Category Archives: nausea

May is M.E. Awareness Month: Part 1

May is M.E. Awareness Month, a campaign aimed at promoting a greater understanding of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and the impact it has on the lives of sufferers. This year the campaign culminates in an international conference hosted by the charity ‘Invest in ME’ to be held in London at the end of the month (1).

Part 1 will look at the most common symptoms of M.E. along with common myths and misconceptions about this poorly understood disease.

What is M.E.?

Vitamin B12 may help with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Vitamin B12 may help with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) affects several of the body’s systems, including the immune and nervous system. The result is chronic exhaustion, cognitive problems, nausea, headaches and persistent aches and pains.

In Beating Chronic Fatigue, Dr Kristine Downing-Orr describes CFS as “the body’s inability to recover following a biological or psychological trigger” (2). Essentially the body’s very healing mechanisms break down, leaving sufferers in a state of chronic ill health.

It is thought that 250,000 people in the UK have this illness, with women between the ages of 25-50 being most commonly affected (3). However, men, women and children of all ages can develop ME/CFS.

Myths and Misconceptions

Myth 1. Chronic Fatigue is all in the mind
ME is a genuine medical illness recognised by the World Health Organisation as a neurological disease. Sufferers of CFS/ME show abnormalities in both the immune system and nervous system. It is not a psychological condition. It is not depression. Nor is it ‘attention seeking’ or a ‘cry for help’.

Myth 2. Chronic Fatigue is caused by the Epstein Barr Virus.
It is true that some cases of CFS/ME develop after an infection. However, the cause of CFS/ME is still unknown. Other theories link the disease to hormone imbalance, immune problems or psychological trauma. It is quite possible that sufferers are genetically predisposed to the disease, leaving them vulnerable if they are exposed to ‘triggers’ such as infection or stress.

Myth 3. Counselling or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can ‘reverse’ CFS/ME
Psychological interventions can indeed help CFS sufferers to cope with their symptoms. However, this type of approach cannot ‘cure’ the illness (4).

Myth 4. Exercise can cure CFS/ME
Unfortunately exercise will not cure CFS/ME. Well meaning healthcare providers can sometimes recommend exercise for CFS/ME patients using guidelines intended for healthy people. In fact, increasing physical activity can worsen symptoms for sufferers. However, if undertaken in the right way, carefully monitored exercise programmes can be helpful for patients (5).

Myth 5. CFS/ME is difficult to diagnose
This is untrue. There are clear NICE guidelines regarding the diagnosis of CFS/ME. More recently, the Canadian criteria is being recognised as the standard diagnostic tool, and reflects the growing understanding of CFS/ME as a biological illness. This includes the following symptoms: Muscle fatigue or malaise following exertion; poor quality sleep; soreness and aches affecting different parts of the body; brain disturbances such as sensory problems or feelings of confusion (6).

Creating a greater awareness and dispelling myths about CFS/ME is essential. After all, effective treatment and management of CFS/ME depends on a clear understanding of the disease. In Part 2 we will look at some natural approaches to managing symptoms. This includes dietary recommendations and vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements designed to provide the body with the resources it needs to support healing and recovery.


1. 8th Invest in ME International ME (ME/CFS) Conference 2013. More information at Accessed 25/04/13.

2. Beating Chronic Fatigue: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Complete Recovery. Dr Kristina Downing-Orr. London: Piatkus. 2010.

3. Action for M.E. Accessed 25/04/13.

4. Van Hoof, E. (2004). Cognitive behavioral therapy as cure-all for CFS. Journal of Chronic Fatigue  Syndrome, 11, 43-47.

5. Edmonds, M., McGuire, H., & Price, J. (2004). Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 1-22.

6. Carruthers, B.M., Jain, A.K., DeMeirleir, K.L., Peterson, D.L., Klimas, N.G., Lerner, A.M., Bested, A.C., Flor-Henry, P., Joshi, P., Powles, A.C.P., Sherkey, J.A., & van de Sande, M.I. (2003). Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome: Clinical working case definition, diagnostic and treatments protocols. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 11, 7-115.


Planes, trains and automobiles – Is there a natural aid for travel sickness?

For many people the summer months mean holiday travel by airplane, trains, boats or cars.  The destination may be exciting and alluring but if you suffer from travel (motion) sickness then you may well be dreading the journey?! 

Travel sickness is believed to be caused by movement and vibration disturbing the organs of the inner ear which govern our balance.  Some people find that looking at the horizon helps to control the nausea and sickness brought on by travel.  This may well help by restoring orientation and equilibrium to the disturbed sense of balance.

However, the majority of individuals rely on some kind of prescription or over-the-counter medication to prevent and alleviate their uncomfortable symptoms.  There is a natural alternative that is worth considering, and that is ginger.

Traditionally ginger has been used for many years to prevent and treat the nausea and vomiting that characterises travel sickness.  In the past ginger root was chewed or made into a tea and sipped, these methods are equally as valuable now though may prove distasteful or bothersome.  Today, ginger is available in capsules and is very effective in this supplemental form.

A study(1) which looked at seasickness in 80 individuals found that 1g of powdered ginger root taken prior to travel reduced the tendency to vomiting (by 72%) and cold sweating when compared to the placebo.  Fewer symptoms of nausea and dizziness were also reported by those who took the ginger supplement.  Another trial(2) showed that ginger probably works by preventing the development of abnormal rhythms/contractions in the stomach (known as tachygastria) and also by reducing the amount of a type of hormone in the blood, vasopressin.  Elevation of this hormone is associated with sickness. 

500mg of ginger taken up to three times in the day may well help to prevent and treat travel sickness symptoms.  It may be worth taking 500mg two hours or so before travel and then another 500mg at the onset of travel.  Another dose could be taken at the mid-point of the journey.

What you eat while you travel (and probably just before hand) may well influence the degree to which you suffer from travel sickness symptoms.  A study(3) looked at diet and airsickness in a population of novice civilian pilots.  Findings of the study indicated that eating salty foods such as cheese, crisps and preserved meats was associated with increased incidence of airsickness.  Salty foods may well have their effect via disruption of bodily hydration and water balance.  The hormone I mentioned earlier, vasopressin, is also a hormone which is important in maintaining bodily water balance.  It may be worth staying away from salty processed foods on the day you will be travelling – Staying away from such foods in general is advisable for good health!!  Keeping well hydrated by sipping water during travel may help to keep the stomach settled and the body well hydrated.

Hopefully these tips may help your journeying to be a little more enjoyable!

(1)Grontved A et al.  1988.  Ginger root against seasickness.  A controlled trial on the open sea.  Acta Otolaryngol.  105:45-49
(2)Lien HC et al.  2003.  Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vection.  Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol.  284:G481-489
(3)Lindseth G & Lindseth PD.  1995.  The relationshop of diet to airsickness.  Aviat Space Environ Med.  66:537-541

Written by Ani Kowal