Practical ways to avoid nausea in cancer patients
Cancer Treatment and Nausea: Page 4
In addition to medication, there are other ways to avoid or reduce nausea. Even little changes can make a big difference. Try these:
Serve small meals. Prepare food in small, easy-to-serve portions, and suggest that the person you're caring for eat many small meals throughout the day rather than three large ones.
Keep lots of snacks available. High-carbohydrate foods like crackers and toast help settle the stomach and move through the digestive system quickly. Keep snacks next to the bed so he can have a few bites before getting up. Keep jars of nuts, dried fruit, small crackers, and other snacks around the house, and encourage him to eat a handful whenever he can manage it.
Protect the patient from unpleasant smells. Scents can be powerful nausea triggers for someone undergoing chemotherapy. Take steps to avoid strong odors -- move the garbage can to the garage, put the cat litter downstairs, park the car at the curb, so he doesn't have to smell exhaust in the garage.
Take particular care to avoid food-related smells before meals, which can set off a wave of nausea that will keep him from eating. Have him stay out of the kitchen while food is being prepared, and if possible, have him sit outside in the fresh air. Avoid food with a strong smell, such as fish, and serve meals cool or at room temperature when possible, since hot food tends to have a stronger odor.
Try enhancing the taste of food -- without odors -- by seasoning with salt, lemon juice, and condiments like catsup, pickles, and olives.
Encourage rest after meals. Activity slows digestion, which tends to increase nausea. It can help to take a rest after eating, either sitting up or with his back and shoulders raised on pillows. He shouldn't lie flat on his back, as this can cause heartburn and nausea. Loosen his clothing and keep the room cool, with plenty of fresh air.
Offer plenty of liquids. Drinking lots of water helps prevent nausea, but other liquids are good too. Flat ginger ale is popular with cancer patients, as is cold ginger and peppermint tea or other types of herbal teas. Ice chips are popular, but if they get boring, offer frozen fruit ice pops.
Prevent sour mouth. A dry, sour taste in the mouth is a common side effect of cancer treatment, and it can also trigger nausea. Encourage the person in your care to rinse his mouth out with water as often as possible, particularly before meals. Chewing on peppermint candy, lemon drops, or ginger candy also helps.
Distract him after meals. Thinking about something else can help prevent nausea from occurring after meals. Get out a board game or watch a movie together. Relaxation techniques such as guided meditation help reduce nausea as well.
The main thing to keep in mind about cancer-related nausea is that it's an ever-evolving process that you have to take day by day. Some days will be bad days, when your main focus will be keeping the patient as comfortable as possible. Other days will be good days, when you can take advantage of his feeling better to help him eat well and build up his strength. He'll probably appreciate anything you can do to help him weather the ups and downs.