When you have a chronic condition, you might experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can affect your appetite and make you hesitant to eat. If you’re feeling nauseous or having difficulty tolerating food, the Nausea diet is a simple, short-term regimen that can help ease you back into eating solid foods.
Almost all breast cancer treatments have varying degrees of risk for nausea and vomiting. Some people never have nausea or vomiting, while others experience it frequently. Many people describe having “stomach awareness,” a type of discomfort in which a person is not interested in eating, but does not feel nauseated. Some people have nausea that lingers more than a week beyond chemotherapy. Thankfully, these side effects can almost always be controlled, or at least substantially reduced, by a variety of medications and lifestyle changes. Learn more about the causes and ways to relieve nausea and vomiting.
Don’t force yourself to drink or eat if you’re nauseated or vomiting. It’s a good idea to avoid eating for about 4 to 8 hours if you’re vomiting often. Along the way, try small sips of water or flat ginger ale. After your stomach settles down a bit, begin to replace some of the chemicals and fluids that you might have lost because of the vomiting. Try sipping chicken or vegetable broth, a sports drink, or small bites of gelatin. These will help keep you hydrated. Don’t rely only on clear liquids for more than 2 days in a row — they don’t have enough nutrients.
Best Foods for Nausea Diet
- Eat poultry or soy. Try turkey, chicken, or soy foods if you find you suddenly don’t like red meat. (This can be a common reaction.)
- Eat dry foods, such as crackers, toast, dry cereals, or bread sticks, when you wake up and every few hours during the day. They provide nutrients and help settle your stomach.
- Eat cool foods instead of hot, spicy foods. Consider non-fat yogurt, fruit juice, sherbet, and sports drinks. Spicy foods may upset your stomach even more.
- Don’t eat foods that are very sweet, greasy, or fried. They may upset your stomach even more. Consider baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes; rice; cream soups made with low-fat milk; fruit-flavored gelatin; pretzels; or low-fat pudding.
- Try bland, soft, easy-to-digest foods on days when you’re scheduled to have treatment. A poached egg on dry toast or a poached chicken breast with plain noodles is a good option.
- Eat foods that don’t have a strong smell. Smells may trigger nausea.
People have traditionally used ginger to treat nausea. Gingerols and shogaols are components in ginger that may stimulate the stomach to empty and help to relieve feelings of nausea.
A review of studies looked at the effects of ginger on nausea and vomiting in cases of pregnancy-induced symptoms. Four randomized controlled trials showed that ginger was more effective than a placebo in reducing the intensity of nausea and frequency of vomiting in pregnant females.
The authors of the review also found that ginger was more effective than a placebo in treating morning sickness, seasickness, and chemotherapy-induced nausea.
People can add ginger to broths or add sliced fresh ginger to hot water or herbal teas. Ginger ale is also a good option, as is eating crystallized ginger.
Small sips from a glass of plain water will help you stay hydrated — and avoid the headaches that often accompany nausea. Start out by slowly drinking tiny amounts until you feel you can stomach a larger amount. “Drinking fluids prevents hydration, but drinking too much at one time can make nausea worse,” says Palinski-Wade. “Small sips of fluid throughout the day will promote hydration without increasing nausea.”
When you’re sick and nauseous, it can be difficult to eat significant quantities of food.
Therefore, it’s important that the foods you manage to eat are nutritious and provide energy to help your body stay strong and recover. This is particularly true if your nausea is due to a chronic condition and you’re struggling to maintain weight.
Bananas are a nutritious, energy-dense snack that’s easy to eat even when you’re sick.
What’s more, bananas help replace potassium that may be lost if you have been vomiting or have had diarrhea (17Trusted Source).
Just one medium-sized banana packs 105 calories, 27 grams of carbs, 12% of your daily potassium needs and 22% of the DV for vitamin B6 (18).
Other soft, energy-dense foods include avocados, porridge, stewed fruits, mashed potatoes and peanut butter.
A lack of protein can make nausea feel even worse, so look to protein-packed foods, such as nuts — even peanut butter, as long as you’re not allergic — that are easy to digest. They’ll quickly replenish your depleted energy and help keep your nausea at bay. “Nausea from excessive hunger, low blood sugar, or pregnancy may respond well to the protein and fat in nuts,” says Palinski-Wade. But she cautions that if you’re fighting off a virus, nuts and protein may worsen nausea. “Typically a low-fat, lower protein meal plan rich that’s in starchy foods is the best solution when you’re struggling with nausea,” she says. “Since protein and fat digests slowly, they may increase nausea [when consumed] in large amounts.”
Chicken or vegetable broth can be a good source of nutrients that are easy to digest when a person is feeling nauseated.
If people are drinking less or losing fluids through sweating and vomiting, broths can help to replace lost fluids, salt, and electrolytes.
Most sports drinks contain the electrolytes sodium and potassium, which help restore an athlete’s depleted nutrients. “Small sips of electrolyte-rich beverages are appropriate to promote hydration and replenish electrolytes lost during vomiting,” says Palinski-Wade. While you may not be up for sports, sports drinks can help even nonathletes feel better when they’re suffering from nausea.
Applesauce is a popular food for people with nausea or diarrhea.
In fact, it’s part of the BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
This diet used to be routinely recommended to people with upset stomachs, particularly children. Though now it’s considered overly restrictive, many people still find its components helpful (19).
One study in people undergoing chemotherapy found that a light, bland diet including applesauce, cottage cheese and vanilla ice cream resulted in improved food intake and less nausea and vomiting (20Trusted Source).
Applesauce is a good source of carbs and gentle on your stomach.
One-half cup (122 grams) of unsweetened applesauce contains about 50 calories and 14 grams of carbs (21).
What’s more, it’s high in the dietary fiber pectin, which may be beneficial if you’re experiencing diarrhea in addition to feeling nauseous (22Trusted Source).
Sprig of Mint
The refreshing aroma alone may be enough to make you feel better, but actually chewing on fresh mint or drinking a cup of mint tea is considered an effective remedy for nausea. “Deep breathing and other relaxation techniques may also be helpful,” says Hanauer.
People may find it easier to eat cold foods when feeling sick, as they often smell less than hot foods. The odor of hot food may increase feelings of nausea for some people.
Good options for cold foods include:
- a sandwich with protein, such as peanut butter or egg salad
- crackers with a small amount of cheese
Rice, Potatoes and Noodles
Starchy, plain foods like rice, potatoes and noodles are good choices when you’re nauseous.
They’re easy to prepare, high in calories and help settle your stomach.
Bland, colorless and odorless foods are often more easily tolerated, as they trigger nausea to a lesser extent than strongly flavored foods do.
Rice can be boiled or steamed and eaten plain or with light seasoning. It can also be eaten cold if hot foods are off-putting.
Alternatively, potatoes can be boiled, steamed, baked or mashed with a little butter and milk for extra calories.
Finally, noodles can be boiled and eaten plain. They can also be added to a light broth or sauce to increase your fluid intake.
Protein helps the body create enzymes that digest food. The body also uses protein to oxygenate blood to carry nutrients to every part of the body.
Some researchTrusted Source suggests that eating more protein than carbohydrates may help relieve nausea and vomiting in pregnant women.
Good options for protein-rich foods include:
- peanut butter
- boiled eggs
- plain, unsweetened yogurt
- baked tofu (not fried)
People can combine these foods with bland foods, such as toast, rice, or noodles, to increase calories.
Herbal tea is commonly used as a remedy for nausea. In fact, one study found that 21.7% of gynecologists recommend it to pregnant women experiencing nausea (13).
However, there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims. Research on specific compounds such as peppermint and chamomile has primarily been carried out in capsule or aromatherapy form.
For example, peppermint aromatherapy has been found to reduce nausea in women who had undergone a C-section, while chamomile capsules and lemon scent had the same effect in pregnant women (26Trusted Source, 27, 28Trusted Source).
Despite a lack of scientific evidence, many people with nausea find that herbal teas are well tolerated.
Drinking a cup of peppermint tea or adding a slice of lemon to hot water may ease your nausea. Even if the herb itself may show no effect, the fluids aid hydration when you’re sick.
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