Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, morphine, stress and bowel obstructions, not to mention the cancer itself, can all cause nausea and vomiting. You should not, and do not, have to put up with these symptoms; these are uncomfortable and distressing and can cause rapid weight loss and other health problems.

What may help

Talk to your Doctor

Your doctor or nurse should be able to work out what is causing the nausea and vomiting and suggest treatments (eg. adjusting your diet or medications).

Write down what you want to tell your doctor:

  • When does the nausea or vomiting occur? How long does it last for? It might be useful to keep a diary to record this information.
  • What are some of the things that seem to bring on nausea or vomiting?
  • What seems to make the nausea or vomiting worse?
  • What have you tried to relieve nausea or vomiting?
  • Have you experienced nausea or vomiting before?

Write down what you want to ask your doctor:

  • What can be done to relieve nausea or vomiting?
  • Ask your doctor what he or she will be prescribing to prevent or control nausea and vomiting.
  • Find out if the chemotherapy drug you are receiving is likely to cause nausea and vomiting. If so, ask when these are most likely to occur and how long they typically last.

If you are prescribed medicine to help you with nausea or vomiting ask:

  • How long will it take to work?
  • How often should I take it?
  • What should I do if I continue to experience nausea or vomiting?
  • Are there other options if the medication doesn’t work?
  • What are the possible side-effects of the medication? How can these be managed?
  • Who will I keep seeing about my bowel problems?

Meals

The following may be helpful to manage nausea or vomiting:

  • Sip small amounts of liquid as often as possible if you have persistent vomiting, don’t try to force food down.
  • You may also find it helpful to suck a hard sweet, flavoured ice chips or an ice block.
  • Eat small meals frequently rather than one big meal. Eat slowly and chew well to help you digest your food better.
  • If appropriate, try to take anti-nausea medications before meals.
  • Avoid fried or fatty foods, which are difficult to digest.
  • Avoid stomach irritants (eg. tobacco, aspirin).
  • Some people report that cold foods are better than hot foods.
  • Rest after eating, but do not lie completely flat, to aid with digestion.
  • Avoid strong scents or odours.
  • Avoid eating in a room that is hot or filled with cooking odours.
  • Avoid your favourite foods when experiencing nausea. You do not want your body to learn to associate them with nausea.
  • Eat before you get too hungry. Hunger can aggravate nausea.
  • Eat more during periods with less nausea. For instance, if you feel hungrier at breakfast time, have your main meal then and eat a light meal at a time when you feel more nauseous.
  • Do not eat or drink at the same time. It is usually recommended to drink liquids an hour before eating.
  • Cook and freeze several meals that you can reheat during times when you are nauseated.
  • Eat dry foods such as dry cereal, toast or bread with honey, jam, Vegemite or Marmite, or crackers, without liquids especially first thing in the morning.
  • Try eating foods and drinking beverages that have made you feel better when you had the flu such as bland foods, sour candy, pickles, dry crackers, salty foods such as pretzels, dry ginger ale, cold flat lemonade, soda water, Lucozade or chilled tomato juice.

Tips

Some people find that keeping crackers at their bedside is useful in case they wake up in the middle of the night with nausea.

Recent research has found that half a teaspoon of ground ginger a day can reduce nausea associated with chemotherapy when used along with anti-nausea medications. http://www.medpagetoday

Fact

Even when ill, it is important that you continue drinking clear liquids to avoid dehydration.

As nausea and vomiting decrease, foods can be slowly reintroduced, beginning with simple, bland foods that do not irritate the stomach and intestines. The BRAT diet previously suggested for diarrhoea is also recommended here.

Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015