Nausea and vomiting affect patients across all cancer types, particularly those who undergo targeted radiation or chemotherapy. They remain among the most dreaded side effects of treatment. Nausea is characterized by an uneasy sensation that comes in waves in the back of the throat and/or stomach. It is often, but not always, accompanied by vomiting. Nausea may develop when chemotherapy drugs damage the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract. Certain other triggers, including sights, smells, motion, taste, anxiety or pain, may also stimulate nausea and/or vomiting. Nausea and vomiting may result in other symptoms, such as an escalated heart rate, excess saliva or difficulty swallowing.
Mitigating gastrointestinal side effects may help prevent malnutrition and improve quality of life. Dietitians may offer tips for symptom management while helping patients meet their nutrient and hydration needs. Many patients who experience nausea and vomiting after treatment have little to no interest in food and may avoid eating or drinking for fear of vomiting.
Although it may seem contrary to the expectations of those suffering with nausea, eating every two hours may help patients feel better, alleviate their nausea and boost energy levels. Cold foods may be better tolerated that hot foods, and modifying the taste and consistency of certain foods may make them more appealing. Dietitians may also recommend ginger and peppermint products, which may act as natural anti-nausea agents.
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