Complementary treatments and therapies for nausea

There are a number of treatments and therapies that may help to relieve your nausea in addition to your current medical treatment. 

Try using ways which have relieved nausea in the past. For example, if you suffer from travel sickness or were sick during pregnancy, the techniques you used may help you now.

Sitting near an open window, outdoors in the fresh air or resting in a quiet place may relax you and ease your nausea. Distractions such as listening to music, watching TV, reading or talking with family and friends may take your mind off how you feel.

Relaxation and aromatherapy

You may wish to use relaxation techniques. These can help to lessen feelings of nausea, especially if used regularly. They can also help you to sleep and to control feelings of anxiety. There are many different ways to relax using music, deep breathing or imagery (visualisation of something pleasant: a special place, for example).

You can buy relaxation tapes from some health shops. You may be able to attend relaxation classes in your hospital or at a local cancer support group. Ask the staff caring for you about this.

Aromatherapy may also help. It can be useful as a distraction and some oils can be helpful for the relief of nausea. This type of massage can also help with relaxation. If you prefer, aromatherapy oils need not be used to enjoy a relaxing massage. Consult a qualified aromatherapist for advice rather than buy oils over the counter.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture can sometimes relieve nausea and vomiting. Very fine needles are inserted through the skin at special points in your body and are left in position for a short time. This shouldn't be painful.

Acupuncture may be helpful for nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and may work for up to 12 hours. If you wish to try acupuncture, consult a medically qualified practitioner or a health professional such as a suitably trained nurse.

Some people may gain relief from acupressure bands ('Sea-bands'), which are available from chemists. Acupressure bands were originally designed to combat seasickness. These elasticated wrist bands have a button which presses on an acupuncture point known to reduce nausea and vomiting.

They have proved to be effective when used before, during and after many treatments which may cause nausea and vomiting. The acupuncture point may need to be massaged several times a day to get the best effect from the bands.

Anticipatory nausea

Anticipatory nausea and vomiting is often prompted by specific cues, for example the hospital smells, seeing IV equipment or a sound or taste associated with treatment. These cues can be disrupted:

  • try using a light perfume to disguise smells
  • strong-tasting sweets can mask unpleasant tastes
  • listen to music to cover hospital sounds
  • bring a friend or relative to distract you while waiting.

It may also be possible to reduce the time you have to wait. Speak to one of the staff caring for you.

Hypnosis has also been used to reduce anticipatory nausea and vomiting but it is important to go to a suitably qualified practitioner who has some medical background.