Diet during cancer treatment: Tips to combat nausea

August 25, 2014 | by Dominique Grignetti

Nausea is the one of the most well-known, and dreaded, side effects of cancer treatment — and with good reason. Beyond the quality-of-life issues that it causes, severe nausea can prevent patients from receiving enough nutrients and calories at a time when they need every edge they can get.

A few simple actions, however, can help alleviate, or at least ease, food-related nausea, ensuring that patients can keep down the food they so desperately need. Here is what the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends to help control nausea.

Nausea Nausea is one of the most well-known, and dreaded, side effects of cancer treatment. Experts suggest these tips (for starters) on how to control nausea: Eat small meals, choose easy-to-digest food and, counter-intuitive though it may seem, don't skip meals.

Managing with food

  • Eat foods that are easy on the stomach like white toast, plain yogurt and clear broth.
  • Eat five or six small meals each day instead of three large meals.
  • Do not skip meals and snacks. Even if you do not feel hungry, try to eat something. Having an empty stomach makes nausea worse.
  • Choose foods that appeal to you, and avoid your favorite foods, so you don’t link them to feeling sick.
  • Sip only small amounts of liquids during meals. Eating and drinking at the same time can cause fullness or bloat.
  • Have liquids throughout the day. Drink slowly and through a straw or water bottle.
  • Consume foods at a moderate temperature, not too hot or too cold.
  • Eat dry toast or crackers before getting out of bed if you have nausea in the morning.
  • Plan when is best for you to eat around your treatments.
  • Check out this NCI guide of foods to that are easy on the stomach, along with questions to ask your doctor about nausea during cancer treatment.

Other recommendations 

  • Do relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation.
  • Talk with your doctor about medicine to prevent nausea.
  • Rest after meals, sitting up.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
  • Keep a record of when you feel nauseous and why.
  • Avoid foods and drinks with strong smells.
  • Keep areas well ventilated with fresh air.
  • Do yoga if you feel up to it. Many practitioners believe that yoga helps ease nausea and other side effects that come with chemotherapy.

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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