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What Can I Eat to Increase Stamina During Cancer Treatments?

By Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES March 12, 2014Pearls of Wisdom Blog

March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month. Proper nutrition during cancer treatment is important especially for kidney cancer survivors. Nutrition can influence your prognosis, treatment tolerance, and quality of life by lessening symptoms such as fatigue. There are multiple causes of fatigue including anemia, inadequate nutrient intake, weight loss, pain, medications, cancer treatment, dehydration, and sleep disturbances.

Because of the metabolic changes associated with cancer and treatment, patients have increased nutritional needs. Side effects from treatment such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea leave the body feeling fatigued. These side effects may also cause poor appetite, making it difficult to consume the nutrients needed.

There are many things you can do to help increase your stamina during treatment.

  1. Eat small, frequent meals and snacks. By eating 5-6 small meals/snacks rather than the traditional 3 large meals, you can avoid feeling too full or too empty. Pick foods that provide a considerable amount of calories. Include protein when possible, if you are not on a protein restriction. Keeping snacks such as trail mix or cereal bars at your bedside may also help encourage you to snack.
  2. View eating as part of your treatment plan. If you find that you don’t feel hungry, try eating by the clock rather than waiting for appetite or hunger cues.
  3. Conserve your energy! Don’t spend your energy prepping gourmet meals. Eating small meals that are soft or easy to chew may cut down on meal time fatigue. Choose easy-to-prepare or premade meals and snacks that do not take much time in the kitchen.
  4. Include easy and enjoyable physical activities. Including some physical activity as part of your daily routine has many benefits. It can actually reduce fatigue, improve physical functioning, boost mood, increase coping skills, improve quality of life, maintain lean body mass, and provide long-term health benefits as well. It can also stimulate your appetite.
  5. Eat well when your appetite is the best. If you feel hungriest in the morning, then try to eat a bigger breakfast. If you find that you are hungry at midnight, try to eat a substantial snack. Using supplemental drinks or adding things like cheese and peanut butter can greatly increase the caloric value of your meal.
  6. Drink plenty of fluids. Beverages may be consumed between meals, rather than at mealtime, if they’re interfering with adequate food intake. Ask your healthcare team for a daily fluid intake goal. Most people without kidney disease aim for 64oz or more. If you are a social drinker, be sure to check with your healthcare team to make sure your favorite beverage is permitted.
  7. Are supplements (like multivitamins and liquid food supplements) right for you? You may not always feel well to adequately eat or drink there are supplements designed for people with kidney disease. Always talk to your doctor or a Registered Dietitian before adding any supplements or a multivitamin to your diet. Drug interactions can interfere with your recommended treatment.
  8. Talk to your doctor about your cancer, treatment, and side effects. Let your healthcare team know if you are experiencing side effects that are limiting your ability to meet nutritional needs and affecting quality of life.
Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Author Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Nutrition Educator Margaret Martin is a Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist in the State of Tennessee as well as a Certified Diabetes Educator. Margaret graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and received her Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science & Public Health from the University of Tennessee. With more than 10 years of experience in Clinical Nutrition, Margaret has also worked in the insurance industry with WellPoint Inc. and Blue Cross Blue Shield providing telephonic nutrition consultations, service assistance, and web-based nutrition education. In her free time Margaret volunteers with the American Lung Association’s annual “Lung Force Walk" in Middle Tennessee. She belongs to the Oncology Nutrition & Diabetes Care and Education Dietetic Practice Groups of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

More posts by Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • My brother was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and to be honest, it has been hard for all of us. I’m glad you shared about the importance of eating by the clock than waiting for hunger to strike because that’s what he does every day. I’ll also keep in mind to remind encourage him to do some physical activities to boost his mood.

    • Abby Henry Singh says:

      Thank you for your comment, Rachel. I’m glad your family has found these tips useful! If you’d like more nutrition information for your brother, schedule a free consultation with our registered dietitian. You can use our online scheduler (click the red button in the top right corner of the webpage) or call us at (877) 467-1936.

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