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Patient Education

Nausea During Cancer Treatment

Nausea, feeling queasy or sick to your stomach, can be caused by cancer itself, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Nausea may also be triggered by intense pain, fatigue, medications, smells or anxiety.

Because nausea can impact appetite and nutrition intake, you may need to adjust your diet to avoid unintended weight loss and nutrient deficits. Take anti-nausea medication prescribed by your doctor as directed and do not wait until you are overly nauseated to seek relief. Let your physician know if your nausea is not managed effectively so your medications can be adjusted.

Suggestions to improve nutritional intake while experiencing nausea:

Eat something light and nutrient-dense every few hours throughout the day instead of eating a few large meals.

  • Examples include: trail mix, apple slices with peanut butter, toaster waffle with apple butter, Greek yogurt, fruit smoothie or dry cereal.
  • Incorporate ginger into your diet.   
  • Examples include: crystalized ginger, ginger snaps, ginger mints, ginger teas, pickled ginger or ginger ale. Eat dry foods such as crackers, toast or dry cereal when you wake up to settle the stomach.
  • Do not take pain medications on an empty stomach.
  • Consume a protein-rich food two to three times per day.
  • Examples include: yogurt, poultry, veggie burger on a slice of toast, egg drop soup, hard boiled eggs or soy beans (edamame).
  • Rinse your mouth with a baking soda solution before meals to remove bad tastes. Recipe: ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 cup water
  • Suck on sugar-free lemon drops, peppermints or fruit-flavored candies throughout the day to keep bad tastes out of your mouth.
  • Try foods served at room temperature or slightly cool instead of hot.
  • Avoid foods that are greasy, spicy or rich.
  • Create a calm and peaceful eating atmosphere – open windows, use a fan, or eat outside if there are strong food odors in the house.
  • If smells are bothersome, incorporate citrus-scented essential oils in a room diffuser or put a few drops on your wrist; on outings where odors may be offensive, place two cut lemons into a plastic bag for aroma relief.
  • Consume popsicles and sports drinks, slightly flat soda (ginger ale or Sprite®), lemon-flavored water or decaffeinated tea (chamomile or ginger) throughout the day if you do not like the taste of water.
  • Be aware that some of your favorite foods may not agree with you; listen to your body and recognize which foods suit you best.

Try the following recipe:

Ginger Limeade

1 cup freshly squeezed limes
3 cups water
¾ cup agave syrup (or may substitute with sugar)
¼ cup of fresh peeled ginger slices
Ice cubes
½ cup agave syrup to taste 


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of ginger slices to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove ginger pieces and stir in agave syrup, lime juice and 2 cups of water. Add additional agave syrup as desired.
  4. Serve chilled or over ice.

Other nutrition resources for cancer patients: