Nausea, vomiting and eating problems

Nausea and vomiting

Not everyone feels sick or nauseous with their treatment, but many people do. If nausea does occur, it usually happens a few hours after chemotherapy – and unfortunately it can last for quite a few hours.

There are a number of different medications that can be used to treat nausea, although it may take a while to find one that works for you.

It may also be difficult to find foods that stay down and actually taste good.

Ways to cope with nausea

  • Don’t eat any of your favourite foods immediately after the treatment – they may never be your favourites again!
  • Keep a ‘barf bag’ nearby at all times, especially in the car.
  • Simple hunger often prolongs nausea, so make sure you keep eating! But don’t eat too much at any one time. Try five small meals a day instead of three big ones.
  • If you’re likely to be waiting for a while when visiting the doctor, take a nourishing snack or drink with you.
  • Chop up food into bite sized pieces to make eating less of an effort.
  • Eat your main meal of the day at whatever time you feel best.
  • Choose foods that don’t have a strong smell.
  • Choose fluids that’ll give you some energy – like juice, milk or cordial.
  • Rest after eating.
  • If you’re up to it, eat with other people instead of by yourself. Or, try reading while you eat to take your mind off the food.
  • Don’t eat too many things that fill you up without being nutritious.


Eating and/or swallowing problems

Many people experience a sore mouth or some problems swallowing food as a result of cancer treatment.

Tips to cope with a sore mouth

  • Avoid foods that might sting your mouth like vinegar, spices, salty foods, alcohol (especially wine and spirits), very hot or very cold stuff, and acidic fruit juices.
  • Dilute fruit juice. Mango, pear or peach fruit juices are less irritating than citrus juices.
  • Try sucking on an ice block (don’t opt for orange or pineapple ones as the acid in them will hurt your mouth).
  • Eat soft, smooth, creamy foods. Chop, blend, mince or puree food to make it easier to swallow.
  • Avoid rough, dry and crunchy foods like nuts, chips and dry crackers.
  • Try drinking liquids through a straw if you have mouth ulcers.
  • Pay special attention to mouth hygiene to help prevent infection. Try a mouthwash (not a commercial one as that will sting) after each meal. Use a soft toothbrush and brush your teeth twice a day.
  • Be careful brushing your teeth. You may have a low platelet count and brushing your teeth may cause your gums to bleed. If it’s too painful, try using a mouthwash instead.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have persistent ulcers or a white coating in the mouth (thrush).
  • Tell your doctor or dietitian if you have severe difficulty swallowing for a considerable period of time.

Tips to cope with a dry mouth

  • Have drinks with meals and try and take small sips throughout.
  • Try sucking on ice blocks or ice cubes.
  • Cook meat until it is very tender so you don’t have so much chewing to do.
  • Make food moist with stock, milk, sauce or gravy.