Controlling Chemotherapy-Related Nausea and Vomiting
Your risk of experiencing nausea and/or vomiting after chemotherapy depends on what type of chemotherapeutic agent(s) are used during your treatment; whether your chemo treatment is used in conjunction with other cancer treatments, such as radiation or biological therapy; and how your body typically reacts to medications. Fortunately, by discussing the side effects of your treatment with your oncologist, eating right, and using some natural remedies it is possible to control chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting.
If the chemotherapeutic agent(s) used in your treatment put you at high risk for nausea and vomiting, your doctor may recommend that you take an anti-nausea medication, such as ondansetron or palonosetron. Anti-nausea medications are used to prevent you from experiencing chemo-related nausea and vomiting completely, so you'll take the medication before your chemo treatment begins.
Oncologists typically prescribe the anti-nausea medication that has proven to work the best for other patients taking the same medication(s). However, every patient's body reacts differently, so you might need to try a few different medications to find the one that works for you.
If you aren't eating enough food or you aren't eating healthy food, you're more likely to feel worse after chemotherapy. Eating right doesn't only help prevent nausea and vomiting, it also helps keep you from feeling fatigued—another very common side effect of chemotherapy. If you have trouble eating, try a few of these tips:
- Have a light meal or snack before your chemo treatment.
- If your treatment spans a long period of time, bring snacks and/or a light meal to your doctor's office or infusion center.
- Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day instead of eating three large meals per day.
- Keep hard candy or drops containing lemon or chamomile on hand at all times. Sucking on the candy or drops has a calming effect and it helps stimulate saliva and gastric fluids, which can help with nausea.
- Eat foods and drink beverages that are made with real ginger, such as ginger snaps, candy, or tea. While ginger ale only has ginger flavoring, it can also help soothe your stomach.
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods, because they are harder to digest.
- Drink beverages and fluids between meals instead of with your meals.
- Avoid foods that cause gas, such as beans, soda, and broccoli.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to enhance your psychological and physical well-being. It's typically used to promote relaxation and relieve stress, but research in cancer patients has shown that aromatherapy could help reduce depression, anxiety, nausea, and high blood pressure. You can use essential oils, such as peppermint, lavender, and tea tree oil, in several ways:
- Put two to four drops of oil on a tissue. Then, close your eyes, hold the tissue up to your nose, and take two or three deep breaths through your nose.
- Sprinkle five to 10 drops of essential oils into your bath.
- Use essentials oils with an infuser or small oil burner to fill the room with the fragrance.
Before you try aromatherapy, consult your oncologist to ensure essential oils interfere with your chemotherapy treatment. Also, lavender and tea tree oils are thought to interact with the body's hormones and may not be safe to use if your cancer treatment involves any type of hormone therapy.
Don't let chemo-related nausea and/or vomiting discourage you. While you may not be able to get the side effects under control immediately, as long as you stay positive and keep trying different medications and remedies, you can get through your chemo treatments without feeling ill. For more information, contact Cancer & Blood Specialists of Nevada.