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How Do I Control Chemotherapy Vomiting?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated May 17, 2024
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When you have cancer and need to take a strong medication to help get better, the side effects of the medicine can be unpleasant. Since the potential benefits usually outweigh the nausea and vomiting that accompanies many chemotherapy drugs, the best option may be to try and reduce the intensity of the side effects. The doctor can often prescribe drugs for you that prevent the problems from even developing, which are called anti-nausea medications. Dealing with food as a trigger for vomiting is one area which you may have some control over, and you may benefit from practices such as eating certain foods or eating only at certain times of the day.

Chemotherapy vomiting occurs with many anticancer medicines, but not all. Some medicines cause more vomiting than others, and your doctor can tell you the specific side effects of the drug you are taking. Reassurance that your treatment is unlikely to cause you to vomit may help you to control any chemotherapy vomiting that does occur, as psychological expectations and fears of severe side effects may actually trigger nausea.

Anti-nausea drugs are one tool that you can use to reduce the chance of chemotherapy vomiting. Your doctor will often be able to recommend one suitable for you, and can recommend alternatives until you find one that's effective for you. You should take the medication exactly as the doctor instructs, so that the drug's effects work over the whole day, and do not give nausea an opportunity to occur.

Food is an important trigger of chemotherapy vomiting. The smell, the taste and the sight of food all work on the brain and on the stomach. Normally, food is welcome, but when it is accompanied with a chance of feeling sick and getting sick, it can become much less appetizing.

If you find that cooking makes you feel sick, then asking someone else to cook for you can remove this trigger. If the smell of food puts you off it, allow the food to cool down so it doesn't smell so strongly. Big meals can seem impossible to eat, so you may find it easier to eat small and often, at about six times a day.

The times that you eat can also influence when you become sick. Different people feel better at different times of the day while they take chemotherapy treatment, but over the days, you can find out when you are most comfortable eating. Often, eating straight after a dose of chemotherapy can make you sick, so this is a time that most people avoid. You may also tend to feel less sick after treatment if you avoid food immediately beforehand, or only eat a small amount.

Although everybody differs in what they want to eat during a chemotherapy regime, bland food may be the most easily tolerated. This includes boiled potatoes, rice and white bread. Soups like broths are another option, as juices and yogurts. Skinless chicken may be a good protein source, and creamed cereal a good breakfast choice. Desserts like tinned fruit, iced lollipops and plain bananas can add some sweetness to your diet.

It is important to remember that although vomiting is a common side effect of chemotherapy drugs, it can also be a sign of other health problems, so you should always inform your doctor that you are getting sick. While you are taking the chemotherapy drugs, a good diet can help you stay fit and improve your well being, so a bit of experimentation with flavors may help. The drugs can affect your taste buds, so if you can tolerate it, highly flavored additions to food like spices, bacon bits or cheeses may make the food more appealing to you. Ginger is another addition which may help keep nausea in check, and your doctor can help you figure out if, and how, you can take this.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon290891 — On Sep 11, 2012

My cousin has breast cancer and the chemo is making her sick. What should she do?

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