Good nutrition is especially important if you are receiving chemotherapy treatment. Since certain treatments may reduce your appetite, it is essential to eat a balanced diet. This article describes ways to stay well-nourished and comfortable during treatment.
Being well nourished helps you build up strength and stamina, fight infection, heal faster after surgery and get through your cancer treatment. Each person’s needs are different. Nutrition guidelines below are a starting point. Depending on how you respond to treatment, your doctor or nurse may suggest making some changes.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments can be costly to your nutrition system, sometimes causing unintended weight loss and other side effects. These challenges in great detail explain Charlie Pieterick, a nurse practitioner with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
When you are preparing for cancer treatment, it is a good time to pay a little extra attention to your food choices. Eating right may boost your energy, give you strength, help you fight infection, and make you feel better overall.
How to Cope with Side Effects of Chemotherapy?
- Keep your Food Tasty- Cancer treatment can be hard on your body and your taste buds. It is a common problem that occurs with cancer and its treatment. During chemo treatment, many people find they can no longer stand the taste of plain water, and meats become more difficult to digest. To make sure you are getting enough nutrients while you undergo treatment, try flavoured mineral water, add lemon slices to your drinking water, and stick to more easily digestible proteins such as eggs, low-fat dairy, beans, and fish.
- Constipation problem- Constipation is a common issue for people on chemo. Mild cases of constipation can often be treated by drinking plenty of fluids and eating fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables and fruit. If these measures do not help, contact your doctor for advice about how to treat constipation with over-the-counter laxatives (such as Docusate sodium, also called Colace) or prescription medication (such as Senna).
- Try to manage your weight- Cancer patients often experience weight change during treatment, and it is hard to know what will happen to their bodies. When you are feeling up for it, listen to your appetite and try to eat when you are hungry. You can help combat that by eating small, regular meals and drinking milk or juices for extra calories. The best thing you can do is tell your care team if eating becomes difficult, so they can help you figure out what solutions might be available to you.
- Improve Appetite in Healthy Way- Eating nutritious foods before, during and after treatment can help you feel better and more in control. Talk to your doctor if you experience high fevers or infections, which may require that you start eating soft foods or drinking liquids while they are treated. Here are some suggestions for improving your appetite and making the most of your nutritional intake.
- Get Rid of Diarrhea- If you experience diarrhea, pay attention to what you are eating and drinking. Avoid greasy and fried foods, caffeine, and chemical sweeteners like sorbitol (look for this on labels). Ease diarrhea with food: Greasy, fried foods and caffeine can contribute to diarrhea. Oatmeal, fruit without skin, sweet potatoes, and squash are well tolerated by most people.
- Keeping a Food and Symptom Diary- Keeping a record of what you eat, your symptoms and your feelings are one way to help manage your symptoms during treatment. You and your health care team can review your diary to see if there are foods that you should stay away from while you are on chemotherapy. This way, medications and other dietary suggestions can be tried before problems become a major issue.
How to Stay Comfortable During your Chemotherapy Treatment
When people hear that you are having chemotherapy, they may start offering advice about treatments or miracle cures. Out of concern for your well-being, friends and relatives may suggest unproven remedies. But the best thing you can do to stay comfortable is to make sure you eat a well-balanced diet during treatment. You can stay hydrated and comfortable during chemo treatment by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to keep your body strong. It can be hard to know what foods to eat during chemotherapy—and which ones to avoid.
Follow these guidelines to help you maintain your strength and energy levels and feel better throughout your treatment:
- How to Treat Mouth Sores- You may experience mouth sores or have a tough time swallowing while receiving chemotherapy. Radiation and certain chemotherapies are known to cause mouth sores that can develop into ulcers. To minimize mouth sores, avoid alcohol and spicy foods. To relieve mouth sores, avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and hot temperature foods. Keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day and rinse your mouth with salt water after meals if it helps you feel better.
- Importance of Staying Hydrated- Hydration is key to avoiding the common side effects of chemotherapy. Signs of dehydration include dark yellow urine and an inability to produce tears or saliva when crying or chewing. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent dehydration, as does making sure to drink plenty of fluids (like broth, water, juices, or a sports drink) when vomiting and diarrhea are present along with low fluid intake. To help prevent dehydration, drink at least eight glasses of fluids a day. You may need to drink even more if you have diarrhea or vomit regularly—up to 32 ounces of liquid (or four cups) an hour. It also helps to sip small amounts every few hours, even if you do not feel thirsty.
- How to get rid of Nausea- It is ultimately up to you how you want to approach the effects of your therapy. If you are experiencing nausea and vomiting, try eating cool food rather than warm food. Eating well and being physically active may help you feel better and stay stronger during treatment. For some cancer patients, eating habits can be affected by nausea, mouth sores, lack of appetite, a change in how food tastes or smells, weight loss, trouble digesting fat in foods, or fatigue (tiredness). Some treatments can lead to constipation.
- Add Mini-Meals to your Diet- Some people may use different eating habits during their chemo treatment, including eating mini-meals, drinking plenty of fluids, adding more calories to your diet, and taking vitamin supplements. Everyone has different food tolerances. Eating smaller, more frequent meals may help with nausea during treatment. Talk to your doctor about eating a high protein diet to help build muscle mass.
- Consult with your Dietitian- Managing the side effects of cancer treatment can be difficult, as can trying to maintain your weight. Talk to your doctor or nurse to determine if it would be helpful to see a dietitian who is trained in cancer nutrition. Dietitians can help you understand how the foods you eat affect your body and give you tips on how to eat well, reduce side effects and keep your energy up, even when it feels challenging.
How to Stay Healthy During Chemotherapy
Staying healthy during chemo is one of the key steps to ensuring you have enough strength to go through your treatment and get back to your normal life as quickly as possible.
- Avoid Drinking Alcohol: You have been through a lot of emotional stress—and even may be experiencing anxiety or depression. For some people, alcohol can temporarily seem like a nice way to numb those feelings. However, as mentioned alcohol can cause undue stress on your liver and make it harder for this vital organ to process chemo drugs. It may also interact with certain drugs that are given in conjunction with chemo and can make your nausea or other gastrointestinal side effects worse.
- Watch your Nutrition: Your dietitian will review your nutrition concerns and current weight status with you. It is important to start chemotherapy at a healthy weight. There are many reasons for weight loss during chemotherapy, but the biggest reason is a decrease in appetite related to the drugs used. The right diet can make all the difference in helping you stay at a healthy weight.
- Limit the intake of Green Tea: Limiting green tea consumption is recommended by some physicians for patients who are undergoing chemo. Anselmo advises her patients to limit tea drinking to one or two mugs a day. Green tea can interfere with the desired effect of chemotherapy. Talk to your doctor about how much green tea you should consume.
Consult your Doctor About Soy-Based Foods:
Soy-based foods may be beneficial in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. A good diet during cancer treatment can help you maintain your strength and energy – and help you fight your cancer. Good nutrition is not a substitute for getting the right anticancer treatment. The first step in taking care of yourself is asking your oncologist whether you should make any changes to the way you eat during your cancer treatment. Many patients report feeling better if they eat well during cancer treatment.
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