Some patients say that cancer treatment is the worst part of having cancer.
However, not receiving any treatment can put your life at considerable risk.
The decision of receiving cancer treatment or not depends on you and your preferences.
But if you decide to endure anything that comes to preserve your life, it is essential to know about common side effects and how to cope.
Nausea and vomiting are two of the most common side effects of cancer treatment.
Thus, a great deal of effort is being made in the scientific community to counter these symptoms.
Several studies have assessed periorbital massage as a supportive measure against nausea and vomiting, yielding promising results. Combining this massage technique with relaxing music can be beneficial (8).
This article focuses on nausea and vomiting as side effects of cancer therapy and home remedies you can do to feel better.
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Can cancer treatment cause nausea or vomiting?
Yes. Nausea and vomiting are particularly common after chemotherapy treatment.
This treatment uses cytotoxic substances administered orally or intravenously. Either way, it causes cell death in rapidly dividing cells.
The idea is killing cancer, which divides very rapidly, but the digestive tract also features rapid division. Thus, your gastrointestinal system is also affected.
There are two variants of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. There is an acute phase occurring one or two hours after administering the cytotoxic drug. After that, delayed nausea and vomiting start 24 hours after chemotherapy. It is commonly reported in patients taking carboplatin, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and cisplatin.
The exact mechanism of nausea and vomiting is not entirely understood.
However, besides gut lining pathology, it has a relationship with the nervous system. A structure called the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) in the brain stem triggers nausea.
Chemotherapy increases the neurotransmitters released in this area, especially substance P and serotonin. It also prompts other areas to stimulate the NTS (1).
Home Remedies for Nausea
Your doctor will probably prescribe medications to counter chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
However, you can also use home remedies for nausea such as supplements, herbs, and alternative treatments.
Keep in mind that some herbs counter the effects of chemotherapy, especially St. John’s wort.
While the remedies listed below are generally considered safer than St. John’s Wort, it is crucial to consult your doctor to personalize your treatment plan.
Ginger is one of the most well-known home remedies for nausea. It contains bioactive compounds such as gingerol, which interact with substance P receptors. It has anti-inflammatory properties and relieves nausea and vomiting.
Thus, it is recommended in chemotherapy patients, hyperemesis gravidarum, and much more.
However, it’s important to note that ginger also possesses blood-thinning properties. Therefore, it’s advisable to avoid ginger ale if you have upcoming surgery in the next few days (2).
These supplements are beneficial to counter the sensation of metallic taste, which is common in chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Zinc may also reduce the sense of dry mouth and oral pain, which causes loss of appetite and nausea in these patients (3).
This herb has an interesting application in cancer patients. It does reduce not only the side effects of chemotherapy but also enhances the efficiency of cancer treatment.
It helps alleviate nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hepatic dysfunction, and other side effects associated with chemotherapy (4).
This supplement is also popular in patients receiving chemotherapy. It protects your esophagus and mouth from sores that may aggravate your condition.
Additionally, it has a protective effect against numbness and weakness of hands and feet (5).
Ginseng, a Chinese herb containing substances known as ginsenosides, has been studied for its potential in preventing nausea, vomiting, and other chemotherapy-related side effects when taken at a high dose.
It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may help cancer patients cope with their symptoms (6).
Nausea and vomiting are debilitating symptoms that can exacerbate chemotherapy-related fatigue.
Guarana is a stimulant and reduces the sensation of fatigue, improving the patient’s quality of life (7).
This form of traditional Chinese medicine is not exactly home treatment but acupuncture is very useful to reduce nausea in these patients.
It may also help you reducing your anxiety levels and relieving the sense of a dry mouth.
Other home remedies for nausea you can try
There is a variety of therapies to explore. While some may be effective, individual responses can vary.
It is worth trying with lemon juice, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and other natural remedies.
Other ways to get natural relief
There are still other ways to find nausea relief, and they include:
Different types of massage can alleviate the sensation of nausea. One of them is a periorbital massage near the area of the temples.
Many studies have evaluated this type of massage as a coadjuvant against nausea and vomiting with promising results. It can be instrumental in combination with relaxing music (8).
Deep breathing techniques
Inhaling various essential oils, particularly peppermint and chamomile oil, can assist chemotherapy patients in managing their symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
These techniques contribute to improved functional status and relaxation, particularly effective in cases of mild to moderate nausea (9).
We can also go one step ahead and combine breathing techniques with guided imagery.
One study combined guided meditations and progressive muscle relaxation. Researchers reported that combining guided meditations and progressive muscle relaxation is a promising approach to enhancing the patient’s mental state and reducing the impact of nausea on their quality of life (10).
Inhaling different essential oils can help chemotherapy patients control their nausea and vomiting symptoms.
The most recommended scents are peppermint and chamomile oil (11,12).
Hypnosis, extending beyond simple meditation, has been employed to alleviate the sensation of pain and other side effects of cancer therapy. It also offers a potential means of relieving nausea symptoms.
Coping Strategies and Top Tips
Cancer therapy side effects are difficult to handle, and adapting requires social support and healthy coping strategies.
From day one, it will be advantageous to keep in mind these tips:
Prepare yourself for what’s coming. Remember that cancer therapy has side effects, and it is difficult to predict which ones you will experience.
Contact Your Healthcare Provider
Maintain regular communication with your healthcare provider and utilize the support offered by nurses throughout the treatment process. Additionally, consider consulting with a dietitian to ensure you are following a healthy diet.
Express Your Feelings
Keep a journal to express your feelings. It also works to register your symptoms and reactions to each treatment.
Get fresh air and use loose clothing when it’s hot.
Make sure you are informed of support groups near you and share your experience with people that went through the same as you.
How to talk to your doctor
If you’re undergoing cancer therapy, communication with your healthcare team is fundamental.
Your doctor needs to know how you are feeling and what side effects are you experiencing.
Feel free to describe your symptoms and concerns, following the doctor’s recommendations in response.
If you don’t know how to start talking about this with your doctor, here’s a list of ideas:
- Write a list of supplements you are planning to take to ease nausea and vomiting
- Ask your doctor if there’s a nondrug remedy you can try
- Tell your doctor that you want to know which products or practices listed in this article are based on science.
Things to remember
Do not forget the importance of rest. Chemotherapy places significant stress on your body, and you will feel tired.
Staying hydrated is also fundamental, especially if you’re vomiting or have diarrhea. It is also essential to eat, even though you’re probably struck by appetite loss.
But above all, remember that every cancer patient experiences chemotherapy differently.
You need individualized care depending on your side effects, and that’s why staying in contact with your doctor is fundamental.
If you woke up with an upset stomach or morning sickness after your first round of chemotherapy, it is essential to talk to your doctor about it.
This sensation of indigestion sometimes cannot be avoided, but you can receive anti-nausea medication prescribed by your doctor.
Another option is using home remedies for nausea. We recommend ginger-based supplements and foods such as candied ginger, dried ginger, or a supplement of crystallized ginger. Ginger tea is also an option, and it works for chemotherapy and postoperative nausea.
Astragalus supplements are also a good idea, and they increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy. If you have oral sores and a stomach ache or stomach pain, glutamine can be beneficial. And, if a metallic taste in your mouth worsens your nausea, zinc supplements can solve the problem.
Peppermint aromatherapy, deep breathing, and guided imagery can also help you cope with the symptoms. They are handy if you’re feeling very high levels of stress and anxiety.
You will get over nausea and vomiting over time, but meanwhile, it is essential to eat and avoid malnourishment.
Ask for a massage, rest appropriately, and drink herbal teas, especially chamomile tea, to manage your anxiety levels and help you sleep.