It's important to eat well when you're fighting cancer. Chemotherapy drugs can damage the lining of your stomach and intestines, though, causing side effects that can dull your appetite. They can also affect receptors in your mouth, changing how some foods taste.
Talk with your doctor about medications that can help ease these side effects. The following tips may also help.
If you have diarrhea
When you have diarrhea, consider these strategies:
- Bake or broil foods instead of frying them. Fats can worsen your diarrhea.
- Avoid high-fiber foods or cook them to reduce the amount of fiber. For instance, switch from whole-grain breads and cereals to those made with white flour; eat white instead of brown rice; and steam, bake or stew fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid dairy products except for yogurt and buttermilk.
If you're constipated
The following steps may help when you have constipation:
- Eat high-fiber foods such as whole grains and fresh, unpeeled fruits and vegetables.
- Drink hot beverages. They may help stimulate a bowel movement.
- Exercise. Physical activity increases blood flow to your organs and can have favorable effects on the bowels.
If you're nauseated or vomiting
For nausea or vomiting, try these tips:
- Pick foods carefully. Choose dry, bland foods; cool foods instead of hot and spicy foods; and foods that don't have strong odors.
- Eat five or six small meals a day instead of three bigger meals.
- Sit up for at least an hour after eating to help keep food down.
- Try natural ginger soda and ginger tea. Some studies have shown that taking ginger before chemotherapy helped reduce the severity of nausea.
If you have mouth sores
These strategies may help ease discomfort when you have mouth sores:
- Puree foods to make them easier to swallow.
- Serve foods cold or lukewarm.
- Use a straw to drink liquids and pureed foods.
- Avoid foods that can irritate your mouth, such as pepper-based spices and seasonings; foods with a coarse texture; and acidic foods such as beans and legumes.
If certain foods taste bad
Consider taking these steps when food tastes bad due to chemotherapy:
- Try new foods. Some things you don't normally like might taste good during treatment.
- Eat your favorite foods any time of the day. Don't wait until breakfast to eat pancakes!
- Make the experience of eating more enjoyable. Use your finest dishes and flatware, play some music, or eat with a friend.
- Rinse your mouth with baking soda or salt and warm water before eating to remove any bad tastes.
Also consider working with a dietitian to come up with a dietary plan that can ensure good nutrition during chemotherapy.