keep reading!
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.