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Control Chemotherapy Nausea & Vomiting

New drugs and alternative therapies can help reduce -- or eliminate -- chemotherapy side effects.

Can Diet Help? Reducing Nausea With Food continued...

"Ideally, I'd like people to eat a healthy diet during chemotherapy, so that they get enough vitamins and minerals," says Russell. "But the most important thing is to complete your chemotherapy on the prescribed dose. Any foods that get you through your treatment are probably OK."

However, one thing is crucial. You need to stay hydrated. Dehydration can interfere with your treatment and has other risks. "If you don't drink enough fluids, you can wind up in the emergency room," says Escalante.

You may find that eating smaller meals more often than you used to can prevent nausea, says Escalante. Although you should never force yourself to eat when you're nauseous, Russell says that it's important to eat regularly.

"Never come to get chemotherapy on an empty stomach," says Russell. "It just raises the risks that you're going to feel queasy. You won't know whether it was the drugs or just hunger."

Syrjala warns that turning to comforting foods when you're feeling ill can have an unexpected consequence: you might start to associate them with nausea.

"I tell people to avoid their absolute favorite foods, like chocolate, when they're susceptible to nausea," she says. "You don't want to lose the pleasure from those foods by connecting them with being sick."

The Next Step: Preventing Nausea From Chemotherapy

Of course, some people who get chemotherapy will still have some nausea and vomiting. But these symptoms may be much less severe than you expect.

"A lot of people have inflated fears about what chemo will be like," says Escalante. "They remember how hard it was for relatives who had it in the past." But for most people, it's not like that anymore.

"We used to have to sedate people to prevent nausea," says Russell. "Now they can function normally after chemotherapy -- without sedation or nausea."

Syrjala notes that anti-nausea treatment now has a new objective: prevention.

"Nowadays, we're not just trying to control nausea and vomiting," says Syrjala. "We're preventing it. We have medications that let us stay ahead of the symptoms. That's a sign of the wonderful progress we've made."

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Reviewed on February 19, 2009
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