3 Coping with Side Effects
In general, cancer and its treatments can cause numerous side effects, such as appetite or taste loss, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, fatigue, etc. However, following a proper nutritional therapy is often helpful getting around most of them. Learn about how keeping an appropriate nutrition can relieve symptoms and side effects, as well as giving the body strength to fight the disease.
Some side effects
A sore mouth can significantly interfere with your ability to chew and swallow food. To help decrease the irritation in the mouth, avoid tart, acidic or salty drinks and foods. Cut your food in small pieces and drink with a straw
Nausea & Vomiting
If you're experiencing nausea and vomiting, it is imperative you maintain the right calorie and protein intake to help restore the fluids and nutrients you're losing. Eating large meals can be overwhelming and may make you feel worse.
Eat smaller amounts, more often. Try dry, salty foods to settle the stomach, eat food at room temperature or cold and stay hydrated with a variety of drinks and flavours.
Fatigue & Weakness
Fatigue is one of the most common side-effects and can lead to reduced food intake. To help make sure you are getting all the nutrition that you need, keep high-calorie, high-protein snacks handy, eat first then drink later to avoid filling up on liquids and eat smaller amounts, more often. Try to take small walks (even just around your house) to stimulate your appetite and help reduce fatigue.
You can also blend convenient nutrition enhancers like protein powders, into the foods you can tolerate.
Alterations in Taste and Smell
Cancer and its treatment can change your senses of taste and smell. These changes can affect your appetite and are often described as a bitter or metallic taste.
Choose foods that look and smell good, and avoid those that don’t. For instance if red meat, such as beef, tastes or smells strange to you, then try chicken. Or try adding extra flavour to your foods with herbs, or sauces.
Serving foods at room temperature, and keeping foods covered will help reduce food smells.
Unintended Weight Loss
Food enhancers / fortifiers, such as protein powders, can be blended into foods to increase protein and calorie content, which allows for flexible serving options.
Eat when it is time to eat, rather than waiting until you feel hungry and consider eating in five or six small meals each day instead of three large meals if eating smaller amounts at one time is easier for you.
Diminished Appetite and Food Intake
Eat smaller amounts, more often and keep snacks handy.
Try to make meal moments more enjoyable by setting a nice table, with nicely presented dishes.
Drink milkshakes, smoothies, juices or soups if you do not feel like eating solid foods. These can provide the protein, vitamins and calories your body needs.
Lost weight in the past months? Appetite diminished? You can supplement one or two meals with a nutritionally balanced, high calorie drink. It will provide you with the valuable nutrients your body needs.
Dry Mouth can make eating complicated and unpleasant. To help you relieve some of the symptoms, take small bites and sip small amounts of liquids throughout the day. Suck on ice-cubes to relieve the dryness and avoid alcohol (as that'll only make your mouth even drier).
If you experience diarrhea, it's important to restore the fluids and nutrients you lose. In some cases you might also have to repair damaged GI tract. Drink mild, clear liquids, eat small, frequent meals and snacks and avoid greasy, fried, spicy and very sweet foods. Sometimes adding a certain type of fiber, called soluble fiber, can help to decrease the diarrhea.
Your body needs your support to get your digestive health back on track, and your bowels functioning back to normal. Talk to your doctor about the role of your medications in constipation and make sure to drink lots of liquids.
Products high in fiber may also help.
Oral and GI Mucositis (Ulceration)
Mucositis is a painful ulceration of the digestive track. It's usually an adverse side effect from chemo and/or radiotherapy. It can cause you pain and discomfort, especially when it comes to swallowing food, or diarrhea in the case of GI mucositis. To help relieve some of those symptoms, you can eat small, frequent meals, take small bites/sips, eat soft or pureed foods, add gravy, sauce or butter to moisten food.
How to Cope with Trouble Chewing and Swallowing
Safe Food Handling with a Weakened Immune System
How to Cope with Constipation
Nutrition and Cancer: Managing Symptoms Caused by the Disease and Treatments
Making certain dietary changes can help managing symptoms, reducing general discomfort, speeding recovery and improving quality of life.