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Dealing with Side Effects of Chemotherapy through Nutrition

May 11, 2017

Nutrition plays an important part in your cancer treatment and recovery. This is especially true when you experience side effects during and after chemotherapy.

Dealing with Side Effects of Chemotherapy through Nutrition

Nutrition plays an important part in your cancer treatment and recovery. This is especially true when you experience side effects during and after chemotherapy. You need to know how to combat your side effects and keep your diet healthy during your treatments.

Below are some nutrition problems caused by chemotherapy:

  • Anorexia, lost appetite
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Fighting Anorexia in Chemotherapy

To fight against side effects of chemotherapy that cause appetite loss, do the following:

  • Plan your meals in advance
  • Eat small meals more frequently, particularly with higher calories than you normally would and a frequency of about every two to three hours
  • Get help in meal preparation
  • Add extra calories and protein to your foods
  • Keep convenient snacks and meals for easy preparation and eating
  • Consider when you feel your best each day and eat your most calories during this time
  • Go for appealing foods
  • Experiment to suit your changing tastes
  • Perform frequent oral care to prevent and relieve oral symptoms
  • Exercise at a low intensity each day

Foods recommended for anorexia during chemo include cheese and crackers, peanut butter and crackers, muffins, puddings, custards, nutrition supplement shakes like Ensure or Boost, milkshakes, smoothies, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, powdered milk in your foods, chocolate and finger foods. You should also eat more eggs, soup, rice and mashed potatoes.

Chemo-Related Constipation

To fight your chemo constipation, drink at least 80 ounces of fluids each day and exercise at a low intensity daily. Increase your fiber intake and ask your doctor about over-the-counter constipation medications.

Eat fiber rich foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Enjoy soups, popsicles and Jell-O throughout the day.

Diarrhea during Chemo

For chemo-related diarrhea, limit how much roughage you eat. Instead, increase soluble fibers like rice, bananas, white bread, oatmeal, applesauce and mashed potatoes. Increase your salt intake, drink plenty of caffeine free and low sugar drinks all day and increase potassium intake. Your goal should be for your urine to stay pale in color through proper hydration and these nutrients.

Drink less than two cups of milk each day or eliminate dairy altogether, until your diarrhea gets better. Limit gas-causing soda, beans, lentils, chewing gum and cruciferous vegetables. Avoid foods, gum or candies with sorbitol. After each loose bowel movement, drink at least one cup of liquid.

You should also avoid fruit juices, jams, jellies, syrups, fried foods, heavy meals and spicy foods.

Nausea and Vomiting Care after Chemotherapy

If you feel nausea or experience vomiting after chemo, eat small meals throughout each day instead of larger meals three times each day. Try to eat more refrigerated or room temperature foods, in place of hot foods. Rinse your mouth after each meal or snack, with lemon water. Suck on ice cubes, hard candies or mints.

While eating, distract yourself from your food by watching TV, listening to music or reading. Some people feel better if they stay in a sitting position or keep their head raised for an hour after eating. You should also try to eat bland, soft and easily digestible foods in place of heavy meals. Do not attempt to eat in rooms with heavy cooking odors. Keep fresh air circulating around your eating and living space, with good ventilation. Rinse out your mouth before and after eating.

Cancer Treatment Right Here in Maricopa County

If you need further help with your nutrition or diet during cancer treatment, your treatment professionals are ready to provide that help. Simply ask you care provider or doctor for a referral or their own advice for meeting your dietary needs during chemotherapy or other cancer care.

Arizona Center for Cancer Care provides more than 35 offices and 55 physicians across Maricopa County for your cancer treatment. Whether you live in the Northeast Valley, Southeast Valley or West Valley, you benefit from the best physicians, leading treatment technologies and most up-to-date research in the country, right near your home.