- Posted by jdavis on June 23, 2011
Importance of adequate nutrition
- About 30% of cancer deaths are caused by malnutrition and not the cancer. Adequate nutrition before, during and after treatment is important! Your body will need adequate calories, protein, vitamins and minerals.
- Some types of cancers cause increased metabolism (the body burns more calories than it normally does), which can lead to general weight loss and/or muscle wasting.
- Proper nutrition will help your body fight against cancer and cope better with treatments.
- Well-nourished people may recuperate faster after treatments are finished and may even be able to tolerate higher amounts of treatments. Frequent small meals may be easier to tolerate and may be more appealing than three larger meals, so you may want to eat every 2 to 3 hours.
- When you are not consuming enough nutritious foods your body will use its nutrient stores for energy. This may weaken your immunity and ability to fight infection and other assaults on your body.
- If you are unable to meet your nutritional requirements due to poor appetite or difficulty eating caused by treatment side effects, you may benefit from nutritional supplements. These come as drinks or shakes, powders and puddings, and can be purchased from most supermarkets and pharmacies. Try them chilled and in different flavors. Discuss your need for supplements with your doctor or a registered dietician.
Tips for Coping with Side Effects of Treatments
Fatigue, which can sometimes be caused by dehydration
- Eat well: choose a variety of healthy foods and nutrient rich snacks daily
- Make sure to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of non-caffeinated liquids, especially water, daily. Keep sipping liquid throughout the day to achieve the goal. Good hydration is imperative!
- Be aware that carbonated beverages may fill you up or cause bloating/gassiness and decrease your appetite
Nausea and/or vomiting
- Eat slowly and have frequent small meals
- Stay away from rooms that are poorly ventilated, too warm or have cooking odors that are displeasing to you
- Drink less at mealtimes
- Try cool or chilled beverages. Freeze your favorite drinks in ice cube trays
- Eat foods at room temperatures as hot foods may increase nausea
- Don’t eat your favorite foods when you are nauseated. Avoid developing an aversion to those foods.
- Sit upright when eating and rest by sitting up for an hour after meals
- If you are nauseated in the morning, try eating dry toast or crackers before getting up
- Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing
- Low fiber foods may offer relief. These include rise and noodles, cream of wheat, eggs, bananas, cooked soft or pureed vegetables, canned or cooked skinless fruit like applesauce, white bread, skinless poultry, tender beef, fish or mashed potatoes.
- Avoid foods that make your diarrhea worse. Examples of these are beans, hot spices, greasy or fatty foods, raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and high fiber foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, corn and peas.
- Remember to drink plenty of fluids and include food sources of sodium and potassium since these are lost with diarrhea. Some examples of such foods are bananas, boiled or mashed potatoes, peach or apricot nectar.
- Liquid sources of sodium include bouillon fat free broth.
- Remember to drink plenty of liquids. Four ounces of prune juice daily may be helpful.
- Have a hot drink half an hour before your usual time for bowel movement
- Include high fiber foods in your diet, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables (eat apples, pears and other fruit as well as potatoes with the skin on).
- Try adding wheat bran to hot cereals and casseroles or other foods.
- Remember to include exercise such as walking into your daily routine.
Sore mouth or throat
- Try soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow such as canned fruits and fruit nectars, bananas, watermelon, applesauce, mashed potatoes and other pureed or mashed vegetables, yogurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal and other cooked cereals, custards and puddings, pureed meats.
- Avoid foods that irritate your mouth including citrus fruits or juice, salty and spicy foods, and rough, coarse or dry foods.
- Cook foods until they are soft and tender. Add butter, gravies or sauces to make them easier to swallow.
- Drink liquids with a straw.
- Eat foods cold or at room temperature.
- Rinse your mouth often with water to cleanse it from food and bacteria.
- Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
- Avoid salty foods.
- Try tart foods and juices like lemonade as they may increase salivation.
- Suck on hard candy and chew sugar-free gum.
- Use sauces and gravies to make food easier to swallow.
- Frequently sip on water so it is easier to talk and swallow.
Managing poor appetite, weight loss and under-nutrition
- Be involved in normal activities as much as possible.
- Stay calm at mealtimes and don’t rush your meals.
- Try changing the time, place and surroundings of meals. Eat with other people, listen to good music, have a candlelight dinner.
- Eat whenever you are hungry, even at bedtime. Try several small meals every 2 to 3 hours.
- Have nutritious snacks available at home and on the go but keep them out of sight.
- Add butter, oil, sauces and gravies to foods for increased calories. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of meals.
- Try new recipes, spices and food products to create variety to your menu. Eat out in restaurants from time to time.
Adapted from Cancer Resource by American Institute for Cancer Research