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Nutrition and Cancer

Nutrition is important to everyone.  While dealing with cancer nutrition can become even more important.

Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

While undergoing treatment you may be faced with a number of side effects that change what you eat and drink.  Good nutrition is important.  Realistic and important nutrition goals during this time are to manage your weight, get enough calories, protein, and fluids, and manage your side effects.

Possible side effects affecting your eating may include:

  • nausea
  • poor appetite
  • taste changes
  • dry mouth
  • sore throat or mouth
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • weight changes

Tips to help with nausea:

  • take medications as prescribed
  • choose foods that are easy to digest
  • eat small, frequent meals
  • sip fluids between meals
  • avoid strong food smells

Tips to help with loss of appetite:

  • eat small, frequent meals or snacks
  • make eating enjoyable
  • drink between meals
  • choose high calorie foods or nutritious supplement drinks

Tips to help with taste changes:

  • suck hard candy
  • chew gum
  • use plastic dishes and utensils
  • rinse mouth
  • add seasonings

Tips to help a dry mouth:

  • drink fluids
  • chew gum
  • suck on hard candy or ice chips
  • moisten foods
  • keeps lips moist

Tips to help a sore throat or mouth:

  • avoid very hot or very cold foods and fluids
  • choose soft, bland foods
  • avoid acidic or spicy foods
  • consider using a blender

Tips to help with diarrhea:

  • eat small, frequent meals and snacks
  • choose soft, low fiber foods
  • limit caffeine
  • take medication as prescribed
  • drink enough fluid

Tips to help with constipation:

  • drink enough fluids - 8 cups/day
  • eat more fiber
  • try prunes or prune juice
  • eat at regular times
  • increase activity
  • use a stool softener

Tips to avoid weight gain:

  • focus on low calorie foods
  • cut back on extras (servings, snacks)
  • be active

Nutrition for Cancer Survivors

There are 3 main guidelines for cancer survivors in regards to nutrition and health:

  1. Be at a healthy weight
  2. Be active
  3. Eat a diet high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Healthy weight: Being overweight or obese puts you at a higher risk for increasing hormone, insulin and inflammation levels in the body.  All of these can put you at a higher risk for developing cancer.  Being at a healthy weight, or even just closer to a healthy weight, can decrease your risk.

Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains:

A plant-based diet is recommended and includes:

  • whole grains
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • beans and legumes

Limit red meat consumption and avoid processed meats. Red meat includes:

  • pork
  • lamb
  • beef
  • veal

Substitute red meat with poultry, fish, and beans or legumes. Limit red meat to a lean, 3 ounce portion (size of a deck of cards) at meals.  Use smaller amount of meats in stews, stir-fry's,  or casseroles and add more vegetables to make it go farther.

Reduce intake of processed meats. Examples include:

  • deli or lunch meat
  • bacon
  • sausage
  • hot dogs
  • ham

Other recommendations:  It is best not to drink alcohol at all.  If you do drink, limit to 1 drink per day for women, 2 drinks per day for men.  Despite much attention given to sugar causing cancer, there is no direct link to sugar causing cancer.  Sugar is high in calories and leads to weight gain.  Best practice is to limit foods and drinks high in added sugar.  Eating organic foods is a personal choice.  There is no supporting evidence that organic is more nutritious.  The benefit of eating any fruits and vegetables outweigh any risk.

What Can I Do Now?

  • be a healthy weight
  • be active
  • eat a variety of veggies, fruit, whole grains and beans
  • limit foods high in fat and sugar
  • stick to food sources (as opposed to supplements)

Here are some additional resources:

Oncology Nutrition Dietitians

American Cancer Society or 1-800-ACS-2345

American Institute for Cancer Research or 1-800-843-8114

Did you find this helpful?  Here are links to other classes: