The Hyperemesis Gravidarum Diet: How to Eat When You Can’t Eat

Is it even possible to eat while suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum?

The answer is… SORT OF.  With the right hyperemesis gravidarum diet, you may be able to maintain enough nutrition to get you through those 9 long months. Persistent nausea and vomiting makes eating the last (but also the only) thing on a pregnant woman’s mind.  She wants to eat, she wants to eat SO badly!  But she also doesn’t want to eat because eating would mean vomiting and she really… REALLY… doesn’t want to vomit anymore.

Here are 4 extreme tips for how to eat when you can’t eat due to hyperemesis gravidarum. 
The Hyperemesis Gravidarum Diet
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The Hyperemesis Gravidarum Diet How to Stay Nourished with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

The following tips may sound very extreme, but that’s what hyperemesis gravidarum is.  It’s not just a bit of nausea – it’s an actual inability to eat food without vomiting it back up again… for months on end.  Eating sounds impossible, but with a few strategic tips – it’s entirely possible to avoid being fed through a tube.

Tip #1: Accept thy curse

The first trick in the hyperemesis gravidarum diet is to accept the fact that nothing you eat will stay down.  However, you will need to find ways to get nutrients into your body in order for you and your baby to survive, and reduce the need to be hospitalized and fed through a tube.  The sooner you can accept the fact that you’re in this for the entire pregnancy, the less chance you have of risking a hospital stay.

    • Accept that you will feel like crap every single day of your pregnancy until the day that baby pops out of you and not one second before.
    • Don’t expect to feel better after vomiting as if you just ate some bad shrimp.
    • Accept that no home remedy for morning sickness will help you, despite numerous people telling you otherwise.
    • Don’t count down the days until the end of the first trimester expecting it to go away.
    • Accept that you are strong enough to do this and that the benefits will greatly outweigh the struggle in the end.
    • Don’t tell others that you are fine when you are clearly suffering.  Tell them how to help you.
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Tip #2: Every Second Counts

Don’t avoid eating altogether, just because you know that it’s going to come back up again.  The process of digestion begins as soon as we put food into our mouths.  From there, nutrients are absorbed through the esophagus, stomach and intestines. Therefore, if you can keep something down for just a few minutes, then it’s better than nothing at all.

When choosing foods for your hyperemesis gravidarum diet, there are a few important characteristics to look for.
Fast Absorption

Liquids absorb faster than solids.  Electrolyte drinks can help battle dehydration or you can try making your own if you find them too sugary.  Fresh made juices, smoothies or clear broth are another good option.  Try to avoid drinking plain water (see Tip #3).

Highly Nutritious

Try to go as healthy as possible.  Meal replacement drinks, fresh made juices or vegetable soup have all the good stuff without the junk, because you don’t have any time to waste.  There are several specific vitamins and minerals worth focusing on. 

Smooth Texture

If it goes down easy – it will come up easy.  It may seem disturbing to have to choose a food based on what it will be like coming back up, but that is exactly what you will need to do to survive HG.  Contrary to popular belief, things like sweet, juicy fruit like apples, berries and melons may not be the best option.  The natural fruit juices get absorbed very quickly leaving the pulp behind which is extremely unpleasant coming back up.  If you absolutely must have fruit, then blend it into a juice or smoothie first.

Curdle Factor

Yet another disturbing characteristic, consider which foods will curdle in your stomach before they make a re-appearance.  I craved milk (and cereal) during my pregnancies and it was extremely unpleasant coming back up in chunks.  Most dairy-based items will be the same and can cause even more disturbances on an upset stomach.  Clear fluids are the better option.

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Tip #3: Avoid Water

Whaaaaaa….????

I know this sounds counter-productive for someone who is battling dehydration.  But plain, old-fashioned water is one of the hardest things to drink with hyperemesis gravidarum.  Water can actually induce vomiting when you have an extra sensitive stomach, especially after eating. Hydration is an important part of the hyperemesis gravidarum diet, so you need to find other ways to stay hydrated.

Some plain water alternatives to try:

Natural mineral water. The bubbles can either help or make it worse but there’s only way to find out.  Try a flavored water (like citrus) to see if it appeals to you.

Coconut water. Try it both cold and at room temperature to see which you prefer, as this can change the flavor.

Popsicles. Anything frozen will melt slowly which is better than having lots of liquid go straight into your stomach.  Aim for fresh fruit ones instead of sugar loaded flavors.  

Ice chips. If all else fails and you’re not able to keep down any liquids at all, then sucking on ice chips is one way to stay hydrated.

It sounds extreme but it’s not at all unusual for a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum to be unable to keep down a sip of water to take her prenatal vitamins or prescription anti-emetics (I speak from experience).

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Tip #4: Tiny Portions

I’m not exaggerating when I say tiny.  Small portions are usually recommended for nausea and vomiting.  For the hyperemesis gravidarum diet, take what you think of as small and cut it in half.  Now cut it in half again, and maybe even once more.  

Try one tablespoon of food or liquid every 10-15 minutes. 

If it stays down, have another and so on.

If it doesn’t stay down, try half a tablespoon.

You should try experimenting with different ways to eat or drink.  Try drinking through a straw vs. no straw, a spoon vs. sipping, hot vs. cold.  You may have to think outside the box and even try using syringes or shot glasses to take small sips of liquid.  Keep experimenting with tiny portions in your hyperemesis gravidarum diet.  It may seem tedious and pointless but one spoonful of food that stays down is better than an entire meal that comes back up.

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I know the pain of hyperemesis gravidarum all too well having battled it with all three of my pregnancies. 

It’s easy to avoid eating all together in an effort to avoid vomiting when that’s all you’ve been doing for weeks.  But starvation, dehydration and malnutrition are far worse things to struggle with than vomiting.  Chances are, you will never be able to eat properly throughout a hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancy, instead you will spend the entire 9 months simply “trying to eat.” 

Have these hyperemesis gravidarum diet tips helped you?  Leave a comment down below!