Nausea – a sick feeling in your stomach that makes you feel like you have to vomit – is a common side effect of chemotherapy to treat breast cancer.
Asian, Indian, and Arabic medical traditions have used ginger as an herbal remedy to treat nausea, diarrhea, and stomach aches for thousands of years.
Also used as a cooking spice, ginger is a tropical plant with an underground stem, also called a rhizome. This rhizome is what’s used to make commercial forms of ginger. The root can be fresh or dried. Oil also can be distilled from the root. Ginger is available as an extract, tincture, capsule, and oil. Fresh ginger root can be used to make tea.
A small study suggests that adding ginger to standard anti-nausea medicines can reduce nausea in women diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer immediately after chemotherapy more than the anti-nausea medicines alone.
The research was published in the September 2012 issue of Integrative Cancer Therapies. Read the abstract of “Effect of Ginger on Acute and Delayed Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting.”
In the study, researchers randomly assigned 100 women diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer to get one of two anti-nausea treatments:
- 0.5 grams of ginger 3 times per day for 4 days after chemotherapy, plus standard anti-nausea medicines: granisetron (brand name: Kytril) and dexamethasone
- only the standard anti-nausea medicines
All the women were getting the chemotherapy regimen of Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel), Ellence (chemical name: epirubicin), and Cytoxan (chemical name: cyclophosphamide).
The researchers recorded how many times the women felt nauseated, vomited, or retched (dry heaved), as well as how severe each episode was, at specific time periods after chemotherapy:
- in the first 6 hours after
- between 6 and 24 hours after
- 2 days after
- 3 days after
- 4 days after
It’s important to know that the study found no other nausea benefits for ginger. Ginger only seemed to make a difference in nausea in the first 6 to 24 hours after chemotherapy.
Nausea can be a very upsetting and draining side effect of chemotherapy. If you’re feeling nauseated or vomiting after chemotherapy, a small amount of ginger 3 times per day may help you feel better the first day after chemotherapy.
Here are some other tips that may help you manage nausea:
- Eat small amounts of food all day long, so you don’t feel full too quickly.
- Eat dry foods that are less likely to upset your stomach, like crackers, toast, and cereal.
- Stay away from greasy foods that might disagree with your stomach.
- Sit up after eating -- lying down after meals may disrupt digestion.
- Rinse your mouth before and after meals to get rid of any bad tastes that may make you nauseated.
- Ask someone to cook for you or order take-out so you can avoid strong smells that may be unpleasant for you.
- Consider complementary and holistic techniques such as acupuncture, relaxation, and visualization to reduce nausea.
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