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6 Ways to Reduce Nausea During Chemotherapy

How to Reduce Nausea and Increase Quality of Life During Treatment

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Updated March 10, 2008

Nausea is one the most common side effects of chemotherapy. But it can also be one of the most miserable ones. Although nausea may seem like a harmless side effect of chemotherapy, it can lead to a loss of appetite. In turn, a loss of appetite can lead to dehydration, which can be serious.

Nausea can be common for someone undergoing chemotherapy, but not all people will experience nausea. Several measures can be taken to relieve nausea.

1. Talk to your doctor about your nausea.

Your doctor needs to be aware of any side effects you are experiencing, even if they seem minor. Chances are, if you are nauseous, you aren't eating or drinking enough. This can lead to dehydration and weight loss, which can certainly effect treatment. In some cases, doctors can prescribe medication to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

2. Eat small meals throughout the day.

Instead of eating three square meals a day, opt for lighter, healthier meals 5 to 6 times a day. It is easier to keep down small amounts of food when you are nauseous than a large amounts, even when you feel really hungry. Try to stick to a balanced, healthy diet. Your doctor or dietitian can advise you of specific nutrient-rich foods you may need during treatment and how much you should consume.

3. Avoid greasy foods.

One of the goals during treatment is to eat well-balanced meals that will provide your body with much-needed energy. When making food choices, think of food as a fuel source. It may be easy to eat a burger and fries on the run, but a reasonable portion of a healthy protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable will be easier on the digestive system and provide nutrients so that the body can create and store energy. Try to avoid fatty, greasy foods right before or during treatment. These foods are are often difficult to digest in the first place, let alone with bouts of nausea. Plus, another goal is to keep the food you eat down, and greasy foods can often make nausea worse, leading to vomiting.

4. Stay away from strong odors.

A strong smell can trigger a bout of nausea unexpectedly. One of the most common nausea triggers is the smell of food or food preparation. Some people can be so sensitive to it during chemotherapy that family members cannot eat or prepare food in the same house. If the smell of food causes nausea, try using fans in the kitchen or open the windows in warm weather. Additionally, you may want to avoid restaurants during treatment as well, until you can determine what may trigger nausea.

5. Rest after eating.

Rest after eating, but do not lay completely flat. Try laying in an upright position or in a recliner about at least 20 minutes after eating. This will aid in digestion.

6. Drink fluids at room temperature.

Cold or hot beverages may worsen nausea. Try to consume beverages at room temperature. Some people undergoing chemotherapy who experience frequent nausea may also find it helpful to eat foods at room or slightly warm temperature, as opposed to hot or cold.

Sources:

"Hair Loss." American Cancer Society. 14 Jan 2007.
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MBC/content/MBC_2_3X_Hair_Loss.asp?sitearea=MBC

"How Do I Deal With Losing My Hair?." American Cancer Society. 22 Aug 2007.
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_1_7X_How_Do_I_Deal_With_Losing_My_Hair.asp

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