Leaf through the following article that presents information on chemotherapy diet restrictions. It will help you plan a healthy chemotherapy diet menu for a cancer patient. Including lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the diet is essential for surviving chemotherapy. Read ahead…
Cancer treatment mainly includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients experience weakness after the surgery as it mostly involves removal of body organs. Sometimes, administration of chemotherapy drugs start before the surgery. Patients really don’t get time to recover from the shock that they experience when they realize they have cancer. Main function of the chemotherapy drugs is to kill the cancer cells; but they also kill healthy cells.
Chemotherapy drugs are so strong that patients experience severe side effects. All these lead to impaired immune system and cancer patients thus become more susceptible to infections and diseases. Knowing about chemotherapy diet restrictions can help improve the appetite and strengthen the immune system of the patient. It is necessary to know about the side effects of chemotherapy, if you are going to plan a diet for the patient.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
- Hair loss
- Nausea, vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Low blood count, low hemoglobin
- Increased thirst, dry mouth
- Mouth ulcers
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Delicate linings of stomach, intestines, etc. are damaged.
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Patient experiences change in the taste and smell of food.
- Patient may start disliking his/her favorite food items
- Weight loss
Chemotherapy Diet Plan
Before starting chemotherapy, doctors give instructions regarding chemotherapy diet plan. But the family members have to be creative in designing a nutritious diet for the patient. They should check whether the patient’s daily diet consists of maximum nutrients. Improving the blood count and strengthening the immune system are the main goals which are to be achieved through the diet. In case of very low blood count, doctors may have to postpone the next chemo cycle, which should not normally happen. Impaired immune system makes the patient more susceptible to infections like common cold which can also lead to postponement of next chemo cycle.
A patient needs lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to strengthen the immune system, boost the energy levels and fight the disease. As the patient gains physical strength, he/she also gains emotional strength which is absolutely essential to fight the disease. But due to weakened digestive system, it becomes difficult for the patient to digest heavy, high calorie food. Here follows information on what to include and what to avoid in a diet plan when the patient is undergoing chemotherapy. The therapy involves use of very strong medicines that help curb the growth of cancerous cells. Along with the cancerous cells, the drugs also kill healthy cells and lead to various side effects.
Chemotherapy Diet Restrictions
As explained above, chemotherapy affects the function of almost all body systems, especially the immune and the digestive system. Also, due to mouth ulcers or burning sensation in the stomach, the patient may not be able to eat regular food. Foods rich in carbohydrates and fat are difficult to digest for a cancer patient. As the patient suffers from nausea and vomiting, solid food should be avoided. To survive the effects of strong chemicals passing through the blood, patients need to eat nutritious, especially high protein food. Proteins are known as building blocks of the body and they can improve and strengthen the cellular structure.
During chemotherapy, patients can start with liquids or soft foods like banana, porridge, oatmeal, avocado, fresh crustless bread, pancakes, granola, etc. Avoiding simple carbohydrates and including complex carbohydrates in the diet makes the diet healthy. Complex carbs keep the patient satiated for a longer period of time. The diet should consist of lots of fruits and vegetables which provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Fiber helps improve the digestive health while other nutrients help strengthen the immune system.
The patient should be given coconut water, tender coconut, fruit juices, vegetable juices, salads, popsicles, gelatin, fruit ice, tea/coffee, etc. at regular intervals. Soda and excess of caffeine should be avoided. As per liking, one can enjoy low fat milk, milkshakes, hot cereals, puddings, yogurt, clear soups with cream, broth, mashed potato, etc. Avoiding processed foods which have preservatives is necessary to prevent further health complications. Once the nausea subsides, the patient can have regular but light, high protein food.
Utmost care should be taken while consuming raw fruits and raw vegetables as they can be contaminated with bacteria. Cooking kills the bacteria in the food. As the patients usually suffer from gas, bloating and constipation, increased intake of fiber and liquids is recommended. It is believed that carrot juice, wheat grass juice help to maintain the stamina and strengthen the immune system. Some patients may have to face the problem of diarrhea and cramping.
So they might be required to consume low lactose food items. They can have nuts and seeds as snacks as they provide antioxidants. But it is better to add nuts and seeds to porridge or hot cereals than eating them raw. Patients should avoid bad fat (saturated fat) and should include good fat (like that obtained from olive, canola oil) in the diet. They should avoid citrus and tomato based foods as these can lead to heartburn. By incorporating lean pieces of meat, eggs, cereals, legumes, etc. in the diet, patients can increase their protein and calorie intake.
Side effects of chemotherapy may vary from person to person but patients need to increase the protein and calorie intake in correct proportions during and after chemotherapy. Instead of having large meals, patients should have several small meals during the day. They can enjoy their favorite dishes, provided they are nutritious. Eating while watching T.V. or while listening music is a good way of overcoming nausea. Hot, spicy, fried and sugary foods should be strictly avoided. Patients should lie down and rest after having meals. Sufficient rest and a healthy diet promotes faster recovery.