How To Manage Your Diet During Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy for cancer treatment can be very hard for the patient’s body and mind. However, healthy nutrition choices can help the patient feel better during chemotherapy and help him or her recover quickly and at the same time improve the quality of life. This article deals with tips on how to manage your diet during chemotherapy.

How To Manage Your Diet During Chemotherapy?

It is difficult to manage your diet along with the trouble of symptoms of the conditions and the side effects of chemotherapy. However, the best possible approach is to maintain good dietary habits as that is one of the most important ways to stay healthy enough to fight the side effects. So, how to manage your diet during chemotherapy.

While most of the possible side effects of chemotherapy are taken care of with the prescribed medications, having a healthy diet is one of the crucial steps to a healthy recovery.

Here are some of the healthy food choices to manage your diet during chemotherapy.

Prefer Balanced Diet Over Extreme Diets

One of the most important tips to manage your diet during chemotherapy is to maintain a balance. Avoid extreme diets as it may result in deficiency of key nutrients, rather, focus more on a balanced diet. Following are the food items that you should include in your balanced diet chart:-

Cereals and Grains – Consume cereals and whole grain bread in the breakfast.

Juices – Along with cereals and whole grain bread in the breakfast, consume 100% vegetable or fruit juice. Make sure to pasteurize it to make it free from germs.

Vegetarian Meals – Once or twice a week, try having meatless meals like vegetable stir-fry or vegetable lasagna

Fruits and Vegetables – Fill half of your plate during lunch and dinner with fruits and vegetables

Roughage – Prefer having green salad during dinner, unless you have been advised by the physician to avoid raw food. It will not only improve your palatability but also help in improving the bowel movement.

Non Vegetarian Meals – If you like to have non-veg, try having fish and lean meats over processed or fatty red meat

No Sugary Food – Warning – Avoid sugary foods as these are high in calories but less on nutrition

Even if you Don’t Have Appetite, Try to Eat

Lack of appetite during cancer treatment is a common symptom. In certain cases, the treatment may make the food taste unpleasant. In such a case, it becomes all the more important to get adequate nutrition by altering the diet pattern.

Following are the diet alterations that can help to manage your diet during chemotherapy.

  • Decrease Meal Size – Decrease the size of the meals if your appetite decreases but make sure to have it. Have smaller meals at smaller intervals to maintain nutrition.
  • Favorite Food – Keep your favorite food (approved by your physician) close at hand so that you can have it whenever you feel hungry.
  • High Nutrition Food – If possible, try having nutrient rich, high calorie food items like nuts, avocados, puddings, seeds, cooked cereals and beans.
  • Make Your Food Look Appealing – Dress your meal nicely so that you feel like having and can cherish while having it. The nice appeal of the food shall make you feel hungry. Cherry, lemon slices, tomatoes, parsley as well as other garnishing items can be used to increase the charm of your dish to tingle your taste buds and hypothalamus as well as pituitary glands.
  • Eat Whenever You Feel Hungry – Do not wait until the time of the meal to eat food. If you feel hungry, in between, grab a bite of your favorite food (approved by your physician).

Fighting Chemotherapy Side Effects with Food

Side effects are common during chemotherapy. Certain side effects can be easily tackled if you know how to manage your diet during chemotherapy. Following are some of the examples:-

  • Constipation – Constipation can be managed by eating high fiber food items like lentils, beans, dried or fresh fruits as well as plenty of water.
  • Nausea – Avoid eating food items that have a strong and pungent odor. Also, avoid eating greasy fast food. Eat small meals, easy for your stomach to digest, multiple times a day. Drink loads of water throughout the day, especially when you have had multiple encounters of vomiting.
  • Diarrhea – Try consuming bland food items like apples, rice and bananas along with plenty of water to curtail diarrhea caused due to chemotherapy.
  • Dry Mouth and Mouth Sores – Try eating food items that are easy to swallow, non-spicy, soft and which are almost liquid type like yogurt shakes, milk, soup etc. Other food items, can be converted in the form of a puree to make them easy to ingest.

Food Safety to Improve Immune System

The immune system gets affected during chemotherapy and therefore it becomes important to make sure that the food items that you consume are free from germs and contamination. Hence, while you must know how to manage your diet during chemotherapy, make sure you also follow food safety standards while handling food to avoid the risk of infections.

Following are some of the ways to eat food in a healthy way:-

Cook Food Well – One should cook food well so as to kill all the germs present in it, especially if you are cooking a non-vegetarian dish.

Consume Complete Eggs Only – Use intact eggs only. Avoid cracked or un-refrigerated eggs as such exposed eggs can become a source of contamination.

Check Expiry Date – One should be very careful about the expiry date or the shelf life of the product. The items that have crossed the expiry date should never be consumed, especially during chemotherapy. The chances of getting infected increases with expired food items.

Refrigerate Well – You should refrigerate the perishable food items until you are ready to prepare it. It helps in preventing the food items from microbial contamination.

Scrub Fruits and Vegetables Thoroughly – Eating fruits and vegetables without washing is a strict no-no for people undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Because of the treatment, the body gets immuno-compromised and therefore it becomes very important to wash and scrub the fruits as well as vegetables thoroughly to remove germs from them.

Avoid Food Items Stored in Open – Bulk food items kept in open bins like green salad should not be consumed by the patient undergoing chemotherapy, as such food items are highly prone to cause infection in the body.

Cutting Board for Non-Vegetarian Food Items – Use a separate cutting board for non-vegetarian items like fish, meat etc. as the spillage of blood and skin on the cutting board increases the chances of contamination. Therefore, either use a separate board, each time you cut the non-vegetarian items or wash the board thoroughly each time, after use.

Consult Your Physician Before Taking Supplements

In addition to managing your diet during chemotherapy, it is also important to seek medical advice before taking any nutritional product or supplements. While it may seem that supplements may enhance the health of an immuno-compromised individual (due to chemotherapy) however, you should be aware of the fact that taking certain supplements during chemotherapy can actually make the chemotherapy treatment ineffective. Vitamins A, C and E are known to interfere with the goal of chemotherapy.

It is, therefore, better to consult your physician before taking any supplements during chemotherapy.

Awareness of the right diet and nutrition can help in improving the quality of life of the patient as well as can make the treatment window, easy and free from pain and sorrows. Now that you know how to manage your diet during chemotherapy, you can help yourself or your loved one and increases the chances of complete recovery.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 1, 2021

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