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June 20, 2018  |  Login
Motion Sickness
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Whether on air, land, or sea, some people are immune to motion sickness, and others just aren't. These are the unhappy people who spend entire vacations green-faced and prostrate; while their travel companions enjoy the view, people with motion sickness hope for nothing more than to avoid another debilitating round of vomiting. Even after the trip is over, they may feel ill for several days. If you're a member of this unfortunate segment of the population, you may be tempted to avoid travel altogether. Before you give up your vacations, however, give these suggestions a try. They might not completely eliminate motion sickness, but often they will significantly reduce the symptoms.

Motion sickness occurs when the mechanism that controls internal equilibrium is disturbed. One of the most important body structures for maintaining balance is the vestibular apparatus, located in the inner ear. Rolling or bumpy movements can cause the ear's fluid to slosh around, and sometimes the flow of liquid pushes against the vestibular apparatus, which in turn sends alarm messages along the nerve pathways. These messages are translated in the brain as the familiar feelings of nausea, dizziness, cold sweats, or rapid breathing, and they're probably meant as a kind of warning system, telling you in no uncertain terms that the body is facing a grave danger. The problem, of course, is that there is no danger-just a road, perhaps, with an unusual number of hills and sharp turns.

The eyes also contribute to the body's sense of balance, or lack thereof. When you're sitting in a train during a smooth ride over flat land, for example, your ear fluid remains stable, which tells your brain that the body is still and unmoving. But your eyes are sending a completely different message: they report that the landscape is whipping by at seventy miles per hour. These conflicting transmissions can upset your equilibrium, which explains how some people can get sick just from watching a movie about riding in a hot-air balloon.

Neither of these explanations helps us understand why some people develop motion sickness and others actually enjoy riding the waves. We do know, however, that anxiety, stress, poor dietary habits, low air quality, and dehydration all contribute to the condition, and this information gives us a good place to start for treatment. If you're prone to motion sickness, plan ahead so that you can avoid these aggravating factors. You can also use several techniques to reduce your chances of feeling nauseated, but in most cases, you must employ them before you travel. By the time you're really sick, you may not be able to hold down any therapeutic foods or herbs.

Next: What are the Symptoms of Motion Sickness

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