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BODY WATCH : As the Stomach Turns : Personal health: Some people rarely feel nauseated; others get queasy easy. It all depends on how your nervous system copes.

November 22, 1994|KATHLEEN O. RYAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

What do roller coaster rides, pregnancy and big, heavy meals have in common? They can all make you feel sick to your stomach.

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There are no hard-and-fast rules for what makes a tummy queasy. Just as some people faint at the sight of blood, some of us have stronger stomachs than others.

"The physiology of nausea is poorly understood," says Dr. Ed Share, an attending gastroenterologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

What we do know is that when the nervous system is stimulated, it sends a message to the brain, which in turn can set the stomach into motion, says Dr. Frank Hamilton, chief of the gastrointestinal disease branch of digestive disease and nutrition for the National Health Institute.

"It all depends on how your individual nervous system reacts to various stimuli," Hamilton says.

This explains why stress can create a sick stomach, why flu viruses affect us in varying degrees or why strong smells may send us to the bathroom. Hamilton says pregnant women often feel sick because they produce more progesterone, which can kick the nervous system into a higher gear.

Taming a touchy stomach is an individual matter as well.

"The reason there are so many treatments for nausea is that there's nothing that works on a regular basis," Share says. "People may say that crackers and sodas work, but there is no scientific evidence that they do."

Sifting through a variety of homespun remedies, Hamilton and Share offer some advice of their own:

* Lie down and try to relax.

* Over-the-counter medications that neutralize acids, bind toxins, work on gas or prevent motion sickness are best used before vomiting occurs. (They won't stop nausea.)

* Eat and drink moderately.

* Peppermint, a home remedy many consider soothing to the stomach, may cause more upset. Ditto for milk.

* Do not give liquids to someone who is vomiting. This can induce further vomiting and hasten dehydration.

* One hour after vomiting has stopped, try ice chips, then a sip of water, cola or ginger ale. The idea is to begin swallowing, allowing things to move in the right direction. Chewing gum helps.

* See a doctor if you are vomiting blood, or if vomiting is accompanied by symptoms such as abdominal pain, headache, dizziness, fever, fast heartbeat, or if continual vomiting lasts more than four hours.

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