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Indigestion and Nausea (or dyspepsia)

Nausea is an upset feeling in your stomach and/or feeling like you need to vomit. It varies from mild to severe and may interfere with your ability to eat and drink. 

Things you can do to minimize nausea:

  • Eat small frequent meals
  • Avoid having an empty stomach; being hungry may promote nausea 
  • Eat bland foods (crackers, cereal, toast)
  • Avoid foods that are greasy, fried, spicy ,acidic or with strong odor
  • Drink fluids
  • Keep your mouth clean: rinse your mouth frequently and brush your teeth after meals 
  • Avoid smoking and caffeine
  • Wear loose fitting clothing
  • Try relaxation methods (deep breathing, listening to music) 

Over-the-Counter medications (products) you can use to treat nausea:  none

Medications that may be prescribed to treat nausea:

There are many different medications that can be used to decrease nausea and/or vomiting. Talk to your health care team about these medicines.

When to call your oncology team:

  • If you are having trouble eating or drinking because of nausea
  • If you have vomited (thrown up) 4-5 times in the past 24 hours
  • If you are still having nausea despite using anti-nausea medications
  • Any other questions or concerns

Nausea and diet:

Strategies for eating if nauseated:

  • See strategies above to minimize nausea
  • Try foods that have worked for you in the past with this situation
  • If not eating much, try to eat things high in protein and calories
  • Consider liquid meal replacements, like Boost or Ensure
  • If having AM nausea, eat dry foods (i.e. toast, crackers, cereal) without liquids before getting up
  • Eat cool or room temperature foods; hot foods have a stronger odor
  • Chew your food well for easier digestion
  • Rest after meals as activity may slow digestion
  • Do not lay flat for two hours after eating
  • Appetite is often better in the AM so eat more then
  • Avoid drinking fluids at meals to prevent feeling full or bloated

Drink plenty of fluids 

  • Sip water or juices throughout the day
  • Carry a water bottle with you
  • Drink cool, clear, unsweetened fruit juices or light-colored, non-caffeinated sodas (i.e. ginger ale) stirred until flat 

Examples of bland foods:

  • Toast, crackers, pretzels 
  • Yogurt, pudding 
  • Cream of wheat, dry cereal or oatmeal 
  • Angel food cake 
  • Baked or broiled skinless chicken 
  • Boiled potatoes, rice, or noodles 
  • Canned peaches, applesauce, bananas


Dyspepsia is the medical term used to describe heartburn or indigestion. It is a condition characterized by discomfort, burning, pain or fullness in the upper abdomen, often after eating; the severity may vary. It can be accompanied by bloating, belching or nausea. Dyspepsia is a common problem, and may be associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Things to prevent or minimize dyspepsia:

  • Identify and avoid foods that cause dyspepsia
    • Avoid spicy greasy foods
    • Avoid caffeine and peppermint 
    • Avoid dairy products
    • Limit alcohol containing drinks
    • Limit or avoid chocolate containing foods and beverages.
  • Avoid aspirin and nonsteroidal- anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Advil or Aleve)
  • Eat slowly and enjoy your meals  
  • Eat small frequent meals 
  • Avoid eating a large meal within 2 hours of bedtime
  • Do not lie down after eating
  • Limit or quit smoking

When to call your oncologist or oncology nurse:  When you first experience the signs and symptoms of dyspepsia.

Discuss with your healthcare team if there may be other treatment options, such as medications, that may help reduce your dyspepsia.

You should rely primarily upon your health care team for medical information.