Here are some helpful nutrition and diet tips to manage common symptoms from cancer treatment.
According to The Meals to Heal Cookbook (Da Capo Press, 2017) nutrition is a vital component of anyone's fight against cancer, but loss of appetite and side effects of treatment can make even the simple act of eating a challenge. Created by oncology-credentialed registered dietitians, these delicious, nourishing, easy-to-prepare dishes are full of the nutrients you need to maintain strength during treatment. Loaded with essential nutrition info and recipes coded by common symptoms and side effects (including fatigue, nausea, digestive issues, mouth sores, taste and smell aversion, and others) this book is a key source if you or a loved one are struggling against the effects of cancer.
Cancer treatment can cause a variety of nutrition-related side effects. Many of these can be managed with changes in diet, appropriate food selection, and preparation. Following are some suggestions to help manage some of the common side effects and symptoms experienced during cancer treatment. Note that these suggestions are not a replacement for medical advice. Be sure to speak with your health-care team if you have persistent and bothersome symptoms that impact your ability to eat normally or maintain your weight.
You may eat less than usual, not feel hungry at all, or feel full after eating only a small amount. Although you may not feel like eating, getting adequate nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight are important. Take advantage of the times when your appetite is strongest and try to consume small frequent meals and snacks throughout the day. Try to eat in enjoyable surroundings and make meals look less overwhelming by placing them on smaller rather than larger plates.
Often during treatment, the foods you usually like can become unappealing. Foods may taste bland, bitter, or metallic. Try rinsing with 1 to 2 ounces of baking soda rinse before and after meals (recipe for baking soda rinse: 1 quart of water, ¾ teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of baking soda). If red meats taste strange, try substituting other proteins, such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, or tofu. Eat foods that smell and look good to you. Avoid using metal utensils; use plastic ones instead. Avoid hot foods to reduce strong odors; serve food at room temperature instead.
Certain “flavor fixes” can also help to make a meal more tolerable. For example, if you are experiencing a metallic taste, flavor foods with onion, garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, mint, ketchup, barbecue sauce, or mustard. If foods taste too sweet, add six drops of lemon or lime juice, or until the sweet taste is muted. If foods are too salty, add ¼ teaspoon of lemon juice or sweeten foods with syrup, honey, or a pinch of sugar. If foods are too bitter or sour, add a little sweetener, such as maple syrup, honey, or a pinch of sugar. If foods taste like cardboard, add sea salt or a spritz of lemon or lime juice, or vinegar.
If you have an aversion to sweet foods, focus on more savory dishes. If you have an aversion to sour or bitter foods, focus on sweeter options.
Heartburn can be a side effect of chemotherapy. To minimize this, avoid acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus, strong flavors like mint and chocolate, as well as high-fat and spicy foods. Small frequent meals, and sipping fluids between meals rather than with meals, avoiding tight-fitting clothing, and not lying down too soon after mealtime can minimize acid regurgitation and discomfort. Some people may require over-the-counter or prescription acid-blocking medications recommended by their health-care team.
Adapted from The Meals to Heal Cookbook: 150 Easy, Nutritionally Balanced Recipes to Nourish You During Your Fight with Cancer by Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta, MS, RD, CDO, CDN. Copyright ©2016. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
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