On Chemo? Fend off Nausea

These simple tips can keep this common treatment side effect at bay.

Health Monitor Staff

If you're undergoing or recovering from chemotherapy, you may be facing several side effects, including nausea. Luckily, you can take some simple steps to quell the queasiness and start feeling your best.

Blend Your Veggies
Fiber-packed raw vegetables can be challenging for your stomach to break down, but that doesn’t mean you should skip them—they do contain lots of vitamins and minerals. Instead, try blending them into a “green” smoothie (carrots and even spinach taste great!) or adding them to soup. Puréed and cooked vegetables are easier for your body to digest.

Drink Lots of Water
Dehydration worsens symptoms of nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Don’t be afraid to drink water even if you’re having diarrhea—it doesn’t make it worse, but instead helps replenish what your body is losing.

Find a Dark, Quiet Spot
Loud noises, bright lights and fast movements can all make nausea worse. If stomach upset strikes, try lying in your bedroom for a while with the shades drawn—avoid the TV and other electronics that can worsen symptoms. If it’s a nice day out, try opening a window, as fresh air can also help.

Take Your Antinausea Meds as Prescribed!
One of the biggest mistakes chemo patients make? Waiting until they feel ill to take their antinausea meds. They are much more effective if taken before symptoms hit. Your cancer care team can help you identify the best time to take your meds to keep symptoms from striking.

Keep Frozen Watermelon Handy
Chop it up and keep it stocked in your freezer. The cool, refreshing cubes are soothing to suck on when your stomach is upset, and can provide you with much-needed hydration, vitamins and nutrients. 

Skip the Cheeseburger
Rich or fried foods can slow stomach emptying, which can cause bloating or nausea. If you need to take in more calories, try eating small but frequent meals with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains, suggests Linda A. Lee, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine & Digestive Center. 

What if I’m Not Hungry?
“During chemo, don’t rely on your hunger cues,” warns Holly Mills, RD, certified specialist in oncology nutrition. “When you’re in treatment, food becomes more like medicine.” Not only can avoiding food actually make you feel more nauseated, eating well is vital to maintain your muscle, your energy and your ability to tolerate treatment. So schedule regular meals and snacks and stick to it, whether or not your stomach is growling.

February 2013