Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can make you feel nauseous and unwell. If you feel like this, you probably won't feel like eating very much. For your own health, it's important that you get as much good nutrition into your body as possible, not to mention keeping your strength up.
Here are some tips to help cope with nausea:
- Foods to avoid
- anything hot and spicy
- fatty, greasy or fried foods
- very sweet, sugary foods
- anything with a strong smell
- Avoid large meals - eat several small meals throughout the day rather than three big meals
- Eat and drink slowly - and avoid drinking with meals
- Don’t lie down straight after a meal
- Rinse mouth with lemon water after eating
- Suck on ice cubes, mints, or hard candies
- Try to distract yourself - watch the TV, listen to music, or read a magazine while eating
Many factors related and unrelated to cancer can contribute to constipation, such as medications used to help with cancer treatment, inadequate fluid intake, changes in eating habits and a decrease in activity. Constipation can be quite painful, it can also reduce your appetite and lead to further nutritional problems.
Here are some tips to help relieve constipation:
- Drink plenty of water
The fiber from your diet pulls water into the colon to create softer, bulkier stools, allowing them to pass through more easily. It is recommended that you drink at least 8 cups of water, spread throughout the day. Another piece of advice from the experts is to drink beverages between meals instead of with meals, which you may find helps
- Eat 7 portions of fruit and vegetables every day
As a guide, a single serving of fruit would be one cup (roughly the size of a tennis ball), ¼ cup of dried fruit or 4oz of 100% fruit juice. A single portion of veg is 1 cup of raw, ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 6oz of 100% vegetable juice
- Try to do 30 mins of activity every day
Regular exercise helps keep foods moving through your digestive system, reducing constipation. Try taking a short walk for 10-15 minutes prior to eating. Plus, exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is also good for your digestive health
- Avoid digestive stimulants
These include caffeine, ginger, and peppermints
- Eat at the same time every day
We’re all creatures of habit – and so is your digestive tract. Plus, you’ll be more aware of your own body and be able to tell whether it’s behaving normally or not
- Sip warmed prune juice
Sipping prune juice or decaffeinated tea when you would normally expect a bowel movement may help to get things moving
We appreciate that all of these are not possible during cancer treatment because of your location, poor appetite, and fatigue. So, if nothing else, make sure you increase your fluids by sucking on ice chips, frozen fruit or by including soups with meals.
Chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplant, medications used for side effect management and cancer itself can contribute to diarrhea. Dietary changes and general anxiety and stress can also exacerbate the problem. It’s important to try to stop diarrhea as soon as possible because it can deplete the body of necessary fluids and nutrients.
Here are some tips to help stop diarrhea:
- Drink regularly
You lose a lot of fluid if you have diarrhea so it is important to replace this to prevent dehydration. Drink as often as you can, even if it is just small sips. And avoid alcoholic drinks, because they make you lose fluid, rather than replacing it
- Avoid large meals
Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day
- Take a lot of rest
Having diarrhea can be exhausting. You will probably feel very tired and weak if you have lost a lot of fluid. So, it's very important to let your body rest when you can.
- Foods to choose – A low fiber diet is better tolerated when you have diarrhea because it will not stimulate the bowel as much and is much easier to digest
- Although vegetables are still important, peel, seed and cook then to reduce fiber – best-tolerated veg are asparagus, green beans, carrots and summer squash
- Low fiber fruit choices include bananas, applesauce, canned fruits, cooked fruits without skin or seeds and fruit juices without pulp
- Mashed potato is great comfort food and high in potassium. Peel the potatoes then steam, microwave, or boil. Add a little salt for flavor, but avoid too much butter, margarine, sour cream, or gravy
- White flour bread, white flour pancakes, white pasta - although whole wheat is generally a healthier option, you're better off eating white bread and other white flour items such as pancakes and pasta when you're dealing with a bout of diarrhea
- Plain white rice is easily digested and is high in carbohydrates
- Steamed, baked, or broiled chicken or lean meat kept simple and avoid adding oils or butter
- Yogurt that contains live or active bacterial cultures, or more specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus Pretzels are made with white flour and baked and have salt. You lose electrolytes (salts) when you have diarrhea and it can be helpful to replace them
- Foods to avoid:
- Wholemeal or whole grain products, brown rice, cracked wheat, any dried fruit or nuts, dried beans & legumes
- Milk and milk-based drinks - diarrhea can cause a lessening of the amount of the enzyme lactase. Lactase is needed in order for the body to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. If this “milk sugar” goes undigested, it can result in further symptoms of gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea
- Fatty, greasy and fried foods tend to slow down the digestive process, making you more prone to constipation
- Vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, peas, peppers, radishes, and spinach
Although these are some guidelines you can try, everyone is different and you may find these don’t work for you. And if they don’t, try something different. Don’t persevere if you think something is making you worse.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Do you know about probiotics and prebiotics? There have been a lot of studies and articles regarding these in recent years and some even showing how a healthy digestive tract can even affect your mental health.
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in our gut and prebiotics are the food required by the healthy bacteria. The right balance of pre and probiotics will help to keep things chugging along as normal.
Prebiotics can be found within plant fibers from foods such as bananas, onions, asparagus, oatmeal, beans, and legumes. Foods that naturally contain healthy, living bacteria (probiotics) are yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kombucha tea, sauerkraut, kimichi, and tempeh.
There are many probiotic supplements available over-the-counter. However, during cancer treatment, it is always important to discuss their use with your healthcare team.
Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this blog is meant to be used as a helpful resource but is not a substitute for medical advice.
And please help others by sharing your own top tips in the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group. Here you’ll find thousands of people who know first-hand what you are going through.
Penguin Cold Cap Therapy
Penguin Cold Caps are the original inventors of modern cold cap therapy; the drug-free, non-invasive and most successful method for reducing chemotherapy-induced hair loss.
To find out more visit www.penguincoldcaps.com