FOODS TO EAT DURING CHEMOTHERAPY

Undergoing chemotherapy can be the most challenging period of one’s life for a number of reasons. Apart from the unpleasant reality of the diagnosis of cancer, you have to worry about, the well-known side-effects of chemotherapy is something to worry about. These include the side-effects that are general to everyone as well as those which may depend on the individual receiving the treatment. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 650,000 cancer patients receive chemotherapy on an outpatient basis in the United States. 

Chemotherapy drugs work by targeting fast-dividing cells in the body since cancer cells multiply rapidly. However, by doing this, the drugs also affect normal body cells. Most of the side-effects of chemotherapy arise from its attack on the body’s normal cells. Some of these side-effects resolve after some time, but others remain much longer. Side-effects include hair loss, sores in the mouth, loss of appetite, nausea, indigestion, diarrhoea and so on. You should discuss with your doctor how to manage these side-effects. 

In this article, you will learn what kinds of food to eat when you are undergoing chemotherapy. You need to eat good food during chemotherapy because your body needs optimum nutrients to contain the side-effects. Also, since your appetite is affected during chemotherapy, you need food substances that can stimulate your desire. 

Oatmeal: Oatmeal is rich in nutrients that are great for your body during chemotherapy. These include carbohydrates, proteins, fats and antioxidants. You will also benefit from its creamy texture and plain flavour if you are experiencing nausea and mouth sores. 

Avocado: Avocado is another good food for you while receiving chemotherapy. It contains high amounts of monounsaturated fats which are healthy for your heart and liver. Being a fruit, it is also rich in fibre which adds bulk to your stool, feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut and reduces constipation. 

Eggs: Eggs are a rich source of protein and fats. You need fats for energy and protein for body-building and repair. Feel free to choose the form in which you eat your eggs. You can just boil them whole or scramble them. Just make sure they are well cooked. You will find their smooth nature very helpful if you are experiencing mouth sores. 

Almonds: Since you will usually visit the hospital often while receiving your chemotherapy, you may want to carry snacks with you some of the time. You can use almonds and other nuts like cashews. These are easy to carry about and require minimum preparation while supplying generous amounts of protein, fats, minerals and vitamins. These vitamins include very potent antioxidants that protect your cells from damage during chemotherapy.

Side effects of chemotherapy set. Patient suffer from cancer disease. Male character suffering from chemo treatment. Hair loss and nausea. Vector illustration in cartoon style

Vegetables: Vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale are great in nutritional content. For example, broccoli contains a rich amount of vitamin C which is very important to your body’s immune system. 

Smoothies: Given that you may have mouth sores and find it hard to chew food, you should consider making smoothies for yourself. You can choose the ingredients yourself to suit your appetite and other preferences. 

Fish: You will benefit from eating fish during the period you are receiving chemotherapy. Fish supplies your body with protein and a class of fats crucial to your brain health. Fish also contains good amounts of vitamin D which is needed for healthy bones and a healthy immune system. 

Other Diet Considerations 

In addition to the kind of food you eat during chemotherapy, there are other considerations you should make about the food you eat during this period. 

Make your food tasty: Whatever your choice of food, try to make it as tasty as you can. Remember that chemotherapy affects your taste buds and alters your sense of taste. Foods that you previously enjoyed may no longer taste pleasant to you. Often, you may find water and meat distasteful. You can take flavoured drinks and resort to other sources of protein like eggs. 

Diarrhea or Constipation: Some patients receiving chemotherapy have diarrhoea while others have constipation. If you’re having diarrhoea, you should be careful with raw foods, caffeine, fried foods and salads. You can take fruits, squash and sweet potatoes. 

If you’re dealing with constipation, you need to pay attention to your fluid intake. Drinking adequate amounts of fluid soften bowel content and prevent constipation. 

Also, foods that provide fibre to your diet increase stool bulk and gut motility, thereby reducing constipation. 

In essence, it is important to pay attention to your nutrition when you are undergoing chemotherapy. The treatment takes a toll on your body while also reducing your overall intake of food through loss of appetite, mouth sores, nausea and constipation or diarrhoea. You need to beat these obstacles by carefully choosing what food to eat as it suits your specific set of symptoms while ensuring to still have a balanced diet that is as important to your body as the chemotherapy. 

References 

CDC. Preventing infections in cancer patients. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/preventinfections/providers.htm 

Ann Pietrangelo. (2019). The effects of chemotherapy on your body. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/cancer-effects-on-body 

Lisa Wartenberg. (2019). 10 Foods to eat during chemotherapy. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-for-chemo 

Elaine Magee. (2010). Starting chemotherapy: 15 nutrition tips. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/features/15-nutrition-tips-chemo 

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