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Tips for Side Effects, Nutrition

Relief is On Its Way: Strategies for Nausea Management

A common side effect of both cancer itself and cancer treatment is nausea. Nausea, no matter how severe, can interfere with your ability to eat and complete daily activities and sometimes can lead to vomiting.

It’s important to know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to controlling nausea and vomiting. Trying a combination of strategies will help you figure out what makes you feel most comfortable.

What Causes Nausea?

There are several different factors that may contribute to nausea when you have cancer. These include:

  • Type of cancer: certain cancers affecting the brain, liver, or gastrointestinal system may cause more nausea

  • Cancer treatments: chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy

  • Medications

  • Constipation or gastrointestinal issues

  • Inner ear problems or balance concerns

  • Imbalance in electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and others

  • Infections

  • Anxiety: thinking or being in a place or situation that triggers feeling sick can also contribute


5 Tips to Treat Nausea

For most people, preventing and treating nausea and vomiting requires both medication and food approaches.

  1. Anti-nausea medication. Based on your treatment and common side effects, your doctor may prescribe medication(s) to prevent nausea before it starts. If you’ve been prescribed anti-nausea medication by your oncology team, it’s important to take it even if you feel well. If you haven’t been prescribed medication and you start to feel nauseous after treatment, it’s important to contact your Iris Care Team as soon as possible.

  2. Hydration. Even though it might feel challenging to drink enough each day, staying hydrated helps to minimize nausea. Sip fluids consistently throughout the day, aiming for 8-10 (8 oz) glasses. Tired of plain water? We’ve got plenty of ideas to mix in.

  3. Avoid an empty stomach. While it may feel like eating is the last thing you want to do, leaving your stomach empty can make nausea worse. But it might be uncomfortable — or even unfathomable — to eat 3 large meals per day. You’ll likely feel better if you eat a small mini meal or snack every 2-3 hours. Small amounts of dry, salty foods every couple of hours — like 2-3 saltine crackers — is better than not eating at all.

  4. Consume cold foods. Refrigerated or chilled foods offer less smell, which can help keep nausea at bay. Some foods to try include: unsweetened applesauce, avocado on dry toast, cold cereal, 1 oz of hard cheese or cold chicken or turkey (thinly sliced), or tofu cubes. Keeping fresh lemons on hand — to both smell and squeeze atop foods — can also help increase tolerance to food when you’re feeling nauseated.

  5. Watch Your Position. After you’ve eaten, it’s helpful to sit for at least 30 minutes to help your stomach settle rather than lying down.


When to Seek Medical Support

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact the Iris Care Team immediately as you may need medical care:

  • Unable to keep any food or fluid in your stomach

  • Vomited more than 4 times in a 24-hour period

  • Throw up medications your doctor has prescribed to prevent nausea and vomiting

  • Have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher


This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.