Eating Right During Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatment can sap your appetite, but that’s when getting adequate nutrition is more important than ever. Here’s how to meet your needs.
When you’re being treated for cancer, it’s more important than ever to eat a healthy diet and get good nutrition — but it can also be more difficult than ever. Your body is working overtime to fight the cancer, while it’s also doing extra duty to repair healthy cells that may have been damaged as a side effect of treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. At the same time, many cancer treatments — especially chemotherapy — come with side effects that drain your strength and sap your appetite. So how can you make sure you’re getting all the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need?
You might assume the answer lies in power doses of vitamin supplements. After all, if you’re having trouble keeping food down, wouldn’t it be easier to get nutrients from a simple capsule? Not necessarily. “If you want to supplement the nutrition you get from your regular diet, we recommend taking just one multivitamin per day from a reputable manufacturer,” says Gary Deng, MD, assistant attending and assistant member in the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
What Foods Should I Avoid During Radiation
Foods to avoid or reduce during radiation therapy include sodium , added sugars, solid fats, and an excess of alcohol. Some salt is needed in all diets. Your doctor or dietitian can recommend how much salt you should consume based on your medical history.
In addition to foods to avoid that are listed above, spicy foods can cause gastrointestinal problems during radiation therapy. While nausea and diarrhea are symptoms of radiation therapy, spicy foods can lead to cramping, and diarrhea.;
If you are receiving radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, refrain from consuming foods that may get stuck when swallowing or those that are high in acid which can be irritating.;
The American Cancer Society Recommends Eating Extra Protein After Chemotherapy To Help Heal Tissues And Fight Infection Is There A Recommended Amount What About People Who Are Vegetarian/vegan Can Plant Protein Shakes Work For Them
During cancer treatment, aim for at least 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, aim for at least 90 grams of protein every day.
If you have other medical issues, such as kidney or liver disease, you may need less protein. Ask your doctor or dietitian for guidance on meeting protein needs if you have chronic conditions that may affect protein needs.
Vegetarians and vegans can meet protein needs with plant foods. Plant protein shakes are one good option. These products can fill in the protein gaps for people who do not eat meat, chicken, fish, dairy or eggs. Greek yogurt and eggs are good protein sources for vegetarians. Vegans should focus on beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds.
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Bone Health After Breast Cancer Treatment
For some people, treatments such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy can affect bone health. This can increase the risk of osteopenia or osteoporosis, conditions that affect the bones.
Its important to get enough calcium from your diet as calcium is vital for healthy bones.
Find out more about;looking after your bones;during and after treatment.
What Are The Best Tips For Maintaining A Balanced Diet While Having Cancer
If you are tired from breast cancer treatment, then accept any offers of help, and ask friends and family to make you healthy meals and snacks. They often feel helpless, so making you something nice to eat will probably be welcomed. For example, a lovely homemade fruit salad is perfect for when you are going through chemotherapy and your taste buds have changed.
Take advantage of online shopping to pick healthy foods when you are short of time or do not want to leave the house. If you have a local deli or restaurant which offers a delivery service, then treat yourself with something which is both delicious and healthy.
Food does not have to be fresh to be healthy, and frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables are ideal to have on standby. Batch cook some healthy meals while you are feeling well and then freeze them for when you cannot face cooking.
Soups can be frozen too and are ideal for getting fiber into your diet. They can include lentils, beans, and vegetables, which all help to prevent constipation.
If you are not feeling well, then try and have four or five small meals rather than three big ones. These will maintain energy levels and help reduce fatigue.If you are suffering from mouth ulcers during chemotherapy, then avoid citrus foods as they can sting! Soft foods are usually the easiest to eat, such as soups or drink a nutritious smoothie through a straw.
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Top 5 Ingredients Of A Healthy Diet During Radiation Cancer Therapy
Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that shrinks and destroys cancer cells. During radiation, its important to eat well. This keeps the body and its immune system strong, giving it the nutrients it needs to promote the regrowth of healthy tissues. Eating well during radiation also maintains energy, helps patients tolerate radiation side effects, lowers risks of infection, and speeds up recovery.;
However, the nutrients and foods a person needs during cancer treatment vary based on the individual, how their body responds to radiation, the treatment area, and the length of treatment. While there is no one-size-fits-all radiation diet, there are some guidelines and tips that can help you find the best one during your cancer treatment.;
Healthy Eating During Chemotherapy If Your Appetite Is Small
If your appetite is small, or taste changes are affecting your diet, eating little and often can be better than facing a large meal. It may help to:
- Eat five to six small meals or snacks each day instead of three bigger meals
- Drink milkshakes, smoothies, juice or soup if you dont feel like eating solid food
- Do something active, if you feel able to, as exercise can help increase your appetite for instance, you might have more of an appetite if you take a short walk before lunch
- Be careful not to reduce your appetite by drinking too much liquid before or during meals
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A Healthy Diet Is Important At Each Step In The Cancer Journey
Eating problems like nausea or decreased appetite are common during cancer treatment. These problems can make it hard to feel well and eat healthy. How eating healthy helps:
- Can help with side effects like nausea, diarrhea, or taste changes.
- Can help maintain body weight and muscle mass.
- Can help give you more energy.
- Can help prevent delays or breaks in treatment.
- Can help prevent hospital stays or reduce the time you are in the hospital.
- Can help improve how well you respond to treatment.
- Can help improve how well treatment works.
For more information about diet and nutrition for cancer survivors, click here: Diet & Nutrition for Cancer Survivors
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump in the breast. However, other changes are also symptoms, such as inverted nipples, a discharge or bleeding from the breast, a rash or any other changes to the breast, armpit or collarbone. Its vital to report any changes so self-examination is key. I have previously written about how to do a breast examination and what to look for, and this should ideally be done monthly.
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Changes In Sense Of Taste
Breast cancer treatment can affect your senses of taste and smell. Foods you used to enjoy may seem bitter or rancid. Many people who go through chemotherapy say food tastes “metallic.”
This can last a few weeks or months, even after treatment ends. To deal with it, change up your routine:
- If the foods you usually eat donât taste right, try different ones.
- Eat a light meal a few hours before each treatment.
- Use plastic utensils to avoid a metallic aftertaste.
- Eat foods cold or at room temperature instead of hot.
- Try fruit smoothies, which don’t have strong smells or tastes.
Foods To Eat During Chemotherapy If Your Appetite Is Increased
Some of the drugs given alongside chemotherapy, such as steroids, can increase your appetite. If youre worried about gaining weight:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Choose low-fat foods and drinks
- Watch out for the sugar content of food including some diet foods
- Avoid sugary drinks
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Is There Any Amount Of Alcohol That Is Safe To Drink During Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can be taxing on the liver. Alcohol is processed by the liver. For this reason, some oncologists recommend completely avoiding alcohol during treatment.
If you have a special occasion, party, or event and want to enjoy a glass of wine, a beer, or a cocktail, check with your oncologist to make sure its OK.
Suzanne Dixon is a registered dietitian, epidemiologist, and medical writer.
Don’t Lose Out On Liquids
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can leave you dehydrated. Some drugs can also cause kidney damage if they’re not flushed out of your system, so during cancer treatment, it’s particularly important to get enough fluids. “Adequate hydration can’t be supplied by a healthy diet alone,” says Deng. “Along with drinking more water, patients should try sports drinks, like Gatorade, and other nutritional drinks.”
Some people find it hard to drink enough water , so Deng suggests getting some of your fluid intake through soups. “For some people, the added flavor of something like chicken noodle soup may make it easier to get the liquid down,” he says.
Chicken soup has another benefit: It boosts your electrolytes , which can often be depleted by the side effects of treatment. “It’s very important to make sure that you have adequate electrolyte intake,” Deng says. Gatorade and other sports drinks also help maintain your electrolyte balance.
The bottom line, according to Deng: “Don’t get fixated on any one particular substance. There’s no magic food or magic supplement,” he says. “Nothing beats a well-balanced, diverse diet.”
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Weight Changes After Breast Cancer Treatment
After treatment for breast cancer, you may have gained or lost weight.
It can be helpful to speak with your GP or practice nurse. They can assess if your current weight is healthy. To do this they will measure your weight and height to calculate your body mass index .
If your BMI is too high or low, they can help you put a plan together. They may refer you to a dietitian if they think this would be helpful. They can also let you know about any local schemes aimed at helping people manage their weight and be more active.
Find out more about;diet and breast cancer.
How Can I Lose Weight After Breast Cancer Treatment
We usually put on weight when the amount of calories we eat is more than the amount of calories we burn through normal everyday activities and exercise.
Some people put on weight during and after treatment, which can be upsetting. This may be due to:
- The side effects of some drugs, which can increase appetite
- The body retaining fluid
- Being less active than usual
- Overeating when youre anxious or because your usual routine has changed
- The menopause
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Most Harmful Foods To Eat As A Cancer Patient
As someone undergoing cancer treatment or recovering from their surgery, there are a few foods that you should steer clear of to ensure that you recover in an efficient manner. These foods are harmful because they contain substances and compounds which can accelerate the growth and spread of cancer cells in your body.
To help you move through the recovery or treatment process much faster, were going to list some of the foods that you should avoid as a cancer patient:
- Processed meats
- Salty, sugary, or oily foods
- Alcoholic beverages
- Foods with a lot of preservatives like pickles
- Raw or unpasteurized food
Aside from watching what you eat, its also important to be mindful of how youre preparing it as failing to cook meat thoroughly or similar products can put you at an exposed risk of developing cancer or the disease spreading to other parts of your body. Make sure you always cook any meat products all the way through and properly store all of your food to avoid problems with bacterial or fungal growth on it.
Meat can become contaminated when someone who is sick handles it, so its essential to make sure only people you trust prepare your post-treatment meals. Raw and unprocessed meats also put you at a greater risk of developing food poisoning, which you want to avoid when trying to overcome cancer.
Difficulties Eating During Cancer
- You might lose your appetite and not feel like eating.
- If youre feeling anxious or low, this can put you off eating.
- You might find food shopping and cooking difficult if youre not feeling well, are very tired or have lots of hospital appointments to attend.
- Treatment side-effects, such as feeling sick, mouth ulcers and a dry or sore mouth can make it hard to eat and drink as much as you need to.
- Chemotherapy can change your sense of taste and smell, which might put you off eating.
- Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can cause digestive problems like diarrhoea or constipation, and you may need to change your diet to help control this.
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Foods To Prevent Breast Cancer
Stopping Cancer Coming Back
Many people want to know what they should eat to help stop their cancer from coming back. There isnt enough evidence to make specific recommendations about what people should eat to prevent a certain type of cancer coming back. In general, its best to eat a healthy, balanced diet, keep to a healthy weight and get regular physical activity. This combination of factors is likely to have the biggest impact.
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Nausea Is A Very Common Side Effect Of Chemo Are There Foods Or Ways To Eat If You Feel Nauseated Can Probiotics Help
The following tips can help you cope with chemotherapy-associated nausea:
- Take any anti-nausea medicines exactly as prescribed. Many people make the mistake of waiting until they are nauseous to take these medicines. Nausea is much easier to prevent than to stop once it starts. Food and nutrition can help with nausea, but medicines are your fist line of defense.
- Avoid food smells strong odors can make nausea worse. Ask for help preparing food and stay out of the kitchen while meals are being made. Take a quick walk before each meal to get some fresh air.
- Stick to small, frequent meals. Avoid eating or drinking too much at once. Feeling overly full will make nausea more intense.
- Try low-odor, dry, and bland foods, such as crackers, toast, oatmeal, and plain yogurt.
- Sip cold, clear liquids, such as ginger ale, iced tea, sparkling water, or fruit juice. Some people find sparkling water with a splash of juice soothes the stomach.
- Sip ginger tea.
- Avoid fatty, spicy, and sugary foods.
- Suck on ginger candy or other hard candy such as mints or lemon drops. Avoid citrus flavors if you have mouth sores.
- Suck on frozen fruit such as frozen grapes, watermelon, or cherries.
- Avoid laying down immediately after meals.
- Avoid drinking large amounts of liquid with food. Instead, sip liquids slowly and often throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Guidelines For A Healthy Diet
Here are the guidelines for a healthy diet for Australian adults:
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