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How To Deal With Chemotherapy Nausea: 12 Tips For Managing Nausea And Vomiting

07 April 2023

Key Points

  • Nausea is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy. It’s also one of the most difficult to deal with, thus making cancer treatment less appealing for patients.
  • Managing nausea from cancer treatment involves a combination of dietary plans, medication and lifestyle changes. Natural remedies for nausea from chemo, such as ginger and peppermint, may also help combat symptoms.
  • Medical cannabis may also be an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. A combination of THC and CBD has been shown to reduce chemo-induced nausea in various clinical studies.
  • Aside from its antiemetic (anti-nausea) properties, cannabis has been shown to help with other cancer symptoms, including pain, depression, anxiety and loss of appetite.

Female cancer patient in bed after chemotherapy treatment.

Chemotherapy is a process you may need to undergo at some point if you have cancer. Though the treatment is effective, it may be painful and difficult for the patients. 

In addition to the medication’s side effects, you may also experience nausea and vomiting. Chemotherapy-induced nausea can make it harder for you or your loved ones to proceed with treatment.

Fortunately, there are several ways to manage these symptoms so that you can focus on getting better. In this article, we go through various remedies for chemo nausea. These remedies may help you avoid nausea during chemotherapy and manage it when it occurs.

If you’re experiencing vomiting and nausea while on cancer treatment, you may want to consider medical cannabis for nausea. Our experienced clinicians at Lyphe can help you find a chemo-nausea relief that works for your condition. Book a consultation with the UK’s leading medical cannabis clinic today to learn more.

1. Medical cannabis for chemo nausea

Medical cannabis oil, capsules and a stethoscope on table.

Medical cannabis has been shown to be effective as a nausea remedy for chemo patients. In a 2020 double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Annals of Oncology, researchers found that an oral extract containing THC and CBD reduced chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

The study involved 81 patients who all reported experiencing nausea after cancer treatment. The treatment involved a capsule containing 2.5 mg of THC and CBD each, administered three times daily for five days.

After the trial period, 83% of the participants preferred the THC:CBD capsule over the given placebo. The cancer patients also reported an overall improvement in health-related quality of life.

Aside from helping with chemo-induced nausea, medical cannabis has been clinically used to treat cancer pain and improve the appetite of cancer patients.

A 2020 observational study of cancer patients using cannabis over six months showed decreased severe pain and opioid use. In a review published in JAMA Oncology, researchers found that cannabis has anti-tumour agents that could help prevent the further spread of cancer cells.

Given the many potential benefits of medical cannabis in cancer treatment, it is no surprise that many cancer patients are turning to cannabis as nausea meds for chemo. If you feel this option is right for you, find a medical cannabis expert in your area! As the UK’s leading medical cannabis clinic, Lyphe has a wide range of cannabis products that can help relieve pain, nausea and loss of appetite. Book an appointment today!

2. Take over-the-counter medication to control chemo nausea

There are a variety of medications that can help control nausea and vomiting. These include:

  • Zofran (ondansetron)
  • Phenergan (promethazine)
  • Compazine (prochlorperazine).

The American Cancer Society recommends using these medications before and during your treatment to help prevent or control nausea. If you have severe vomiting, you may need to take them with other anti-nausea drugs.

It’s important to note that while these antiemetic medications can be effective, they can cause side effects. Some of the known side effects include:

  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision or vision loss.

3. Avoid eating your favourite foods

You may think that eating your favourite dishes while undergoing cancer treatment is a good idea. After all, eating your favourite food seems like a viable option when dealing with nausea.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Clinicians recommend against eating food you like while combating nausea. You may associate the food with feeling sick if you eat your preferred meals when nauseated. This can make it difficult to eat the foods you enjoy when your treatment ends and nausea subsides.

Instead, eat food that sounds appetising to you during nausea treatment. Some patients develop a dislike for certain foods (e.g., red meat, seafood, spicy foods) during treatment. If that’s the case, they should try protein alternatives such as beans and nuts.

Meal-replacement shakes can be a great alternative

If you’re stressing about which foods to eat while dealing with chemo nausea, you may want to consider a meal-replacement shake. These shakes are easy to make and can be an excellent source of protein, fats and carbohydrates.

They’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals that promote energy production. And if you want to customise them, you can easily add fruits, nuts and more.

4. Stay hydrated before and after chemotherapy

Female cancer patient holding a glass of water while sitting on a sofa.

Chemotherapy can induce dizziness and vomiting. And if you’re constantly vomiting, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Dehydration can cause your nausea to worsen, and it can also lead to fatigue and headaches.

Drink plenty of water before and after each chemo session to avoid this. In fact, you may want to carry a water bottle with you at all times during treatment so that you’re never caught off guard by nausea.

To stay properly hydrated for cancer treatment, here are some tips you can follow:

  1. Drink 8 ounces (240 millilitres) of fluids every hour while awake. This will help replace what you lose through urination, sweating, breathing and vomiting. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty!
  2. Avoid caffeine since this may make nausea worse for some people. Instead, try tea and herbal teas or soda drinks that contain caffeine, like cola products.
  3. Set a reminder to drink throughout each day. This can help you stay on track and avoid dehydration. You can use an app on your phone or set up an alarm on your watch or fitness tracker.

5. Keep your stomach filled by eating small but frequent meals

Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day is a good way to combat nausea. Regularly consuming small amounts of food helps you avoid feeling overly full or hungry. As a result, you’re putting less strain on your stomach when it’s already feeling unsettled.

You may want to eat five or six meals daily instead of three larger ones. However, this may be easier said than done. Dealing with cancer means you’re likely to be less motivated to eat.

Here are some ideas to help you feel more comfortable eating:

  • Eat every two to three hours, but don’t overeat.
  • Try cold foods. Many patients are put off by cooking odours that are present in hot dishes. If you’re eating meals or leftovers, it may be best to skip heating them.
  • Try smoothies, trail mixes or fruits. These are easy to digest and less likely to make you feel too full.
  • Eat bland foods like cereals, crackers, and toast.
  • Add fats, sugars and liquids to recipes to add calories.
  • Small portions of high-fat foods (like cheese, cream and butter) will help you feel full.
  • Avoid low-fat foods because they aren’t as satisfying.

6. Ginger is a natural chemo-nausea relief

Ginger has been used since early times to help with an upset stomach. It has a soothing effect on the stomach and can help prevent nausea. It’s also used to treat nausea caused by motion, pregnancy and morning sickness.

You can eat ginger or drink ginger tea from boiling sliced ginger root in water for 10 minutes. Ginger candies, fresh ginger roots in a stir-fry or even ginger sorbets are some ways to include this nausea remedy in your diet.

7. Tart and sour foods may help nausea from chemo

Group of fresh lemons on an old vintage wooden table.

The sense of taste is one of the first things to go when you have cancer, making eating difficult. The good news is that tart or sour food may help restore your appetite and reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy.

If you are experiencing changes in how food and beverages taste, having something sour can restore a sense of normalcy to your taste buds. There are various ways to incorporate something tart or sour into your diet:

  • Add lemon or lime juice to water, tea or other drinks
  • Try eating a slice of lemon or lime with your meal
  • Suck on a lemon or lime wedge
  • Try eating strawberries or drinking cranberry juice
  • Try eating pickles.

One thing to note: some cancer patients develop mouth sores. It’s best to avoid sour foods when you have mouth sores, as they can worsen them.

8. Try hypnosis

Hypnosis is another option for treating nausea. It’s been proven to be effective (in some cases) in controlling vomiting and helping patients relax during chemotherapy sessions.

A systematic review published in the European Journal of Cancer Care suggests that hypnosis can be effective against anticipatory and chemotherapy-induced nausea. The study also found that this treatment method may work best for children with cancer.

In addition to these benefits, hypnosis can help patients avoid triggers that cause them to feel sick. If you’re interested in trying hypnosis, it’s best to see a qualified professional with experience treating cancer patients.

9. Try acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to promote healing and alleviate pain or discomfort. In the context of chemotherapy-induced nausea, acupuncture is believed to help by stimulating the body’s natural painkillers and reducing inflammation.

Several studies have shown that acupuncture can be an effective complementary therapy for reducing nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. For example, a 2016 meta-analysis of 17 randomised controlled trials found that acupuncture was more effective than anti-nausea medications for reducing nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Acupuncture may also help with other side effects of chemotherapy, such as fatigue, anxiety and depression. Some studies have even suggested that acupuncture can enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy by improving immune function and reducing tumour size.

It’s worth noting that while acupuncture is generally considered safe, it’s important to consult with a qualified practitioner. Acupuncture should never be used as a replacement for conventional medical treatment. Before trying this chemo-nausea remedy, consult your doctor before trying it as a complementary therapy.

10. Guided imagery

Guided imagery is a technique that involves using mental images and visualisation to promote relaxation, reduce stress and manage symptoms. This method can help patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being.

A 2016 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that guided imagery can help reduce the frequency and severity of nausea in breast cancer patients. After the intervention, a third of the patients reported feeling less nauseated post-chemotherapy.

A trained practitioner or audio recording will guide the patient through relaxing and soothing mental images during a guided imagery session. This may include imagining a peaceful scene, such as a beach or forest, and focusing on that environment’s sights, sounds and sensations.

Guided imagery can help with chemotherapy-induced nausea in several ways. First, it helps patients relax and alleviates stress, reducing nausea and other symptoms. Additionally, it can help patients feel more in control of their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life during treatment.

11. Biofeedback

Hand with attached sensors for heart rate measurement.

Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that helps individuals learn to control their physiological responses to stress and other stimuli. It involves using electronic instruments to measure various physiological processes, such as muscle tension, heart rate and skin temperature.

During a biofeedback session, sensors are attached to the patient’s body to measure physiological responses such as heart rate variability or muscle tension. The patient then receives visual or auditory feedback on their responses, such as a graph or sound, which they can use to practise relaxation techniques and adjust their physiological responses.

It’s easy to understand how this might help with nausea. If you know what your body is doing right now, then you can take action to stop feeling sick.

12. Music therapy

Music therapy is a complementary therapy that uses music to promote healing and improve emotional and physical well-being. It’s been shown not only to help regulate mood but also to alleviate physical sensations like nausea.

One study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that music therapy positively affected chemotherapy-induced anxiety, nausea and vomiting. Another study found evidence that therapeutic singing exercise may also help with nausea.

During a music therapy session, a trained music therapist will work with the patient to create a personalised playlist of calming songs. The patient may listen to music during chemotherapy treatment or at other times when they are experiencing nausea or other symptoms.

Conclusion

In broad strokes, nausea is a problem during cancer treatment because it restricts your ability to eat and drink normally. Luckily, there are ways to help you feel better.

The first step is to speak with your doctor about your chemotherapy nausea treatment options. Once you have a better idea of what’s happening, try some of these tips to help yourself feel better.

If you or someone you care about experiences nausea during chemotherapy, take the time to get informed and feel empowered to take charge of the situation. Remember, you are in control.

Here at Lyphe, we have extensive experience with patients who have undergone chemotherapy. Medical cannabis can help alleviate pain during treatment. If you are interested in trying out medical cannabis as a natural relief option from chemotherapy nausea, book a call with our experts today!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long can chemo nausea last?

Nausea can last for weeks or months after chemotherapy. It’s rare for it to go away completely, but some treatments help reduce it.

Why does chemotherapy cause nausea?

Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill cancer cells, but they also affect healthy ones. This can cause nausea and other side effects like fatigue and vomiting.

What helps with nausea from chemo?

Prescription drugs like ondansetron (Zofran) and meclizine (Dramamine) can help relieve nausea. Some patients also try home remedies for chemo nausea, like ginger and sour foods.

Does ginger help with chemo nausea?

Yes, ginger has been used to treat an upset stomach for centuries. Ginger root tea, candied ginger and even ginger capsules are all viable options to help relieve nausea.

What comfort food can chemo patients have?

Comfort foods are usually carb-heavy, and some patients find them helpful when they have nausea from chemo. Foods like mashed potatoes, toast with jam or peanut butter, rice pudding and macaroni cheese can be comforting for patients experiencing nausea as a side effect of chemotherapy.

References

8 tips for managing chemotherapy-induced nausea. Columbia Surgery. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://columbiasurgery.org/news/2015/04/29/8-tips-managing-chemotherapy-induced-nausea

Gao, L., Chen, B., Zhang, Q. et al. Acupuncture with different acupoint combinations for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med 16, 441 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-016-1425-1

Grimison, P., Mersiades, A., Kirby, A., Lintzeris, N., Morton, R., Haber, P., Olver, I., Walsh, A., McGregor, I., Cheung, Y., Tognela, A., Hahn, C., Briscoe, K., Aghmesheh, M., Fox, P., Abdi, E., Clarke, S., Della-Fiorentina, S., Shannon, J., … Stockler, M. (2020). Oral THC:CBD cannabis extract for refractory chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: A randomised, placebo-controlled, phase II crossover trial. Annals of Oncology, 31(11), 1553–1560. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annonc.2020.07.020

Hosseini, M., Tirgari, B., Forouzi, M. A., & Jahani, Y. (2016). Guided imagery effects on chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting in Iranian breast cancer patients. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 25, 8–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.07.002

Karagozoglu, S., Tekyasar, F., & Yilmaz, F. A. (2012). Effects of music therapy and guided visual imagery on chemotherapy-induced anxiety and nausea-vomiting. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22(1-2), 39–50. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.12030

Managing nausea and vomiting at home. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/eating-problems/nausea-and-vomiting/managing.html

MD Anderson Cancer Center, & DeMarco, C. (2021, March 4). How to manage nausea from cancer treatment. MD Anderson Cancer Center. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/how-to-manage-nausea-caused-by-cancer-treatment.h00-159459267.html

Medical cannabis found to reduce chemo induced nausea vomiting. The University of Sydney. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/09/18/medical-cannabis-found-to-reduce-chemo-induced-nausea-vomiting.html

Meng, H., Dai, T., Hanlon, J. G., Downar, J., Alibhai, S. M. H., & Clarke, H. (2020). Cannabis and cannabinoids in cancer pain management. Current opinion in supportive and palliative care, 14(2), 87–93. https://doi.org/10.1097/SPC.0000000000000493

Richardson, J., Smith, J. E., Mccall, G., Richardson, A., Pilkington, K., & Kirsch, I. (2007). Hypnosis for nausea and vomiting in cancer chemotherapy: A systematic review of the research evidence. European Journal of Cancer Care, 16(5), 402–412. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2354.2006.00736.x

Wilkie G, Sakr B, Rizack T. Medical Marijuana Use in Oncology: A Review. JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(5):670–675. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.0155

Author: Bojan
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Bojan Ambrus, Head of Marketing & Digital Product at Lyphe Group, is a data-driven growth marketing professional with over 15 years of rich experience. His background includes roles such as Head of Marketing at Vaping.com and growth marketing roles in various enterprises, startups, and scale-ups. His expertise in building and positioning businesses is particularly valuable in the cannabis sector, where he navigates its complexities and regulatory challenges. His strategic marketing insights make Bojan a key player in shaping Lyphe Group's marketing and digital product strategies.

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