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Managing nausea and vomiting when you have lung cancer

By Nicole Erickson M.Sc, Registered Dietitian

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What foods are good for managing nausea and vomiting?

While scientific evidence for dietary interventions are lacking, experts agree on the following practical dietary strategies for minimising the impact of nausea and vomiting:

  • Change food choices to promote adequate intake of fluids and nutrition. Clear liquids such as apple, cranberry, broths (low salt), and herbal teas such a chamomile or ginger tea and are recommended.
    Note: Vomiting can lead to dehydration. Contact your care team if you have persistent vomiting, and you cannot keep liquids down
  • Generally, avoid foods that seem to make your nausea and/or urge to vomit worse – try keeping a diary to see if there’s any link between what you eat, when you eat, anything you did after eating (e.g. walking, resting, lying down, etc.), and how you feel afterwards
    • Fatty, greasy, spicy, rich, and salty foods are common triggers, so you might be better off avoiding these
  • Foods that tend to be better tolerated include:
    • Bland foods such as porridge, plain rice, noodles, or boiled potatoes
    • Dry crackers and dry toast
    • Low-fat protein sources such as skinned chicken, turkey, eggs, and tofu
    • Bananas, applesauce, and soft bland fruits are often well tolerated
    • Sucking on hard candies, chewing on gummy candies, or chewing gum can help to reduce nausea. Ginger chews, peppermints, and lemon drops also help to get rid of bad tastes in your mouth
  • Smaller, more frequent meals are usually better tolerated (nausea is often increased when the stomach is empty)
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about anti-sickness medicines (sometimes called antiemetics). These can help reduce the urge to vomit, and lessen feelings of nausea. There are many different types, so work with your doctor or nurse to find one that’s right for you
    • If you are prescribed an antiemetic, try to time the dose so that you take it prior to meals and the effect is present during and after meals
  • Avoid aromatic foods and spending time in or near the kitchen where foods are prepared. Try to eat bland foods in well ventilated areas. Ask family and friends to avoid using perfumes, strong smelling cleansers, and room fresheners
  • Foods and drinks served at room temperature tend to be easier to tolerate. Let hot foods and drinks cool down before you eat them and let cold foods and drinks warm up before you eat or drink them. It is also possible to add ice to hot foods and drinks to speed up the process, or stick hot foods in the freezer for 5–10 minutes so they can cool down quickly
  • Avoid clothing that is tight around your neck and waist
  • Remain sitting up for at least a 30 minutes to 60 minutes after meals
  • Avoid eating your favourite foods when you are at increased risk for nausea and vomiting. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it will prevent you from developing an aversion to these foods
  • Try drinking with a straw so that tastes and odors don’t trigger nausea
  • Ginger has been found to alleviate nausea in some situations (sea sickness, severe morning sickness in pregnant women). Try ginger candies, tea, or putting ginger roots in water or broth. Please note that while the use of ginger appears to be safe, there is little scientific evidence about its efficacy at reducing nausea and vomiting, so it cannot be recommended as a definitive treatment to manage cancer-related vomiting

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