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Jun 30

What to Eat During Cancer Treatment

nutrition during cancer treatment - green smoothie with strawberries

Nutrition during Cancer Treatment: Manage your side effects with the right diet.

Cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy aim to kill cancer cells. Yet, in the process, these therapies also damage healthy cells. This damage leads to a variety of unpleasant side effects. Patients commonly experience dry mouth, changes in taste and smell, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.

Below, we offer nutrition and diet tips to help you cope with these side effects. Choosing the right foods can help you stay healthy and feel comfortable during treatment. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your unique dietary needs.

For dry mouth:

Radiation and some types of chemotherapy can cause mild to severe mouth dryness and thick saliva. To combat this, drink plenty of fluids and eat moist foods. Think smoothies, soups, yogurt, and popsicles. Soft fish and chicken are also good options. You might also sucking on sugarless mint or cinnamon candies to help produce saliva.

For changes in taste and smell:

Cancer treatment can make certain foods taste metallic or bitter. It can also increase your sensitivity to smell. To counteract these symptoms, try foods and preparations you are not used to. New marinades and spices can add flavor. Alternatively, you might find foods served cold or at room-temperature easier to tolerate. Choose fresh vegetables, fruits, and foods that don’t need to be cooked.

For loss of appetite:

While treatment side effects and pain can make eating unappealing, it’s more important than ever for you to consume protein and nutrients. Eating small snacks throughout the day may be easier than full meals. Incorporate quick high-protein snacks like hummus, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, and yogurt into your diet.

For nausea:

You may experience nausea on the day-of treatment, or in the days following. If so, try eating simple, bland foods such as dry crackers, toast, or chicken noodle soup. Avoid anything fried, greasy, or spicy. You can also sip on clear liquids, broth, or sports drinks.

For diarrhea:

If you experience diarrhea during cancer treatment, you will want to increase your intake of sodium, potassium, and fiber. Eat oatmeal, sweet potatoes, salty broths and soups. Snack on pretzels, applesauce, and bananas. Drinking fruit juices or sports drinks at room temperature might also help. Avoid milk and greasy or spicy foods.

For constipation:

While some patients deal with diarrhea, others suffer through constipation. To manage this side effect, eat more high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Hot beverages may help stimulate bowel movements. Add a hot tea or hot water with lemon to your breakfast.

We hope these tips help you feel better! Please reach out with any questions, and make sure to speak with your doctor about any side effects you experience.