Cancer: “I Have Problems with Nausea and Vomiting”
Nausea and vomiting are common during treatment. There are now many ways to help relieve these side effects. New and better drugs are available. Also, relaxation methods such as tension reduction, deep rhythmic breathing, quiet concentration, imagery, distractions, biofeedback and hypnosis have helped many people with cancer cope with the stress and discomfort that comes with cancer and its treatments.
Coping with nausea and vomiting
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you find the best regimen to prevent or control it. The medicines are more effective if taken before symptoms occur.
- Eat small amounts throughout the day. Eat before you get hungry. If you get too hungry, feelings of nausea get more intense.
- Your tastes will change from hour to hour or day to day. What appeals to you at one time may not appeal to you later.
- Very small portions of foods are better than a heaping plate of food.
- Choose foods that are served cold or at room temperature.
- Eat mildly seasoned foods.
- Eat dry foods such as dry cereal, toast or crackers without liquids, especially when you get up in the morning.
- You may want to try colorless and odorless foods such as cottage cheese, cream soups, white potatoes, macaroni and cheese, applesauce, gelatin, plain rice, sugared rice, rice pudding, and vanilla ice cream.
- Other suggestions include sherbet, pretzels, cereals, fruits, and yogurt.
- Drink or sip liquids slowly between meals and snacks. Clear, cool drinks work best but take any liquids you feel you can handle.
- Sip liquids slowly through a straw from a covered cup or can. It may be tolerated better if you do not have to smell it.
- Eat and drink slowly and try to relax.
- After eating, rest by sitting up or keeping your head elevated. Keep your head at least 4 inches higher than your feet. Do not lie down flat for at least 2 hours after eating. Being active after eating may slow down digestion and worsen your symptoms.
- Fresh air and loose clothing may be helpful after eating.
- Try breathing through your mouth when you feel nauseated.
- Remove dentures or partial dentures if you are very nauseated since objects in the mouth often tend to promote the problem.
- If your nausea is often a problem, keep track of when it occurs and what makes it worse (specific foods, events, surroundings, time of day, etc.) Work with your nutritionist or other health professionals to find things you can try to improve your symptoms.
- Check with your doctor if:
- you feel bloated
- there is pain or a swollen stomach before nausea and vomiting occurs
- you vomit every time after eating.
- Replenish lost fluids with clear liquids such as broths, juices, sodas, sports drinks, or water. Use electrolyte replacement fluids (Pedialyte®) if vomiting goes on and on. Once you have controlled vomiting, try small amounts of clear liquids. Begin with a tablespoon every 5 minutes, and then increase the amount to 1/4 cup every 15 minutes. When you are able to keep down clear liquids, try a full liquid diet slowly working up to your regular diet. (Any food that is liquid at room temperature is a full liquid.)
Things to Avoid
- Fatty or greasy foods.
- All cooking odors
- Foods with strong odors.
- Drinking liquids at mealtime.
- Foods you like best should not be eaten during this period. The foods will no longer be favorite foods if you begin to associate them with nausea and vomiting episodes.
If you are a UW Health patient and have further questions or concerns, please call the nutritionist at the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center, (608) 263-9128.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/14/2012
Copyright © 06/22/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#479
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