ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Sweet lemonade and salty potato chips normally are not part of a healthy diet, but a researcher said Tuesday they can help relieve pregnant women suffering from 'morning sickness.'
Dietician Miriam Erick of Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston told the American Dietetic Association meeting that identifying the kinds of tastes a woman craves is one way to combat this common side effect of pregnancy.
Erick also tests sensitivity to non-food factors, because sometimes nausea during pregnancy is triggered by 'something completely unrelated to food' such as odors, motion, reading or a patient's own saliva, she said.
'People who are nauseous can't eat or drink, so I'm trying to put something in their stomach and drive their thirst. Sometimes what works are potato chips because they're solid and salty and make you thirsty,' she said, adding that one patient kept wanting cake, French toast and root beer.
The women are asked to identify appealing food characteristics such as wet or dry, warm or cold, smooth or lumpy, salty, sweet or sour. Based on the answers, Erick tries to break the eating-nausea-vomiting cycle of morning sickness.
'Sometimes people are shocked that my patients are eating so-called junk food, but lemonade and potato chips have more folic acid than ginger ale and saltines,' said Erick.
They also make women thirsty so they will drink water, which is important to end dehydration that can threaten a fetus, she said.
And, she does not use healthy food to break the nausea because that might make a woman spurn it after recovery.
'Getting sick on it can cause a woman to avoid that food for years,' Erick said.
Morning sickness is nausea commonly occurring in the first 17 weeks of pregnancy. More than 55,000 women are hospitalized each year for treatment of it.
In extreme cases, morning sickness makes women severely ill.