Monthly Archives: May 2009

Coping with nausea as a side effect from cancer drugs

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Watch out for chillies, peppers etc. Flickr

Helping with Nausea and other

side effects


Everyone complains about nausea as a side effect.

This is one problem that doctors and nurses are keen to deal with – but sometimes you just don’t want to take another pill.

Or, sometimes you get no warning, and can’t ask for help.

It hit me  suddenly when walking along – and being sick in the gutter is not to be recommended.  Passers-by tut tut and say “she’s drunk”.

If you get nausea attacks when out and about, you’ll obviously carry wipes.  I use Equilibra ones, as they contain Aloe  Vera, so don’t dry my skin and make it feel tight, like so many do.

And we are not alone – the late Patrick Swayze described side effects of chemotherapy as “hell on wheels”.


Fellow patients confirm that most likely triggers are seafood, smoked food, peppers, chillies, spices – that type of thing.  Not surprising, I suppose, because they can upset the stomach.  So watch for:

Smoked salmon / trout / chicken/carpaccio and other smoked and dried meats

Seafood – crab, mussels, lobster, winkles, etc.  (but white fish, salmon etc is usually OK).    Always buy organic salmon if it is farmed salmon (Waitrose supply this), as ordinary farmed salmon can be fed with pellets that trigger nausea.

Peppers – (especially in soups such as Gazpacho) – stews and salads

Chillies – and that meant anything with a chillie content.  At  parties I became very, very cautious when the eats came round.  This is good for the waist-line!

Spices – So this meant that Indian and Eastern European (especially Hungarian) food had to be treated with a great deal of caution.  However, I found Lebanese and Turkish food, if you were careful, was OK.  And for some reason Saffron didn’t cause any problems, so saffron rice was always a safe option.  Chinese, Thai, Malay and similar food too can have chillies – but there is plenty of choice without spices – and herbs such as lemon grass give a wonderful flavour.

Soup – watch ingredients, as often chefs will spice them up (even the ubiquitous tomato) with peppers, chillies etc.

Some people find garlic and onions can set them off.

But Chocolate was perfectly OK for me – darn it!


Most nurses have loads of ideas for treatment;  ginger and its derivatives seems a perennial favourite (see below).

My ‘trick’ was Tonic Water – the ordinary Schweppes variety.  This was an old remedy I used to dose my passengers when I worked as a Tour Manager, and anyone who complained of travel sickness was given a bottle to drink.  It worked 99% of the time, and often worked on me this time and prevented a potential sick attack.


Carry a packet of antiseptic wipes – very useful if you are sick away from home.  I use Equilibria as they contain Aloe Vera.

For years anecdotal evidence said ginger was good for nausea. Now the University of Rochester Medical Center has done trials on chemo patients, and researchers report that early use of ginger supplements, in combination with traditional antinausea drugs, significantly reduces chemotherapy-related nausea in patients with cancer.

“We found that patients who received traditional anti-nausea drugs along with ginger supplements prior to
chemotherapy experienced significantly less nausea associated with their chemotherapy,” explained Julie
Ryan, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of dermatology and radiation oncology at the University of
Rochester and the study’s lead author. “However, as with all supplements, patients should speak with
their doctors first before taking ginger.” Doses of 0.5g and 1.0g doses had the greatest benefit.

So if it works for chemo – why not hormonal drug side effects?  Discuss with your Oncologist/nurse, and they can get details of the Randomized Study at University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, USA.

And if you get a sore mouth (sometimes known as chemo-mouth) from being sick, a quick spray of Evomucy used to settle the soreness – for me.

Enhanced by ZemantaTip – if you live in a hot climate, you can just cut off tip of aloe vera leaf and squirt it out.  Otherwise, any chemist sells it.