If you or a loved one is battling cancer, you know how debilitating a bout of nausea can be. Nausea, in fact, is one of the most common complaints of cancer patients, with up to 70 percent saying they experience it at some point during treatment or prior to it.
While nausea is a side effect of some treatments, it also can be a symptom of the cancer itself. Doctors often prescribe drugs to ease a patient’s nausea. But naturopathic medicine can help, too. We turned to Daniel Kellman, Clinical Director of Naturopathic Medicine at our hospital outside Atlanta, for advice on natural remedies that may help cancer patients experiencing nausea.
“Pharmaceuticals sometimes work the entire time someone has nausea. Other times, nothing works,” says Kellman. “Having a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care is important because most patients do experience nausea. It’s a problem because when patients are nauseated, they can’t get water or pill down and they can’t eat.”
Kellman recommends the following natural remedies for nausea:
Ginger: As one of the most recognized natural treatments for nausea, ginger can be taken in capsule or tablet form. Or, try foods and beverages made with real ginger, including ginger tea, ginger candies and ginger snaps (yes, the cookies). Likewise, ginger ale, which has only ginger flavoring, may soothe your stomach. Along with taming nausea, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and can help your immune system.
Acupuncture: Practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years, acupuncture works by stimulating anatomical points on the body through a variety of techniques. For nausea, apply pressure on a point called the Pericardium 6 (PC6), also known as the “Inner Pass” or “Inner Gate” from its Chinese name. PC6 is located on the underside of your arm. Turn your palm to face you and place three fingers at the crease in your wrist. You’ve found the PC6 pressure point. Motion sickness bracelets are an easy, natural way to apply pressure to the PC6.
Aromatherpy: Lavender is calming and peppermint is cooling. These scents and others may help stop spasms in your gastrointestinal tract or override feelings of nausea. What’s more, because smells are associated with memories, the scent of certain foods—perhaps chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven?—may trigger pleasant memories, which could have a calming effect. Scents such as lavender and peppermint are available in oil form but also can be found in hard candies.
Diet: Eating small meals throughout the day is a good strategy to try to prevent nausea. With small, frequent meals, the stomach stays active and it’s less likely you’ll experience nausea. A bout of nausea on an empty stomach can make it harder to fight off nausea because you might not want to consume the food or drinks that can help. Hard candies or drops containing lemon or chamomile, which is calming, stimulate saliva and gastric fluids, which also may help with nausea.
Learn more about naturopathic medicine at our hospitals.