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Dietetics & Nutrition

Patient Care > Treatments > Supportive Treatment

Dietetics & Nutrition

Eating well and getting the nutrition you need can be challenging when you have cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating nutritious foods are essential. Additionally, it would be best if you drink plenty of water. 

There are times when the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment can affect your appetite and weight. Weight loss may be caused by some treatments that cause you to eat less. Other cancer treatments can result in weight gain. You should not be concerned about small changes in your weight. However, losing or gaining too much weight can adversely affect your health during cancer treatment. Staying healthy can be achieved through proper nutrition. 

A General Guide to Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

The following are some general nutrition recommendations during cancer treatment:

  • Ensure that you receive essential nutrients. There are four main types of nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water.
  • Make every effort to stay active. Take a daily walk, for example. You may lose muscle mass and gain body fat if you spend too much time sitting or sleeping.
  • You should discuss your weight with your healthcare team. Consult your doctor and other members of your cancer care team regularly. Losing or gaining too much weight can have a negative effect on your health during treatment. A change in your weight may also indicate that you are not receiving adequate nutrition. The healthcare team can assist you in determining the cause and what steps to take next, including consulting with a nutritionist.

A registered dietitian or dietitian nutritionist could assist in this regard. Nutrition counselling can assist you if you have difficulty obtaining the required nutrition.

Dietitians can help you develop an eating plan that meets your nutritional requirements. They may recommend the following:

  • You may need to increase your intake of specific vitamins or minerals
  • Snacks and nutritional supplements
  • If necessary, additional nutrition support may be provided, such as a feeding tube

There is currently insufficient research to determine the effects of following specific diets or eating plans during cancer treatment on quality of life, treatment side effects, or cancer outcomes. Therefore, specialists do not recommend a particular diet during cancer treatment. There is a need for further research in this critical area.

Nutritional And Side Effects of Treatment

Many physical side effects associated with cancer treatment affect your appetite or weight, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, and changes in your sense of taste. There may be difficulty eating and drinking as a result of these conditions. You may find these tips helpful.

  • If water does not taste right, increase the amount of liquid in your food and other beverages. Consider consuming soup or eating watermelon and drinking tea without any sugar. Alternatively, you can drink fruit-infused water. 
  • Spices and herbs can enhance the flavour of bland foods. Try using lemon, garlic, cayenne, dill, or rosemary, for example. You may need to avoid too much acid, such as lemons and other citrus fruits, or spicy heat, such as cayenne pepper or other hot peppers. This is because your mouth is sore. 
  • Rather than eating three large meals daily, eat several small meals throughout the day. Aim for six meals each day to ensure you receive all the calories you require. 
  • Protein can be obtained from other foods if meat is no longer appealing. Consider fish, eggs, cheese, beans, nuts, nut butter, tofu, high-protein smoothies and shakes. 
  • Suck on mints or lemon drops, chewing gum, or try fresh citrus fruits if you are experiencing a metallic taste in your mouth. Cook in non-metal pots and pans and use non-metal utensils. You may also wish to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth before eating. 
  • Use a blender or food processor to blend vegetables and meats if you have mouth sores or gum infection. Add butter, mild sauces, gravy, or cream for added smoothness and calories. Consider juicing or making smoothies. If you have a sore mouth, the extra moisture may be able to soothe it. 

It is also helpful to inform your healthcare team how you feel, as emotional side effects may also be present. Please inform your healthcare team if you have difficulty eating or drinking due to side effects. They can assist in various ways, such as prescribing medications that relieve specific side effects.

Do You Need to Take Dietary Supplements?

Consult your cancer care team before taking any dietary supplements during your cancer treatment. Taking multivitamins or other over-the-counter supplements falls under this category. 

You may benefit from taking low doses of vitamins and minerals if you cannot obtain all the nutrition you need from your diet. However, using high doses of any specific supplement may be harmful.  

Always consult your oncologist and cancer care team before taking any supplements to ensure your safety. Ensure that they are aware of all your medications. 

Preparing Food Safely During Cancer Treatment

During cancer treatment, ensuring that your food is safe is extremely important. Specific treatments can weaken the immune system, increasing your risk of infection. Food-borne illness occurs when harmful bacteria, viruses, or fungi contaminate food and cause illness in the person who consumes it.

Nutrition And Diet After Cancer Treatment

During cancer treatment, ensuring that your food is safe is extremely important. Specific treatments can weaken the immune system, increasing your risk of infection. Food-borne illness occurs when harmful bacteria, viruses, or fungi contaminate food and cause illness in the person who consumes it.

Following cancer treatment, most experts recommend eating a healthy diet consisting of various fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Discuss specific nutritional and physical activity recommendations with your cancer care team, including a nutrition professional. 

There is no clear understanding of whether or how specific foods and drinks may affect cancer survival rates. However, cancer survivors should maintain a healthy diet. Cancer treatment may increase the risk of other health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and weak bones. Each survivor has unique needs.  

For patients who have undergone cancer treatment, many physicians recommend the following steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle: 

  • Eat a nutritious diet consisting primarily of plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans). 
  • Stay physically active 
  • Quit smoking 
  • Pay attention to changes in your weight 
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink (ask your doctor for recommendations).