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Is There One Best Cancer Diet if I'm Having Side Effects During Cancer Care?

If Symptoms Make Food Unappealing During Treatment, Try These Tips to Eat Well


Updated December 08, 2011

Finding the Best Cancer Diet to Address Treatment Symptoms

Make Sure Medical Management is Addressed

Cancer treatment may cause side effects that make it difficult to eat well. This includes symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, fatigue, changes in taste and smell, sore mouth and throat, weight loss, weight gain, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, and anemia. The good news is that there are many medical options for managing these side effects.

In fact, if you are being treated for cancer and you have side effects that are making it difficult to eat, talk to your medical team. Losing a lot of weight and having trouble eating are not the "norm" during cancer therapy anymore. Cancer care has advanced leaps and bounds in the past 5-10 years, which means you should not expect to feel poorly. If you do, you should work with your doctor to get the help, and symptom relief, you need.

Nutrition to Address Cancer Treatment Symptoms

In addition to taking your treatment side-effect medications exactly as prescribed, what you eat and drink can go a long way toward helping you feel better and get the nutrition you need. For example, did you know that eating high protein foods on the day before and the day after each chemotherapy treatment day may help lessen nausea? We detail dozens more tips that you can put to work to better manage your own symptoms.

And eating well is important: It will give your body the tools needed to heal and recover during and after cancer treatment.

Use our tips and recipes, in conjunction with your prescribed medications, to help yourself best manage treatment side effects:

Using Medications and a Cancer Diet Most Effectively

Remember that diet and nutrition work best to manage cancer treatment symptoms in conjunction with medication. Following a good cancer diet during treatment should not take the place of medications. Rather, it should be used to enhance your medications' ability to manage side effects.

If you are taking your side-effect management medications as prescribed, and you still struggle to get your treatment side effects under control, contact your doctor or nurse to discuss other options for feeling better. There are many medication options and many different ways to deliver these medications, such as patches, pills, liquids, and intravenously (IV).

What works best for one person, may not work as well for another. This is why it's worth your effort to work with your doctor to find the best medical approach for managing [u]your[/u] side effects. And be sure to follow your prescription instructions exactly. It's much easier to prevent side effects than to "fix" them once they have already occurred. Prevention is the best medicine... and this is as true during cancer treatment as at any other time. If you don't understand how to take your medications, contact your doctor or pharmacist for help.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you are experiencing any of the following, call your doctor right away:

  • Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation last for more than one day
  • You are confused, dizzy, lose your balance, or fall.
  • You feel that you can't out of bed for more than 24 hours because you are so tired
  • You can't drink fluids or you feel dehydrated.
  • You lose more than two pounds in one week, due to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite.
  • You have a fever.
  • You notice that you are bruising very easily.
  • You experience a lot of bleeding, such as excessive bleeding in your mouth when you brush your teeth, or if you cut yourself.

American Cancer Society. When Do I Call My Doctor? Accessed: August 17, 2009. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MBC/content/MBC_2_2X_When_Do_I_Call_My_Doctor.asp

American Dietetic Association, Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. The Clinical Guide to Oncology Nutrition, 2nd Edition, 2008. Eds. Elliott L, Molseed LL, McCallum PD, Grant B.

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