Managing Nausea and Eating

Nausea and vomiting, two of the most uncomfortable possible side effects of chemotherapy, can be very disrupting to a patient’s daily life. In a recent survey, more than 50% of patients stated that these effects caused them to cancel plans with friends or family; 46% had to alter their diet; about 40% abstained from exercise; and others stated that these side effects caused them to be unable to go to work. Vomiting can lead to dehydration, which can affect one’s appetite, ability to eat, and can cause weight loss and fatigue.  

However, there are ways to manage CINV. First, anti-emetics, which are anti-nausea drugs, can help reduce nausea and vomiting and allow one to continue drinking and eating. Also, there are holistic ways to address nausea, such as working with a therapist to employ methods that encourage relaxation, distract from these feelings, or encourage the person to feel more in control in an often uncontrollable situation. Examples of such methods are progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, guided imagery, music therapy, or acupuncture.

In addition to these techniques, patients can take control and managing nausea and vomiting at home. Drinking clear cold fluids can help, such as tea, broth, ginger ale, or eating Popsicles or Jell-O. Hard aromatic candies are also a good idea, such as peppermints or lemon drops. Stick with dry crackers or toast and stay away from fatty, fried, or pungent foods. In order to try and get as many calories as possible, try to take in small amounts of high-calorie foods such as ice cream, yogurt, milkshakes, and pudding, or syrups or milk; try to avoid low-fat food unless higher-fat food increases nausea.

After eating, sit up for about an hour while digesting, possibly while being distracted by watching television, reading, or talking with a friend or family member. Also, freezing broths, soups, or other liquids into small ice chips can make them easier to consume. By using these methods, patients can learn how to manage their nausea and vomiting so that they can continue to eat and nourish themselves on their journey to wellness.

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