Thursday


Nutrition for cancer patients


Illustrative purpose only

Nothing curls our toes more readily than when we see somebody disheartened after knowing the side effects of chemotherapy. Although the patient may not feel like eating due to the side effects of the treatment, still they can adapt their eating habits to ensure that they will get important nutrients. The cells lining the entire gastrointestinal tract may be particularly affected, interfering with one's ability to absorb food. You may experience changes in the way food tastes and smells or you may lose your appetite.

Loss of appetite
To improve your appetite, try to eat by the clock. Make breakfast and lunch your main meals, since you may find that you have more energy at these times. Try to avoid having treatment on an empty stomach which might aggravate symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, etc. Eat small, frequent meals and choose high-calorie snacks such as smoothies, milk shakes, supplement drinks, desserts, avocados, nuts and sandwiches.

Nausea
This is a common complaint among people undergoing cancer treatment. If you have nausea, try frequent, small meals or snacks such as crackers and toast and foods that are easy to digest, like porridge, boiled potatoes, etc. Choose low fat protein sources and avoid fried, greasy and rich foods. Cold foods may be better tolerated, particularly if the smell of food makes you feel sick. Rest, sitting up, after eating and sip apple juice or ginger or peppermint teas through the day.

Vomiting
Do not drink anything until you have stopped vomiting. When you stop and feel better, try sipping small amounts of water, apple or cranberry juice, ginger ale, sports drinks, broths and tea. Once these liquids are tolerated, move on to bland foods such as mashed potatoes, rice, yoghurt, etc. Bananas, apricots, and juice can be added when you feel better.

Chewing and swallowing
To make foods easier to chew, cut them into bite sized pieces or mince them. Choose soft foods and add gravy, sauces or butter to the food to make it easier to swallow. Avoid highly seasoned, spicy, tart or acidic foods because they will aggravate the sores. In addition, you should add liquid nutritional supplement (after consulting your doctor) to ensure that it is balanced.

Kidney and bladder
To treat irritation, drink plenty of fluids, such as water and diluted fruit juice, and choose liquid or soft foods such as broth, soup, soft fruits, etc., to assure good urine flow and help prevent infection. Cranberry juice, in particular, may reduce your chances of getting a bladder infection.

Neutropenic (Germ-free diet)
People who receive chemotherapy often have a suppressed immune system and are, therefore, more likely to develop infections. Such infections can be caused by the bacteria found in foods. Do not keep perishable foods like milk, yoghurt and sandwiches at room temperature for more than two hours. Hot food should be kept hot and cold foods must be kept cold.  

Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al Raffah Hospital

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