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.

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9 thoughts on “Coping with nausea as a side effect from cancer drugs

  1. pgsahm January 6, 2009 at 7:15 pm Reply

    The list of foods to avoid looks so sad! You don’t have a lot of choice left it seems! I hate nausea and would hate to have it everyday like some chemo patients. Tonic water sounds like a good idea. What about ginger pills? Would they help?

  2. Rusty January 6, 2009 at 8:24 pm Reply

    I have heard that tonic water or sometimes just a sip of plain cold water helps to stop nausea. It’s a good idea to carry a small bottle around if you know you are prone to nausea attacks.

  3. attagirl January 7, 2009 at 3:05 am Reply

    I would imagine that there are plenty of foods that would probably taste good but cause nausea in cancer patients. I do not remember specifically what my mother went through with it but I do remember that she stopped eating a lot of the foods that she liked while she was going through treatment.

  4. Simonsays January 11, 2009 at 11:13 pm Reply

    For me it really depends on the day and how I am feeling. I do not find that foods or smells make me any more ill than they did prior. But sometimes I am just not feeling all the great and that is when I seem to be the most sick.

  5. sanju123 January 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm Reply

    OK I was not aware of all this but does this happen to all cancer patients? I am making this query because my bro’s father-in-law had a long fight against cancer but we never came across this problem with him. He never complained of any kind of nausea through out.Though the poor soul went through hell sort of time.

  6. mrsjprice January 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm Reply

    My mother in law tends to get nausea if she eats anything with spices in it. Sometimes if she smells something really spicy as well it can have the same affect and make her sick. She’s always got some sort of wipes in her bag and she suffers with the sickness quite badly.

  7. Dartz January 25, 2009 at 6:18 pm Reply

    Good thing that tonic and soda water is an acquired taste. I can drink that stuff by the bucket, which is a good thing in itself, since quite a handful of things make me nauseous.

    Tonic water is disgusting though, I’d rather just drink soda water.

  8. tongyun February 4, 2009 at 6:19 pm Reply

    Whenever I feel a bout of nausea coming on, I’ll grab a can of Coke and slowly sip it. There’s something in the soda that helps to quell the queasy stomach. Something else I’ll do is to take some plain Lipton tea (nasty stuff to begin with), let it steep for several minutes and slowly sip it.

  9. jamesb February 6, 2009 at 8:41 pm Reply

    I remember when my mother was undergoing treatment that she would rather often get sick. I was there to help her and clean up for her as I loved her so much however so many people around us seemed to have no compassion and understanding. Shame on them! Thank you for all your great tips on how to avoid nausea.

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