Nausea

A person can have nausea with or without vomiting. If it’s caused by chemo, nausea can happen on the day you get your treatment and/or can last for a few days – depending on what drugs you get. If you’re getting radiation therapy to the belly, chest, brain, or pelvis, nausea can start shortly after treatment and last for several hours. Nausea and vomiting can have other causes, too.

Be sure to tell your cancer care team if you have nausea or are vomiting because there are medicines that can help. These medicines should be taken on a regular schedule, or around the clock, as prescribed by your doctor. And if a certain medicine doesn’t work, your cancer care team may be able to recommend another one. It may take a few tries to find the medicines that work best for you.

What to do

  • Eat 6 to 8 snacks or small meals a day, instead of 3 large meals.
  • Eat dry foods, like crackers, toast, dry cereals, or bread sticks, when you wake up and every few hours during the day.
  • Eat foods that don’t have strong odors.
  • Eat cool foods instead of hot or spicy foods.
  • Avoid foods that are overly sweet, greasy, fried, or spicy.
  • If you need to rest, sit up or recline with your head raised for at least an hour after eating.
  • Sip clear liquids frequently to prevent dehydration. Clear liquids include broth, sport drinks, water, juice, gelatin, and popsicles.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines to prevent or stop nausea.
  • Try bland, soft, easy-to-digest foods on scheduled treatment days. Foods like Cream of Wheat and chicken noodle soup with saltine crackers may settle the stomach better than heavy meals.
  • Avoid eating in a room that’s warm, or that has cooking odors or other smells. Cook outside on the grill or use boiling bags to reduce cooking odors.
  • Suck on hard candy, like peppermint or lemon, if there’s a bad taste in your mouth.
  • If you’re vomiting, dehydration can become a problem. You’ll need to drink clear liquids as often as possible during this time. After you have vomited, rinse your mouth, wait for about 30 minutes, then try to drink sips of a clear liquid like apple juice, cranberry juice, flat soda, or broth, or take bites of frozen flavored ice.

What to eat or not eat on days that you have nausea*

  Eat Foods that may cause problems
High protein

    Boiled or baked meat, fish, and poultry; cold meat or fish salad

    Eggs

    Cream soups made with low-fat milk

    Non-fat yogurt

    Fatty and fried meats, like sausage or bacon

    Fried eggs

    Milk shakes (unless made with low-fat milk and ice cream)

Breads, cereals, rice, and pasta

    Saltines, soda crackers, bread, toast, cold cereal, English muffins, bagels

    Plain noodles, rice 

Doughnuts, pastries, waffles, pancakes, muffins 

Fruits and vegetables

    Potatoes (baked, boiled, or mashed)

    Juices

    Canned or fresh fruits, vegetables as tolerated (do not eat if appetite is poor or nausea is severe)

    Potato chips, French fries, hash browns

    Breaded, fried, or creamed vegetables; vegetables with strong odor 

Drinks, desserts, and other foods

    Cold fruit-ades, decaffeinated soft drinks, iced decaf tea, sports drinks

    Sherbet, fruit-flavored gelatin

    Angel food cake, sponge cake; vanilla wafers

    Pudding

    Popsicles, juice bars, fruit ices

    Pretzels

    Butter or margarine in small amounts, fat-skimmed gravy

    Salt, cinnamon, spices as tolerated 

    Alcohol

    Coffee

    Pie, ice cream, rich cakes

    Spicy salad dressings

    Olives

    Cream

    Pepper, chili powder, onion, hot sauce, seasoning mixtures 

*Adapted from Eldridge B, and Hamilton KK, Editors, Management of Nutrition Impact Symptoms in Cancer and Educational Handouts. Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association; 2004.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: July 15, 2015 Last Revised: July 15, 2015

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