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When undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer, you may begin to experience nausea when hungry. It’s important to eat before your stomach is completely empty and begins to send hunger signals to your brain. Chemo drugs are very strong and, while they kill the cancer cells, they wreak havoc on other parts of your body including your digestive system.
To decrease the chance of becoming nauseated when you are hungry, eat foods that are easily chewed and swallowed. These foods should not have strong odors, be greasy, too sweet or spicy. Good foods include yogurt, angel food cake, crackers, toast, pretzels, boiled potatoes, noodles, rice, cream of wheat or rice, grits or oatmeal, canned fruits such as peaches, soft, bland vegetables and fruits and skinned broiled or baked chicken. Drink clear fluids like bouillon, apple, cranberry or grape juice, frozen fruit-flavored treats, clear carbonated sodas, plain gelatin and water.
Do not eat large meals. Instead, break your meals up into six smaller meals so you always have a little food on your stomach. Eat slowly and eat more of the foods your stomach is able to tolerate. Do not drink with your meals. Instead, drink a beverage 1/2 hour before or after your meals. Sip your beverages slowly and, if necessary, use a straw.
Make sure your food is cool or at room temperature. Hot food may increase your tendency to nausea, according to Rush University Medical Center. Rest quietly after eating and, if you have nausea in the morning, settle your stomach with crackers or toast before you get out of bed. Don’t make yourself eat something you normally like if it upsets your stomach. Instead, wait until treatment is done before trying to eat it. Wait to eat if you feel nauseated during treatments.
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Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can make you feel weak, shaky, sweaty, dizzy and headachy. If your blood glucose drops too low, you need to ensure you have quick access to a food or beverage that will help increase your blood glucose levels fast. Drink a glass of juice or other sweetened beverage, followed by a snack that contains both protein and carbohydrates, like a candy bar with peanuts.
Hypoglycemia continued on the next page
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If your symptoms of hypoglycemia become advanced, you may become confused, drowsy and your speech may become slurred. This is a dangerous stage of hypoglycemia because you can lose consciousness. When diabetics experience hypoglycemia, they may need an injection of glucagon, a hormone that causes sugar to be released into your bloodstream.
If you know you have a tendency to become hypoglycemic, keep hard candy, regular soda, glucose tablets or sugar cubes close by. Recognize your symptoms and treat them immediately. Once you start to feel better, eat a small meal and measure your blood sugar.
If you do not have diabetes, but you develop symptoms of hypoglycemia, try eating more regularly. Your symptoms may be triggered by becoming more physically active, which means you need to eat so your body has fuel to function, according to the Oregon State University Student Health Services.
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Gastroparesis is a condition where your vagus nerve stops functioning correctly. As this happens, your stomach isn’t signaled to empty its contents into your small intestine, leading to a constantly full feeling, nausea, belching and possible vomiting. When you do feel hunger, you can only eat a few bites before beginning to feel sick again.
Your doctor can diagnose this condition, if this is what is causing your hunger/nausea feeling. One test is called a “gastric emptying scan," requiring you to eat a small meal. Medical x-ray technicians take x-rays as your food moves through your digestive system. If, after a set amount of time, the x-rays still show a significant amount of food in your stomach, your doctor diagnoses gastroparesis. Milder cases can be treated with medications that stimulate your stomach to contract and move its contents to your small intestine, according to MedHelp.
Eat foods low in fiber and fats. Increase your intake of simple carbohydrates and eat smaller, frequent meals. Instead of eating three large meals, break these up into six smaller meals.
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Rush University Medical Center: Nutritional Management of Nausea/Vomiting
Oregon State University: Student Health Services: Change of Eating
MedHelp: Gastroenterology: Nausea When Hungry