Tools and Tips to Reduce Nausea and Improve Nutrition During Chemotherapy

June 14, 2016

We recently had the chance to get to know Margot Malin, the Founder & CEO of Lots To Live For, Inc. We asked her to share more on some tools and tips to reduce nausea and improve nutrition during chemotherapy. Below you will find a post that she generously has written. Thanks Margot for such wonderful tools and tips!

Everyone knows that some of the side effects of chemotherapy drugs can be uncomfortable and debilitating. What they might not realize is that there are some simple products and techniques that can help. In this post we will offer some tools and tips to manage nutrition during chemotherapy with the goal of improving comfort, reducing nausea and thereby enabling patients to resume more normal daily activities.

Many patients find their appetite is reduced due to nausea, and changes in taste sensations during their chemotherapy regimen.

Nausea is a very common side effect of cancer treatment. It severely affects the patient’s quality of life. Cancer and its treatment can cause changes in your eating habits and your desire to eat. Not eating can lead to weight loss, and this can cause weakness and fatigue. Eating as well as you can is an important part of taking care of yourself. Treatment-related side effects like pain, nausea, and constipation can also cause loss of appetite. Managing these problems may help you eat better. For more advice on what and how to improve nutrition refer to the American Cancer Society website (click here). A few suggestions are summarized below.

  • Eat several snacks throughout the day, rather than 3 large meals.
  • Avoid liquids with meals, or take only small sips of liquids to keep from feeling full early (unless you need liquids to help swallow or for dry mouth). Drink most of your liquids between meals. However, take care to remain hydrated.
  • Make eating more enjoyable by setting the table with pretty dishes, playing your favorite music, watching TV, or eating with someone.
  • Be as physically active as you can. Start off slowly, and increase your activity over time as you feel stronger. Sometimes a short walk an hour or so before meals can help you feel hungry.
  • Keep high-calorie, high-protein snacks on hand. Try hard-cooked eggs, peanut butter, cheese, ice cream, granola bars, nuts, canned tuna or chicken, or trail mix. (to see American Cancer Society recommendations click here). Foods with fiber can help reduce constipation.
  • Eat your favorite foods any time of the day; for instance, if you like breakfast foods, eat them for dinner.
  • Choose your foods carefully. Try to avoid processed sugars, limit high fat foods, avoid spicy foods. Be sure to eat plenty of plant based foods including vegetables, fruits and beans. Also, limit the amount of salt-cured, smoked, and pickled foods you eat.
  • Peppermint tea and Ginger tea can be soothing for the stomach.
  • Avoid strong odors such as foods that are pungent, flowers, perfumes, and some cleaning products.

Products to help reduce nausea

There are a number of inexpensive yet extremely helpful products to combat nausea.

Accupressure wristbands can help control chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). Anti-nausea lozenges also available in assorted flavors. Several essential oils can also help reduce nausea.

Biobands – A simple and inexpensive wristband utilizes acupressure, a natural pressure therapy applied to a specific acupuncture point that controls nausea and vomiting. Wearing Biobands can help control nausea during treatment and throughout the day.

Queasy Drops are the natural way to ease a queasy stomach. They are effective due to their special formulation of essential oils, aromatherapy and their unique delivery method. They are also a great way to help with dry mouth symptoms.

QueaseEase is a compact, discreet, all natural aromatic inhaler consisting of a unique blend of four 100% pure essential oils, Peppermint, Ginger, Spearmint and Lavender.  It was formulated to calm the queasiness associated with surgery and anesthesia and is also beneficial for soothing motion sickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy related nausea. The user simply takes a few deep breaths of the aroma for immediate relief.

These simple and inexpensive products are easy to use and can help you resume your normal lifestyle. All of these products fit easily into a Chemotherapy Goody Bag and make thoughtful and helpful cancer gifts.

Exercise and Lifestyle

Many studies have shown that simple exercise can help many of the uncomfortable side effects. For example, it can help bloating, gas and improve digestion. Other lifestyle activities that can be helpful include yoga, breathing and meditation.

Exercise – Get moving as soon as you can! Find an exercise that you enjoy and do it!  Even if the movement is minimal or slow at first, or on the days of treatment, don’t be discouraged. Exercise should help you through chemo fatigue as well.  However, exercising too soon after eating may slow down digestion and increase discomfort. A good resource is the new book Exercises for Cancer Survivors by Carol Michaels. Carol also has developed two Cancer Exercise DVD’s to help guide you through exercise during cancer. (Refer to references at the end for additional studies about the benefits of exercise)

Deep Breathing Exercises and Guided Meditation can help you relax before and during treatment. They can help put your mind in a calmer, positive and more proactive place.  An example of a CD to help teach you breathing techniques is the Breathe With Purpose CD by Diana Ross. offers a guided meditation app. Saagara offers three pranayama apps, with guided breathing, and a meditation app.

Yoga – A number of studies have shown that yoga can help cancer patients in a variety of ways including, improving digestion, flexibility and strength. An article in the Huffington Post shows additional benefits of yoga including community and pain management. The Breast Cancer Yoga Blog is a helpful resource.

Lifestyle Choices - Important to Avoid

No smoking, No caffeine, No alcohol!

Consult with your Oncology Team

The more comfortable you are during treatment, the better your mental and emotional state.  A more comfortable state of mind will contribute to optimizing your outcome. Maintaining a healthy weight and following appropriate nutritional guidelines are important for your health. This article has discussed natural and nonprescription methods of reducing chemotherapy nausea. There are also prescription products that can be helpful. Don’t hesitate to consult with your oncology team for additional ideas. We hope our suggestions will improve your comfort by improving your nutrition and reducing your nausea during your cancer journey.

A Little More on Margot Malin 

Margot Malin has a passion for knowledge. After receiving her MBA from The Wharton School, she spent almost 20 years analyzing and evaluating businesses as an equity analyst and portfolio manager. In 2002 she embarked on the “creative reinvention” phase of her career with the intention of “giving back.” Margot founded Lots To Live For, Inc., a collection of cancer resources including carefully curated personal care products to reduce and relieve the uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation.

Some Additional References

American Cancer Society Website

Exercise Related Studies

Effects of aerobic exercise on cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: a meta-analysis.

Randomized, controlled trial of resistance training in breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant radiotherapy: results on cancer-related fatigue and quality of life.

Lots To Live For Blog Post about Exercise

Breast Cancer Yoga Blog Post – Tips To Control Chemotherapy Nausea and Vomiting

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