Nausea and vomiting can be a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for lung cancer. You may also have difficulty chewing and swallowing, which all results in not wanting to eat. This can have a serious impact on both your physical and mental health.
We eat food for energy, protein and for vitamins and minerals that we need. When you have lung cancer and during treatment, your body needs this even more to keep up your energy levels, so it is important to try and eat as varied and nourishing diet as you can.
Finding the best ways to manage symptoms is often a trial and error process but here are our top tips to help cope with nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
Avoid hot food
Strong smells can often be a trigger for nausea or vomiting. Let your food cool down to room temperature before eating to reduce its taste and smell.
People undergoing chemotherapy often report a metallic taste in their mouth. Try eating ice lollies or lemon drops to help get rid of bad tastes. Fruit such as mango and pineapple can provide a refreshing taste in your mouth.
Try soft food
If you experience trouble eating due to difficulty chewing and swallowing, softer food like nourishing soup or scrambled egg can be easier on your throat.
If you can, go outside for a short stroll or sit by an open window to get some fresh air as this can stimulate the appetite.
Ask your doctor about nausea medication
Your lung cancer nurse or doctor could prescribe you some anti-sickness medication to help make mealtimes more enjoyable.
“There are many different types of anti-nausea medication. If one doesn’t work for you, ask your doctor if you can try a different one.”Denzie – Lung cancer forum member
Avoid your favourite food
If you are feeling nauseous and eat your favourite food, it may create a negative connotation with that food and make you feel upset or distressed. Instead, try eating plain foods that are easy to digest, such as rice, mashed potato, toast.
Snacks are your friend
For some, nausea can only happen between meals. If this happens for you, keep something in your stomach by eating little and often. If you’re going out, make sure you have snacks available.
Pay attention to nausea triggers
If there is a food or smell that triggers feeling nauseous, try to avoid these as best you can to help your symptoms.
Friends and family often want to help by bringing meals or helping you prepare food. Take them up on the offer as sometimes you might just feel too tired to cook (and it’ll help them as much as it’ll help you). Just let them know if there is any particular food to avoid.
“Friends would make us dinner or bake a cake when I was going through chemo. It was just one less thing to worry about”Mandee Lucas – diagnosed with lung cancer aged 47
Consider taking nutritional supplements
Speak to your oncologist or lung cancer nurse if you are concerned about your loss of appetite as there may be supplements that can be added to everyday foods, as well as to be consumed on their own such as Complan.
If you have any concerns about not eating or drinking enough, tell your lung cancer nurse specialist, oncologist or dietician. As they may be able to prescribe you dietary supplements or medication.
You can also share experience and ask for advice from other people living with lung cancer on our forum.