Chemotherapy is a well-known and widely used cancer treatment involving drugs to destroy cancer cells. While chemotherapy can be an effective way to treat cancer, it often comes with side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
One of the best ways to manage these side effects is by paying close attention to your diet and avoiding certain foods that can exacerbate these symptoms.
Foods to Avoid Throughout Treatment
American Cancer Society mentions some of the foods that cancer patients should avoid during chemotherapy:
- Fried and fatty foods: Fried and fatty foods can be difficult to digest, which can cause nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Additionally, these types of foods can also cause diarrhoea, which can further exacerbate dehydration in patients. Instead, patients should focus on eating lean proteins like chicken, fish, and tofu.
- Spicy foods: Spicy foods can cause inflammation in the digestive tract, which can lead to nausea and vomiting. Patients should avoid foods that are heavily spiced or seasoned and opt for milder flavours instead.
- Acidic foods: Acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, and vinegar can cause heartburn and indigestion in cancer patients. Instead, patients should focus on eating alkaline foods like leafy greens, nuts, and seeds.
- Dairy products: Dairy products can be difficult to digest for some cancer patients, particularly those who are lactose intolerant. Additionally, some cancer treatments can cause temporary lactose intolerance. Patients should opt for lactose-free dairy products or plant-based alternatives like almond milk and soy milk.
- Sugary foods: Sugary foods like candy, soda, and baked goods can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, which can lead to fatigue and nausea. Instead, patients should focus on eating complex carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables.
It’s important to note that every patient is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. So we always encourage you to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to develop an individualized meal plan that considers your unique needs and preferences.
What Should You Eat During Chemotherapy?
During chemotherapy, it’s important to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods that can help support your immune system and promote healing. According to the American Cancer Society, some good options include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa
- Lean proteins like chicken, fish, and tofu
- Healthy fats like avocado and nuts
- Plant-based proteins like lentils and beans
It’s important to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to develop an individualized meal plan that considers your unique needs and preferences.
How Does Chemotherapy Affect Your Diet?
Chemotherapy can affect your diet in several ways. One of the most common side effects of chemotherapy is nausea and vomiting. This can make it difficult to eat and may cause you to lose weight. In addition, chemotherapy can cause changes in taste and smell, which can make food less appealing.
According to the American Cancer Society, «Chemotherapy can affect the way you taste and smell foods. You may notice that food tastes bland or metallic, or that you have a bitter or unpleasant taste in your mouth. Some people find that they have a decreased appetite or feeling full quickly.»
What to Eat After Chemotherapy and for the Next Few Days?
After chemotherapy, it’s important to eat a healthy diet to help your body heal and recover. Here are some tips on what to eat after chemotherapy and for the next few days:
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water, herbal tea, or other non-caffeinated beverages to help flush the chemotherapy drugs out of your system and prevent dehydration.
- Eat small, frequent meals – throughout the day this can help you maintain your energy levels and prevent nausea and vomiting.
- Choose bland, easy-to-digest foods – foods that are easy to digest, such as soup, crackers, and toast, that can help soothe your stomach and prevent nausea and vomiting.
- Include protein-rich foods – protein is essential for tissue repair and immune function. Choose lean proteins such as chicken, fish, and beans.
- Avoid spicy, fatty, and fried foods – these foods can be difficult to digest and may exacerbate nausea and vomiting.
According to the National Cancer Institute, «Eating a healthy diet after chemotherapy is important to help your body recover from the treatment. Your body needs nutrients to repair cells and tissues, fight infection, and maintain a healthy weight.»
Chemotherapy can affect your diet by causing side effects such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and changes in taste and smell. It’s essential to eat a healthy diet after chemotherapy to help your body heal and recover. This includes staying hydrated, eating small, frequent meals, choosing bland, easy-to-digest foods, including protein-rich foods, and avoiding spicy, fatty, and fried foods. For more tips, you can find our previous article on what to eat and avoid during cancer treatment.
Best Vitamins for Chemotherapy
Vitamins and supplements can interact with chemotherapy medication and may interfere with its effectiveness. It is important to speak with your doctor before taking any supplements during treatment. However, some studies suggest that vitamin C may help reduce chemotherapy side effects and improve immune function in cancer patients. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli.
In summary, during cancer treatment, it is best to avoid raw or undercooked meats, unpasteurized dairy products, alcohol, and caffeine. For chemotherapy patients, it is also important to avoid spicy, greasy, and fried foods. However, it is important to maintain a balanced diet consisting of a variety of healthy foods to support your body’s recovery. Foods such as nut butter, fruit juice, and cooked vegetables can provide valuable nutrients and hydration. As registered dietitian nutritionist Laura Pole explains, «Eating a healthy diet is important to maintain the body’s resilience and optimize the immune system for better outcomes during and after cancer treatment.»
If you have any other questions regarding nutrition or chemotherapy side effect, you can inquire about them in our online cancer community Discord, there are people that have already gone through all of this and can help you with your issues.