- 12 remedies to combat motion sickness
- Types of food to eat and avoid to prevent motion sickness
- Breathing techniques that can ease motion sickness
- Symptoms of motion sickness
- Can motion sickness be cured?
How to Prevent Motion Sickness in Athletes
Motion sickness is one of the most common yet complex syndromes that many athletes and regular individuals experience. The sickness responses to either real or perceived motion, so the triggers can be physical or psychological.
Athletes prone to motion sickness may find it hard to work out properly and ultimately improve their athletic skills. Fortunately, there are various short-term and long-term solutions to prevent and ease motion sickness while doing sports or physical activities.
Here are 12 remedies against motion sickness to help you find relief and focus on your athletic goals:
Avoid A Heavy Meal Before Doing A Physical Activity
If you’re very prone to motion sickness even with small movements, completely avoid eating a heavy meal before physical activity—training or competition. Eat small portions of meals instead. Alternatively, you can eat a full-course meal hours before training or competition and just drink a lot of water or clear liquids afterward.
Undigested heavy meals can make you feel nauseous or experience other unpleasant sensations in your stomach. You’ll get dizzier if your stomach experiences digestive problems. Worse, you may suffer from unexpected vomiting.
Drink Lots of Water
As mentioned, aim to stay hydrated to prevent the symptoms of motion sickness. During physical activity—like training or competitions, drink small sips of water to keep you hydrated. Other clear liquids with high electrolyte content but have less sugar and low acidity can also help. The flow of water in your stomach can prevent or ease nausea and the urge to vomit.
Know The Types of Food To Eat and Avoid
Aside from the amount of food you consume, also take note of the type of food you eat. Avoid ingestion of caffeine, alcohol, as well as greasy, acidic, and spicy food, and food high in histamine content. Eliminate all these from your pre-workout or competition nutrition plan. These types of food can easily upset the stomach and trigger motion sickness. For reference, here are the most common types of food to avoid and eat if you have motion sickness.
Food To Remedy Motion Sickness
- Ginger (in meals, snacks, or beverages)
- Crackers or toasts
- Chicken Broth
- Herbal tea
- Boiled eggs
- Plain yogurt
Food To Avoid When Having Motion Sickness
- Alcoholic drinks
- Citrus drinks with high acidic content
Among all the aforementioned types of food to eat, ginger is the most recommended natural remedy for motion sickness. It can prevent or treat mild to moderate motion sickness because of its beneficial effects on stomach problems.
“Ginger effectively reduces nausea, tachygastric activity, and vasopressin release induced by circular vection. In this manner, ginger may act as a novel agent in the prevention and treatment of motion sickness,” confirmed one study published in the National Library of Medicine.
Add Effective Distractions
You can add external or mental distractions that won’t affect your athletic performance to combat motion sickness, such as listening to music or a podcast or striking conversations with fellow athletes or trainees—anything to keep your mind off all the unpleasant feelings brought about by motion sickness. Effective distractions can help you forget about motion sickness and focus on the task at hand.
Add More Motion and Vibration
Adding more physical motion and vibration to your training or competition can help relieve motion sickness. Many studies across the globe have proven the effect of vibration in managing motion sickness.
One study published in the Journal of Vestibular Research proved that introducing high-frequency vibration and metal distraction to motion-sick individuals can help reduce motion sickness:
“Sickness due to low-frequency motion can be reduced by adding a high-frequency vibration and by mental distraction. The effect of vibration can be understood by assuming an internal model used by the central nervous system to optimize the control of body motion,”
Control Your Breathing
More studies are still being conducted to answer the question of whether or not controlled breathing can prevent motion sickness. Scientists and other relevant experts are still experimenting on various types of controlled breathing to find out which of them can actually prevent motion sickness.
The most recommended types of breathing to prevent motion sickness are diaphragmatic breathing and paced breathing. The former, which is also called belly breathing, involves fully utilizing the stomach, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm when breathing. Here, you pull your diaphragm down when you breathe inward to help the lungs get more air. Paced breathing, meanwhile, is deep and slow controlled breathing. Both inhalation and exhalation should be controlled. Normal breathing takes about 12 to 14 breaths per minute, but paced breathing should only take 5 to 7 breaths per minute.
Scientists have yet to discover if diaphragmatic breathing, paced breathing, and other types of controlled breathing can fully prevent motion sickness, but relevant studies already confirmed that they can somehow ease the sickness or increase the tolerance of the subject.
“There was overall habituation with stimulus repetition, shown by an increase in tolerance for motion, a reduction in symptoms, and speeded recovery times on retesting. There was a tendency for greater habituation with controlled breathing,” said a study published in one of SAGE Publishing’s journals.
Lessen Sickness Through Exposure
Try what experts call “desensitization therapy”, a treatment technique used to modify the sensitivity of a subject to particular stimuli. In this case, the subjects are athletes prone to motion sickness, while the stimuli are the various triggers of motion sickness.
Desensitization therapy may or may not work as individuals have different triggers and tolerance levels, but it can help minimize motion sickness. There’s no harm in trying, but you need to expose yourself to an unpleasant situation for a short period of time and undergo a trial-and-error process.
To experiment, expose yourself to short activities that mostly cause the symptoms of motion sickness. It could be running, cycling, swimming, or other sports and physical activities that always get you dizzy and nauseous when others usually don’t. Aim to reach a five-minute interval over several sessions, then increase it to 10 minutes if you think your tolerance level is improving. Over time, your body may get used to it. You may notice a reduction in motion sickness. If in time, however, you see no progress, it’s best to halt the desensitization therapy and look for other natural alternatives. Don’t force the process to be successful and repeatedly expose yourself to motion-sickness triggers if there is no progress.
Avoid Smoking Before Doing Physical Activities
In case you occasionally or frequently smoke, aim to lessen or stop your smoking sessions when you train, compete, or do other sports activities. If you don’t smoke, refrain from having physical or near-contact with smokers before you do physical activities to prevent smoke inhalation.
Various studies have confirmed that smoking tobacco can worsen the symptoms of motion sickness. Apparently, the chemical composition of cigarettes can cause dizziness to some people.
One study published in Karger journal stated that smoking has a negative influence on individuals prone to motion sickness: “Smoking tobacco had a negative influence on the symptoms of motion sickness, tolerance to motion sickness was aided by short-term smoking deprivation.”
Another controlled experiment published in the US National Library of Medicine revealed that smoking deprivation, even short-term, can ease the symptoms of motion sickness to some individuals: “Tolerance to motion sickness was aided by short-term smoking deprivation, supporting Hypothesis (i) but not Hypothesis (ii). The effect was approximately equivalent to half of the effect of an anti-motion sickness drug. Temporary nicotine withdrawal perioperatively may explain why smokers have a reduced risk for postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV).”
Get Fresh Air
If you’re training or doing physical activities indoors or in areas with low air circulation, try to get some fresh air. Go in an open area where you can mostly see a static environment and get access to fresh air. The static surrounding can help you focus on something other than the dizzying motion of your physical activities, while the blow of the wind or fresh air can lessen the urge to feel nauseous or vomit.
If you don’t have access to an open area, open a window or a door. Alternatively, you can also consider using a clean fan to blow air on your face. The key is to get as much fresh and clean air as possible.
Take Medicine for Motion Sickness
If nothing seems to be working, consider taking medicine for motion sickness. Some medicine can be purchased over the counter, while others require a prescription, depending on the country you’re in. The latter may be an option for individuals with severe motion sickness.
There are two main types of medicine you can take for motion sickness; they are also the safest. The first is antihistamines, which can be a prescription and over-the-counter medicine, depending on the dosage and brand. The major brands available in the market are Cyclizine (Marezine) and Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine). It’s best to consult a medical professional to know which type of antihistamine you should get based on your triggers, symptoms, and tolerance level.
The second one is scopolamine, also one of the most commonly prescribed medications to treat and prevent motion sickness. Aside from the common symptoms of motion sickness, scopolamine can also decrease gastrointestinal secretions and motility and control the secretion of saliva and sweat. The medicine prevents motion sickness through its anticholinergic effects, so scopolamine mostly comes in adhesive transdermal patches or topical medication. You may also find oral scopolamine in some countries.
Other pharmacological experts and doctors are also investigating other agents for the treatment of motion sickness, such as sympathomimetics (e.g., d-amphetamine and ephedrine), antiemetics, benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants, and even tricyclic antidepressants. You may ask your doctor if any of these medications can help your symptoms and get a prescription.
Wear Acupressure Bands
Aside from medicine, you can also purchase another scientifically-proven innovation to prevent motion sickness. You can seek help from technology and ease motion sickness through acupressure bands.
Acupuncture and acupressure are effective in stopping nausea and vomiting. Wearable acupressure bands can provide pressure in your wrist and calm the symptoms of motion sickness as long as you’re wearing one and in motion.
The FDA-approved brand Sea-Band from the US is one of the best-selling and most studied acupressure brands for motion sickness. Sea-Band is marketed as soft, comfortable, and flexible bands against motion sickness for adults, children, and even pregnant women.
According to a peer-reviewed publication backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), “the healing principle behind Sea-Band acupressure wristbands is the ancient Chinese art of acupressure, exerting constant pressure on the PC6 (or Neiguan) acupressure point on the inner wrist. The gentle, continuous stimulation causes the nervous system to release chemicals that help trigger the body’s natural healing abilities and control nausea.”
Symptoms of Motion Sickness
You can immediately prevent severe motion sickness, seek help, and try natural and chemical solutions if you know the symptoms. Travelers or people prone to motion sickness commonly show most or all of the following symptoms:
- Dry Heaving / Retching
- Excessive Sweating (mostly cold sweat)
- Cold sweats
- Excessive salivation
- Odor sensitivity
- Loss of appetite and motivation
- Migraine / regular headache
- Warm sensation
Can Motion Sickness Be Cured?
Unfortunately, motion sickness is a common sickness that cannot be permanently cured. But science won’t stop there, so there are still ongoing studies seeking to find a permanent cure for motion sickness. At the moment, individuals prone to motion sickness can utilize standard behavioral and pharmacological interventions to ease and prevent the symptoms.
Additionally, most types and symptoms of motion sicknesses are not alarming and can be treated with the aforementioned solutions. “The majority of individuals with motion sickness have mild to moderate symptoms that are self-limited. Once the triggering motion ceases, symptoms often resolve entirely within 24 hours,” confirmed a study published by the US National Library of Medicine.
Motion sickness affects a lot of athletes and even regular individuals. Motion sickness is usually triggered by land, air, and sea travel, but many athletes also experience it through various physical activities.
Symptoms of motion sickness typically go away when the subject is no longer in motion. It can also be self-treatable—through natural or chemical means. However, medical experts recommend seeing a doctor if you repeatedly experience severe motion sickness or if symptoms persist long after the end of travel or physical activity.