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Nausea checklist

A lot of people going through cancer treatment get struck down by nausea.

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A lot of people going through cancer treatment get struck down by nausea. For some, it comes and goes in waves and a noticeable pattern can be identified. For others, it can linger for weeks and destroy a person’s quality of life.

What is happening in the body?

Chemotherapy affects parts of the stomach and brain that detect toxic substances. As your body tries to rid itself of the toxins it can lead to nausea and sometimes vomiting. The dose and type of cancer drug will affect the degree of nausea. Chemotherapy infusions can lead to instant nausea because of how quickly they reach the bloodstream.  

Why it matters

There is no doubt about it – that awful ‘sicky’ feeling is downright debilitating! It puts you right off your food, your appetite disappears and your weight can start to plummet as a result.

Unintentional weight loss >5% (regardless of your initial weight) coupled with inadequate nutrition are not ideal during chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

They can:

    • dampen the immune system & increase your risk of infections
    • lead to worsening tolerance of treatment
    • zap your energy levels
    • make it difficult to remain physically active
    • lead to loss of muscle mass (strength!) as well as fat mass

What you can do

Everyone has their own way of dealing with what life throws at them. Coping with the side-effects of cancer treatment can be a real challenge even for the most resilient of us. At Onkohealth we aim to empower people to take back some control over what is happening to them.

Here are 10 tried and tested ‘Tips and Tricks’ which have helped people get through bouts of nausea:

    • Portion size: go ‘Michelin star’ – adopt a ‘little and often’ eating pattern rather than the old school ‘3 meals a day’.
    • Good days: Make the most of days or times that you feel less nauseous and try to eat a bit more then.
    • Eat before you get hungry: A lot of people claim their nausea is worst first thing in the morning. Hunger (and an overnight fast) can actually increase nausea. Try starting off with something plain and dry like a biscuit and continue with little and often throughout the day.
    • Ginger: Ginger root contains compounds that may help relieve or prevent nausea by increasing the flow of saliva and digestive juices. They may also help calm the stomach and intestines. Ginger tea, ginger cordial, ginger biscuits (and so on) have all been reported to help people struggling through nausea.
    • *Medication: There are lots of different anti-sickness tablets on the market. Try to take what you are given as recommended (read the instructions on the box).
        • Compliance: anti-sickness tablets can help prevent the onset of nausea altogether – don’t try to be brave by holding off. This will make your life a lot harder later.
        • Timing: Often they can take at least 30mins to kick in so leave enough time between taking the tablet and your meal.
        • No one-size-fits-all: If you are not finding them helpful, ask your doctor whether there is another you can try.
    • Cravings: Don’t fight these. A little of what you fancy is fine, especially when struggling to eat at all. Whether it’s a pork pie or a scoop of ice-cream, right now you need those calories.
    • Best foods: Salty (pretzels, crackers), dry, plain (bananas, rice, apples, toast), cold, acidic (grapefruit, fizzy lemonade)
    • Fresh air: Don’t underestimate the power of fresh air and a walk before meals. If you are cooped up in your room and really can’t face going outside, throw open the window for a bit.
    • Smells: Strong smells from cooking coming from the kitchen can really leave you feeling pretty peaky when you are most vulnerable. Try to keep away from the cooking zone where possible, and choose cold or room temperature foods over hot foods.
    • Fluids: Hydration is key. Try to sip fluids regularly between meals. Use a straw if this helps. Set an alarm for every hour or create a checklist /use a diary to track how much you have consumed each day.

*Anti-sickness medications work by either:

    • blocking the vomiting centre in the brain
    • blocking receptors in your gut that trigger nausea in the brain
    • acting directly on your stomach by increasing the rate at which it empties and moves food into your bowel

Complementary therapies

Acupuncture works by using special hair-thin needles on trigger points in the body which are thought to stimulate certain nerves and release chemicals in the brain. It has been shown in some studies to be effective as a therapy for poorly controlled nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy and radiotherapy but more evidence is still needed.

If you do choose to go down the acupuncture route, please make sure they are either a regulated healthcare professional or a member of a recognised national acupuncture organisation.

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References:

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/complementary-alternative-therapies/individual-therapies/acupuncture

The Register of British Acupuncture Council members: https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/component/com_quickfap/Itemid,918/view,theregister/

Integrative Therapies During and After Breast Cancer Treatment: ASCO Endorsement of the SIO Clinical Practice Guideline. (2018) G Lyman and others. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2018 September 1;36(25):2647-2655.

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102, Sydney Street,
Chelsea, London, SW3 6NJ

Tel: 020 3488 0182‬

Email: team@onkohealth.co.uk

Onko programmes work alongside your cancer treatment.
Onko does not provide clinical treatment for cancer.

Newsletter

Coming to you soon

Get in Touch

102, Sydney Street,
Chelsea, London, SW3 6NJ

Tel: 020 3488 0182‬

Email: team@onkohealth.co.uk

  • ONKO FOUNDERS
Onko programmes work alongside your cancer treatment.
Onko does not provide clinical treatment for cancer.

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