Proper Nutrition is a Must for Cancer Patients

Good nutrition is important for everyone, especially if you have cancer.

Unfortunately, the side effects of treatment can make eating right difficult. Patients often suffer with symptoms that prevent them from eating well – anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, mouth sores, and changes in sense of taste and smell.

The good news is that eating well during treatment can help you build your strength, recover as quickly as possible and stay healthy. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, good nutrition can even boost the effectiveness of some treatments.

“To increase calories and ensure enough protein is consumed, patients should try to eat six to eight small meals a day,” explains Kim Kramer, R.D., L.D.N., Ingalls Wellness Center dietitian.

Mini-meals such as cereal with 2% or whole milk, yogurt with fruit, a half sandwich, cream-based soups, smoothies and nutritional supplements are a great way to boost your nutritional intake.

“Consuming enough calories and protein, especially during radiation or chemotherapy treatments, is essential,” she said.

Other tips include:

  • Avoid spicy or fried foods, especially on a sensitive stomach.
  • Serve foods at room temperature since hot or cold foods can be difficult to eat during treatment.
  • Limit diet beverages. Replace with milk, smoothies, juice or canned high-protein drink supplements.
  • Short walks are also a great way to prevent fatigue AND boost your appetite during treatment.
  • Eat your biggest meal when you feel hungriest. If you feel best in the morning, eat your largest meal then.
  • If treatment has left you with a bad taste in your mouth, suck on a piece of hard candy to get an unpleasant taste out of your mouth before eating.
  • Be sure to handle foods safely during preparation to avoid foodborne illnesses. Wash fruits and vegetables well and use different cutting boards for meats and produce.

For more information or to schedule a nutrition consultation with an Ingalls Health System dietitian, call the Ingalls Wellness Center at 708.206.0072.

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