Nutrition Tips for Initial Cancer Treatments and Recovery
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy can place special demands on the body, and getting through these treatments requires adequate intake of energy and essential nutrients to promote healing and recovery.
Nutritional requirements for people with cancer are designed to build up strength and withstand the effects of treatment, which can change nutritional needs and interfere with the intake and utilization of food, but specific dietary strategies can help to minimize the adverse effects of treatment. (Adverse effects include: undesired weight loss, weakened immune system, fatigue, and reduced appetite.)
To achieve these goals, try to eat high-calorie foods that increase protein, such as milk, cheese, cooked eggs, meats, poultry, fish, beans, legumes, and nuts.
Results from small clinical studies also suggest that these diet modification strategies for specific issues are helpful during initial treatments.
For nausea and vomiting: Eat small frequent meals, bland-tasting foods, foods that are cold or room temperature, salty foods, low-fat or dry foods, and minimize liquids at mealtimes.
For difficulty swallowing: Avoid rough textures, choose foods that are cold or room temperature and semisolid or soft foods.
For fatigue: Keep easy-to-prepare and easy-to-eat foods available, drink nutrient-dense juices and other beverages. Ask friends and family members for help with buying and preparing foods to be set aside for meals and snacks.
Commercially prepared nutrient-dense beverages and other products (e.g., Ensure, Boost) may help if one cannot eat and is losing too much weight. These products are only theoretically nutritionally complete, and strategies to improve their taste and usefulness can be helpful to achieve the daily goal intake of these products. For example, drinking liquid supplements when cold, through a straw, and/or with added flavorings may help them be much more tolerable.
During periods of severely impaired food intake, a daily multiple vitamin with minerals is recommended. (Read the label; "100% daily value" is the recommended amount). Higher doses of supplements, especially antioxidant supplements, are not recommended because this practice may interfere with the effectiveness of the treatments.
Food safety is of particular concern when undergoing cancer treatments, because immune system function may be temporarily impaired as a result of chemotherapy. Wash hands before food handling, store and handle foods appropriately, thoroughly cook foods, and do not drink unpasteurized beverages.