Nausea & Vomiting

Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and vomiting (throwing up) are side effects that many people associate with cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy.

Good nutrition is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, but a cancer diagnosis can make keeping a healthy diet and proper eating habits difficult. Depending on the type of treatment, you may have side effects like nausea and vomiting.These side effects can impact your treatment course and your quality of life. If you are concerned about side effects that are impacting eating and overall nutrition, please talk to your doctor or dietitian for assistance. It is not unusual to only remember these physical symptoms because they are most evident. There are many medications available to effectively control, and even prevent these side effects.

Coping with Nausea or Vomiting

Food tips for nausea and/or vomiting:

  • Try sucking on popsicles or ice chips.
  • Drink carbonated beverages that have lost their fizz (cola and ginger ale) to help settle your stomach.
  • Eat toast, crackers or gelatin.
  • Eat a light meal or snack before your treatment.
  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals during the day rather than 3 large meals.
  • Even though you do not feel like eating, an empty stomach can make nausea worse. Aim to eat a small amount of food every 1-2 hours to prevent nausea.
  • Choose bland foods, such as plain pasta or rice. If dry mouth isn’t a problem, you can also try dry food such as crackers and pretzels.
  • Choose room temperature or cold foods, instead of hot entrees.
  • Drink ginger tea or chew ginger candies when you feel nauseous.
  • Drink hydrating fluids (such as water, 100% juice, coconut water, or chamomile or ginger tea) throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
  • Limit your intake of heavily spiced, fried, greasy, or “heavy” foods, as these can make nausea worse.

Non-food tips for nausea and/or vomiting:

  • Understand how to take your antinausea drugs (antiemetics). You may take these drugs before your treatment and may also continue to take them for several days after treatment is over. 
  • Take your anti-nausea medicines as soon as you begin to feel sick to your stomach - don’t wait until your nausea is bad. You can also take the anti-nausea medicines before doing something that has made you feel sick before, such as before eating or riding in the car.
  • If drugs or supplements make you nauseous, talk to your health care team about taking them with food, instead of on an empty stomach.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if you are having nausea so they can consider alternative antiemetic (anti-nausea) medications or different combinations of drugs.
  • Talk to your health care team about anti-nausea drugs. For the most benefit, take anti-nausea drugs 30-45 minutes prior to a meal. You may also need to take them around the clock, instead of as needed.
  • Try deep breathing, meditation, or guided imagery to help settle your stomach and mind.
  • Ask your doctor about acupuncture or acupressure. Some people find that it can assist in nausea relief.

Try these recipes if you need help with nausea:

Ginger Turkey and Wild Rice Soup Recipe, Almond Banana Wheatberry Cereal Recipe, Apple Cinnamon Muffins Recipe, Golden Milk Popsicles Recipe, Mango Lassi Overnight Oats, and Turkey and Barely Vegetable Soup