Eating Right During Cancer Treatment: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Eating well is important during cancer treatment because it improves general health and helps manage side effects and symptoms. The efficacy of your cancer treatment is directly related to your dietary preferences and appetite. It becomes important that you follow a definite eating pattern and avoid some food and beverages during the cancer treatment. In this article, we will discuss the general recommendations of food to eat and foods to avoid during cancer treatment.

How Cancer Treatment Impacts Your Diet?

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and other radiation therapies have certain side effects which have a direct impact on your appetite. Let’s take a look at the side effects:

  • Constipation: This can cause a great deal of discomfort and reduces the desire to eat.
  • Diarrhoea: Loss of vital nutrients from the body and further weakens your body.
  • Tiredness: You constantly feel fatigued leading to fewer burning of calories and as a result reduces the appetite as you don’t feel as hungry as you should be.
  • Loss of Taste: Chemotherapy can lead to temporary loss of taste. Therefore, it makes the food less appealing.
  • Nausea: Frequent bouts of nausea and vomiting kill your desire to eat.

Cancer treatment has various side effects on your body. Hence, in order to stay healthy and ensure the treatment is effective, you should strictly follow a cancer diet that includes protein and nutrient-rich food and exclude beverages and oily products.

What to Eat:

  • High-Protein Foods: Protein helps repair body tissue and maintain the immune system. Include lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and legumes in your diet.
  • Whole Grains: Whole grains provide essential nutrients and fibre, which can help maintain bowel health. Options include whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, and oats.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: These are high in vitamins, minerals, and fibre, which can help your body fight infections. Aim for various colourful fruits and vegetables to get a broad range of nutrients.
  • Healthy Fats: Foods rich in healthy fats can help your body absorb vitamins and provide energy. Include avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated is vital. Water, broth, and caffeine-free teas can help manage treatment side effects like nausea and constipation.

What to Avoid:

  • Raw or Undercooked Foods: Cancer treatments can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections. Avoid raw fish, meats, eggs, and unpasteurised dairy products.
  • Highly Processed Foods: These often contain high levels of salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats, which can exacerbate side effects and contribute to weight gain or loss. Limit fast food, chips, and sweets.
  • Certain Beverages: Alcohol can interfere with medications and exacerbate side effects like dehydration. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks might also be limited if they cause irritation or dehydration.
  • Foods High in Salt and Sugar: These can be harsh on your body during treatment. Excessive salt can lead to fluid retention, and high sugar intake might affect energy levels.
  • Grapefruit and Pomegranate: These fruits can interfere with the metabolism of many drugs used in cancer treatment, potentially causing harmful side effects.

Why Is Your Diet Important During Cancer Treatment?

Cancer treatment can lead to massive fluctuations in your appetite and significant weight loss. Hence, it is important to pay close attention to your diet. A healthy diet not only maintains a healthy weight but also improves the treatment outcomes. Given below are some benefits of following a healthy diet during cancer treatment:

  • Managing side effects
  • Increase energy
  • Preserve immune function
  • Reduce inflammation.

General Advice:

  • Small, Frequent Meals: Eating small, frequent meals can help manage side effects such as nausea and loss of appetite.
  • Mindful Preparation: Food safety is paramount. Ensure that foods are cooked to safe temperatures and stored properly.
  • Consultation with a Nutritionist: It’s beneficial to consult with a dietitian or nutritionist who specialises in cancer care. They can provide tailored advice based on your treatment plan and nutritional needs.

Maintaining a balanced diet tailored to your needs during cancer treatment can help you feel better, stay stronger, and potentially improve your treatment outcomes.