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10 Tips To Tame Nutrition Related Side Effects During Chemotherapy

By PearlPoint Nutrition Services September 19, 2012Pearls of Wisdom Blog

Chemotherapy can cause a variety of side effects. These side effects vary from individual to individual based on age, cancer type, type of chemotherapy, dosage, frequency, and genetic makeup. It is difficult to predict the extent of any side effect for an individual. Every person is unique so reaction and response to treatment is unique as well. For additional guidance and suggestions related to these tips consult with a registered dietitian at PearlPoint Cancer Support.

1.Strive to eat as healthy as possible during treatment.

Include a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Eating well during treatment has a direct correlation with how you feel.

2. Strive to maintain a healthy weight during treatment.

During chemotherapy is not the best time to follow an aggressive weight reducing plan nor is it the time to eat whatever you want. It is best to reach a happy medium of healthy eating, what is tolerable, and occasional treats.

3. Keep a journal to record feelings and side effects after receiving chemotherapy.

A journal or notes will allow you to keep track and identify any trends in your side effects. It will also help to identify behaviors to avoid that intensify side effects. Tracking food intake and eating times may also be helpful. This same journal or log can be used to track medication dosing, too.

4. If nausea is a primary side effect, it is important to manage it since overall nutrition is affected.

Take nausea medication as prescribed and if you are not feeling any relief tell your oncology team. Different medications are available and they are not one size fits all. There are also techniques to manage nausea with certain foods and behaviors.

5. If diarrhea is a primary side effect, it is important to manage it since dehydration and poor nutrition status can result.

Take anti-diarrhea medication as prescribed or according to package directions. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated including an electrolyte beverage and water. Proceed with eating foods that are easy to digest and do not contain any fiber.

6. Eat 5-6 smaller meals every day instead of 3 larger meals.

Less food on the stomach is better tolerated because smaller amounts of food are digested more easily. There is also better opportunity for nutrient absorption if chemotherapy is causing nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Eating regularly in small amounts also helps to keep blood sugar level stable.

7. If treatment is causing loss of appetite, take note of when appetite is the best.

When loss of appetite is an issue this can lead to weight loss and poor nutrition status. It is important to maintain strength and stamina to continue to receive treatment and avoid hospitalization. Attempt to eat a meal or heavy snack that contains a good source of protein, complex carbohydrate, and healthy fat when your appetite is best to maximize nutrition.

8. Drink plenty of fluids during treatment.

Staying hydrated is very important especially if you are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Fluid intake is also important for kidney function and eliminating any waste from chemotherapy and medications. Water is best for eliminating any impurities from the body.

9. Address any nutrition issues you are experiencing immediately.

Do not wait until dehydration, loss of appetite, eating issues, and weight loss is affecting your course of treatment. It is best to address any potential issue prior to treatment to have resources and tips available to try at the onset of any nutrition problems.

10. Be patient with yourself.

Determining what works for you nutritionally during chemotherapy does not happen overnight. Experiment with different foods, behaviors, timing of meals, beverages, etc. Keep in mind that your experience is unique and finding what is best for you may take some time. It is a process of trial and error.

Blog Author: Megan O’Roark


PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

Author PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

PearlPoint Nutrition Services is a program of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

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