Managing nausea and vomiting

For many people undergoing chemotherapy, feeling nauseous and having no appetite are frustrating side effects. Fortunately, there are many ways of dealing with this. Several medications can be used to lessen or prevent nausea and vomiting, including:

  • ondansetron
  • granisetron
  • palonosetron
  • metoclopramide
  • dexamethasone
  • nabilone
  • haloperidol
  • olanzapine
  • prochlorperazine
  • aprepitant
  • fosaprepitant

There is ongoing research on using medical cannabis for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. While its derivatives like nabilone are used for patients who do not respond to first-line therapy, data on smoked cannabis are very limited.

How to eat

The key to avoiding nausea is not to overwhelm your body – don't try to eat too much all at once. But you do need to eat, and if you don't have much appetite, here are some tips:

  • Don't eat too much in one sitting.
  • Have lots of small meals and snacks during the day rather than one to three big meals.
  • Eat and drink slowly.
  • Try drinking liquids at least an hour before or after meals rather than at mealtime.
  • Avoid foods that are too hard on your system, for example:
    • spicy foods
    • fatty or greasy foods
    • fried foods
  • Vary your diet. Try new foods and recipes to simulate your interest. But be sensible about it.
  • Go for a stroll before and after meals – before to help stimulate your appetite, and after to help digest.
  • Make eating a social occasion when you can: eat with family or friends.
  • Do things you associate with eating. Some people find that doing certain things makes them hungry – watching sports or a video, reading or working on hobbies. Think about what activities you usually associate with snacking.

Ways to deal with nausea

Try the following suggestions to help settle your stomach:

  • Drink cool, clear liquids – apple juice, tea, flat ginger ale.
  • Nibble on sour candies, mints or ice chips (to suck on, not to swallow in large pieces).
  • Eat small amounts of dry foods such as crackers, toast, or cereal – if you feel nauseous in the morning, try having some of this by your bed to eat before you get up (avoid this if you have a dry mouth or sores in your mouth or throat).

Keep your mind over matter, and focus on something else to help control nausea:

  • Get your mind onto something other than being nauseous – focus on a hobby, or relax by listening to music, watching TV or talking with friends.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply to calm your system.
  • Meditate. There are many different ways to meditate, and you can meditate without any religious purpose.

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