"Sorry honey, I don't feel well right now"
May 1, 2006 9:50 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is often slightly nauseous -- enough that it is affecting her quality of life. She doesn't want to go to the doctor. How can I help?

In addition to her constant battles with allergies and rare severe piercing headaches which could be related to this, I think she's also just very sensitive to food and stress. I've been trying to convince her to go see the doctor in case there's a more significant cause for her nausea and headaches, but she avoids it for fear of what she'll learn. We're working on it. So my first question is, how can I help my stong-willed girlfriend decide to see an allergist, and maybe a neurologist?

In the meantime -- and this is the more important question -- I'd like to find ways to help her feel better on a daily basis using less medicinal solutions. For example, when she feels slightly nauseous, she often feels better by chewing gum or eating ginger snaps. So, is there such a thing as ginger gum that I can get for her? Are there foods that I should encourage her to eat or avoid that might help her feel better more consistently? I'm so ignorant about all of this -- I've always been pretty healthy and don't know much about holistic medicine or nutrition. Any advice or anecdotal evidence is much appreciated.
posted by Jonasio to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If I were you, I wouldn't help her mask the symptoms a second longer.
posted by jon_kill at 9:54 AM on May 1, 2006

ahh. Ginger chews.

Trader Joe's has them and you can order them on line...

I swear by them!
posted by beccaj at 9:55 AM on May 1, 2006

Is she on birth control pills? Those often have the side effect of "mild" nausea. My doctor reccomended I take mine at night before bed specifically so I could sleep through it.
posted by aclevername at 9:57 AM on May 1, 2006

She really should go see her (a) doctor. What you describe sounds like classic migraine symptoms, which is treatable. But, she has to know what it is for sure and the only way this can be determined is by going to the doc.

Rather than offering to help her with her diet, etc., why not ask her which would be worse... learning exactly what's ailing her and finding a solution or living with her pain and naseau indefinitely.

Good luck.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 9:59 AM on May 1, 2006

First off, the word you want is "nauseated," not "nauseous." "Nauseous" means "inducing nausea," and I don't think your girlfriend makes other people want to throw up. Sorry, that's a peeve of mine, and I don't care what the descriptivists over at Webster have to say about it.

Back on track, you're in luck. There are plenty of good natural remedies for nausea and queasiness. Two of the most popular are ginger and peppermint oil, which would explain the success she's had with the cookies and gum in the past. A hot mug of peppermint tea will work wonders, and for a handy, on-the-go dispenser of peppermint oil, it's hard to beat good old Altoids. As for ginger, check your local Asian groceries for candied ginger root. It's an acquired taste, but it should do the trick.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:03 AM on May 1, 2006

that sort of daily nausea is often related to gastro-esophageal disease, the hip disease of the new millenium. if she doesn't want to try a maintenance medication, she can look into the surgical fix or she can make serious changes to her diet.

i only vaguely remember the list of foods to avoid, but the GERD diet eliminates fat (particularly animal fats, including cheese), coffee, carbonated drinks, citrus, chocolate, mint, tomato sauces or juices, pineapple, blck pepper, alcohol and smoking. smaller more frequent meals help, as does losing weight.

i know chewing ginger has always helped my pregnant friends with nausea. as mentioned above, trader joe's sells them. mint is absolutely counter-indicated for acid-tummy-related nausea. it makes it worse, as does chewing gum or sucking hard candy.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:05 AM on May 1, 2006

I had something very similar. Besides getting her to a doctor, I would recommend the following:

Drink no caffeine: no tea, no coffee, etc.
Drink 2 liters of water a day (yes 2 liters). A little lemon juice in it is good too.
Avoid alcohol
Avoid all spicy food, even if it doesn't make you sick or feel bad right away. I found over time it really contributed to my problems

These are all pretty obvious solutions, but the chances are, your girlfriend is not trying any of them. She may think they won't work, but it's worth a shot right?
posted by milarepa at 10:09 AM on May 1, 2006

She should see a doc, absolutely. But I will say that when I suffered bouts of stress-related stomach ailments what helped me was peppermint tea, hitting the gym and giving up lager and coffee.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:09 AM on May 1, 2006

More clarification:

She's early thirties. She's not on the pill. We got her off it several months ago to see if she would feel better. She prefers being off it, though.

Also, I should have mentioned that she does have a doctor, and in fact is on some strong anti-allergy medicines (I forget the brand) that help somewhat. But not enough -- and when the doctor tried prescribing steriods, she felt pretty unhappy about the potential side effects. She already takes about five pills a day, with her supplements and allergy pill. We've discussed her trying the shots several times, but she feels strongly that the discomfort and expense for 18 months wouldn't be worth an 80% probability of improvement.

She's a moderate believer in holistic medicine, and would be very open to holistic solutions, which is why I want to take this angle.

posted by Jonasio at 10:13 AM on May 1, 2006

Nausea is sort of a non-specific symptom. Unless of course, it's clearly in response to eating something that doesn't agree with you.

I only mention it because going in and complaining only of chronic nausea to the doctor will probably result in a discussion of depression (which might be appropriate -- you mentioned being sensitive to stress).

The headaches could be significant, possibly migraine or something worse. Are there any other symptoms at all? Is she taking anything else, prescription or otherwise that could cause nausea?

Yeah, ginger works pretty good, eating a bland, extremely low fat diet for a while might help. But I think the best idea is to establish a relationship with a doctor, but maybe a primary care physician would be a better starting place. Someone who knows the red flags that should generate a big (expensive) work up, who would know whether she needs a neurologist, a gastroenterlogist, or whatever. Also, it sounds like she should find someone who has a lot of experience with symptoms of anxiety (most primary care doctors actually) and is open to naturopathic and dietary treatments.

If she's somewhat averse to the idea of seeing a doctor, going straight away to a specialist may be less than ideal -- it would certainly result in a number of medical tests being performed and some prescriptions she may not be willing to take.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:15 AM on May 1, 2006

Ah, got your clarification after I was typing. (forgot to preview!) Hopefully my opinion wasn't totally worthless. :)
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:18 AM on May 1, 2006

It does sound a bit like migraines. When I had them (mostly gone now due to chiropractic care) I was always very nauseated. Still am when I get a very bad headache.

As far as preventative steps: be sure she's well hydrated (with water or juice, no soda, coffee, alcohol); be sure she's eating enough and getting enough sleep.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:21 AM on May 1, 2006

I found out when I stopped smoking that smoking had been the major nausea-cause. It depends what kind of nausea it is she has, but eating little snacks helps me. There are ginger candies in a little tin that I used to carry around with me, found them at Whole Foods.

About going to a doctor, tell her from me, who has been to a lot of doctors in my time, it is far more likely she will not find out much, or get much help, than it is that she will find out something terrible. But she should still go, and keep looking for doctors until she finds the right one. My mom has terrible migraines and had no life except pain until she found out about triptans (new migraine drug) online, rather than from her doctor... Now she has a pain doctor, lots of triptans and really powerful (and really expensive) anti-nausea meds (meant for chemo patients). She has her life back, as much as she can get it.

Good luck.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 10:24 AM on May 1, 2006

Has she worked on lessening her stress? It seems that's more or less the basis of holistic medicine -- things happening in one area of your life will affect other areas of your life. Yoga, other exercise, meditation, deep breathing exercises may all help; she may also want to look at larger lifestyle changes (quitting a stressful job; therapy to help deal with parental stressors; etc.) if that may be contributing.

I know you're asking a smaller question, but just making sure that she's leading a healthy balanced life with no overwhelming unrelenting stress points would be the first step toward a holistic solution. Otherwise, you're missing the mind/body unification underlying the idea of holistic medicine.

There may, of course, still be underlying medical issues that need to be treated, but looking at her life as a whole would be my first step, if she hasn't already done so.
posted by occhiblu at 10:38 AM on May 1, 2006

I think that migraines are a strong possibility, but with the sinus problems and allergies I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't have some sinus headaches as well. Get her on a good allergy medication. This probably doesn't mean Claritin (only vaguely effective for 25% of allergy sufferers) but instead something she can get via prescription. Most health insurance will pick up at least one effective allergy medication -- you just have to find what works best for you. I'd also recommend using decongestants in addition to just allergy medication since chronic congestion can make you end up with sinus infections -- trust me, I was there last year, be careful.

I understand that going to the doctor is often stressful and there's a lot of anticipation before a trip, but it's most likely the best option. If your "Check Engine" light comes on in your car, do you want to determine the cause or do you just wait for something to break? It's going to be a lot more costly and cause more damage to your car if, say, you were low on oil. I don't understand why your body should be any different, especially when your quality of life is considerably lower when it could (probably) be rectified with a prescription or professional advice.
posted by mikeh at 10:41 AM on May 1, 2006

First off, the word you want is "nauseated," not "nauseous."

Thank-you, F.O.B. I was about to make the same point. It's also a pet peeve.
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:49 AM on May 1, 2006

When my ulcer acts up, usually before finals, I have to make sure to cut out things like ketchup and eat a lot of bland stuff like toast, otherwise I get nauseated for an hour or two after I eat anything.

If she is "only" suffering from migraines, there are a lot of medications that work well for me.

I would think the key idea in "holistically" fixing migraines would be to realize a link between blood pressure fluctuations and migraines. Anything that will short-term fix the migraine but will screw with blood pressure should be out. This namely removes caffeine, an ingredient in many OTC headache medicine.
posted by adamwolf at 11:10 AM on May 1, 2006

How long has this been going on? Is the feeling of sickness associated with the pain and the allergy meds, or does she have times when her tummy is upset but her head feels ok?

I'm wondering if she has a food allergy of some kind -- many food allergies will produce a combination of upset tummy/digestive tract and also the production of excess mucus, which can lead to headaches or stuffy nose or sinus issues, etc. We have a friend who was recently (at the age of 40) diagnosed with an allergy to corn (lets hope its not that -- getting all the corn-based products out of your diet is a nightmare) and he had the same basic set of symptoms that you describe ... occasional awful headaches, general stuffy nose/sinus issues, and digestive troubles.

Might be something to talk with her allergist about.
posted by anastasiav at 11:39 AM on May 1, 2006

She doesn't want to go to the doctor. How can I help?

At the risk of being branded not helpful I will read this question literally and say: maybe by not helping her to come up with ways not to go to the doctor.

You say you're working on getting her to come around on this issue and I have faith in your overall judgment of her but are you sure you're not enabling this fear-based behavior when you help her come up with diagnosis and workarounds without a commitment from her to go see the doc?
posted by phearlez at 12:38 PM on May 1, 2006

Ginger Altoids
posted by nimsey lou at 1:03 PM on May 1, 2006

Don't let the obvious symptoms blind you to the not-so-obvious. My wife had similar symptoms, including the headaches, with the nausea graduating to where she couldn't keep anything down at all. X-rays, ultrasounds, etc. showed nothing wrong with her digestive tract but she got so weak she needed help walking from the bed to the bath.

In the nick of time, a gastroenterologist helped diagnose Addison's Disease.

I'm not saying that's what your girlfriend has, just that Occam's Razor ain't always right.
posted by trinity8-director at 1:46 PM on May 1, 2006

Purely anecdotal - but when I'm allergic and stuffy, the post-nasal drip makes me feel nauseated. For some reason, citrus juice of just about any kind makes me feel better.
posted by ferociouskitty at 2:01 PM on May 1, 2006

I'm going to say what phearlez said, but I'm not going to be as nice about it. Your girlfriend is acting like a complete idiot. I'm sure she's a very nice person and you love her, etc. etc. To show your support, please consider some of the following statements as responses to her whining that she's afraid of what she'll learn:

"How stupid of you."

"What an assinine way to look at the situation."

"Tomorrow, we're either breaking up, or you're making an appointment to see a doctor."

Yeah, yeah, I have a heart of stone, etc., but if she ends up getting a CAT scan that shows something requiring treatment, you'll be kicking yourself (or maybe just her).

Also, if you really are so unsure of which path to follow in terms of western medicine, there's no need to take a wild guess between, say, an allergist and a neurologist. Take her to an internist. Let the doctor draw some blood (no doubt she has a problem with that, TFB), do a complete workup, and have a talk with her about what the evidence says and maybe recommend some other specialist.
posted by bingo at 2:55 PM on May 1, 2006

Holistic remedies? If she knew what was or wasn't wrong, seeking out alternative treatments might make some sense. But as she has no idea what her health situation is, her herbs and spices won't help at all.

If you care about her, you'll get her to see a physician. If nothing is wrong, no harm done. If something is wrong, far better to have professional help and a handle on the situation than relying on superstition and ear candles.
posted by aladfar at 3:45 PM on May 1, 2006

Thanks to everyone for your support and ideas. I think I have enough to go on now that I can finally make some progress in this troubling problem.

Also, FOB, special thanks to you. My father was an English teacher, and I consider myself a very good communicator -- and I still had no idea that this was incorrect. Thanks for helping me sound a little less like a peasant.

Thanks MeFites!
posted by Jonasio at 3:58 PM on May 1, 2006

Oh goodness. I get nausea very often too, but no matter how many times I go to the doctor, they never find anything specifically wrong with me. (I have a tendency for gastritis, but nothing warranting an emergency)

I'll keep an eye on this thread. Thank you!
posted by divabat at 4:16 PM on May 1, 2006

Well, there are alot of diseases and allergies that are often either misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed. A friend was allergic to wheat gluten for quite some time and the doctors had no clue, while she suffered. Doctors are really the way to go with this. And i'll repeat the advice above, keep on going to a doctor untill you find one that works.
posted by Freen at 5:32 PM on May 1, 2006

I've been trying to convince her to go see the doctor in case there's a more significant cause for her nausea and headaches, but she avoids it for fear of what she'll learn.

You could tell the doctor this, and can discuss beforehand what your gf would like done with any information about diagnosis. This happens all the time in patients with various cultural practices that say a person should not know their diagnosis, that the family should decide the treatment, etc.
posted by gramcracker at 12:37 PM on May 2, 2006

Keep in mind that a doctor might not be able to fix it. I've had mild nausea for more than three years, and I've gone to several different specialists without anybody being able to come up with a solution.
posted by clarissajoy at 5:38 PM on May 2, 2006

Good news! Due to recent events, she's decided to go ahead with the visit to the allergist to talk about "the shots." But thanks to everyone who contributed here -- we have lots of information to make it easier for her.
posted by Jonasio at 5:00 PM on May 3, 2006

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