Feeling sick, or nausea, is a very common side effect of having chemotherapy treatment. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help with the symptoms. However, many people still find that they struggle to deal with the effects of nausea.
The good news is, there are lots of other things you can do to help. Here we take a look at some tried and tested ways of reducing the impact of nausea during chemotherapy…
Eating and drinking during chemotherapy
1) Drink plenty of liquids – it’s important to keep hydrated during your treatment. However, it’s best to avoid drinking a lot just before you eat. Regularly sipping small amounts of water or other clear liquids throughout the day, such as unsweetened juices, broth or tea, can reduce the risk of nausea and vomiting. You can also try sucking on popsicles or ice chips
2) Eat small, regular meals – smaller, regular portions of food are easier to stomach. Try to eat before you get too hungry, and include some high calorie, easy to eat foods such as yogurt, sauces or ice cream. If you really don’t feel like a meal, energy bars can be a handy way to boost your calories – whether you are at home, at the hospital, or out and about
3) Try something new – often people find that their tastes change during treatment, and you may not want the foods you normally enjoy. In fact, many people recommend avoiding your favourite food during treatment, to stop you from associating it with feeling nauseous. Recipe books can be very helpful in finding simple, tasty and nutritious meals that work for you – try Healthy Eating During Chemotherapy by Jose Van Mil:
“Fantastic book. I really liked the way the book was divided into ‘taste’ sections, as often with chemotherapy your sense of taste goes mad and it was great to be able to go to ‘soft, cold, savoury’ etc.” – Harriette, Live Better With community
4) Opt for simple foods – to minimise nausea you should avoid fatty, fried, spicy or very sweet foods and instead choose light, plain foods such as dry cereal, rice, crackers or dry toast
5) Avoid strong smells – the smell of some foods can make nausea worse. Keep the room well ventilated with plenty of fresh air when you are cooking, and avoid preparing food when you are feeling sick. It can be helpful to prepare and freeze some meals ahead of your treatment. Eating foods at room temperature can also help to minimise strong smells
6) Rest gently after eating – you should avoid exercising straight after a meal. However, it’s also advisable to avoid lying down flat. Put on some comfortable clothes and rest upright, with your head elevated, after eating. Peppermints and peppermint teas can also help to settle your stomach after a meal
Beating nausea during chemo sessions
7) Have a snack before treatment – many people find that having a snack or a light meal a few hours before chemotherapy treatment can help to reduce nausea
8) Suck on hard boiled sweets – these can help to banish bad tastes and reduce the effects of nausea during chemo treatment. The Live Better With community recommend Queasy Drops, which contain natural essential oils to help reduce nausea, calm the stomach and minimise the unpleasant tastes many experience during their chemotherapy infusions.
“I found these really useful when I was undergoing chemo. It is great for nausea on those bad days.” Live Better With community member
9) Use relaxation techniques – feeling anxious about your treatment can make nausea worse. Using guided meditation, breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques can help you to relax. The Live Better With community recommend The Little Book of Mindfulness, which contains a series of short exercises designed to help reduce stress and anxiety
10) Keep yourself busy – take some things along with you to help take your mind off your treatment, such as some relaxing music, a tablet, a good book, or a friend
11) Try wearing seabands – these acupressure wristbands work by applying pressure to the acupressure points on your wrist.
“I found that using nausea acupressure wristbands helped me feel less sick.”
Philip, Live Better With community
Other tips for beating chemo sickness
12) Go ginger – ginger is widely known to help with nausea, and it can be used in many different ways, including in drinks, in sweets, or as a cooking ingredient. It’s also used in a range of aromatherapy products.
“Ginger for nausea – you can try biscuits, sweets, tea, chews or even raw!” Jean, Live Better With community
13) Try essential oils – these offer a natural, drug-free way of tackling nausea, as well as helping to relieve stress and promote relaxation. The Live Better With community recommend Quease Ease, an aromatic inhaler which is made from a blend of essential oils
14) Avoid caffeine and smoking – as these can increase the likelihood of nausea
15) Ask for help! – finally, don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for support at this challenging time.
“I used to find the smell of cooking food would really affect me, so I let my friends and family cook for me. It meant I could enjoy eating without those nauseating kitchen smells!” Julie, Live Better With community
Nausea is a common and unpleasant side effect of chemotherapy treatment, which can have a big impact on your day to day life. However, by following some simple steps you can help to reduce the symptoms and live better.