Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients


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Eat Right to Fight Cancer

A cancer diagnosis brings a lot of questions about nutrition and diet. Will I feel sick? Will I be able to eat normally? What should I eat to help my body fight cancer and heal?

Decrease bloating from radiation treatment

Bloating is a very common side effect of radiation to the abdominal region. There isn’t a lot of evidence based advice, but modifying the diet may relieve some of the bloating. Each person’s response is different.

Choosing a low fiber diet and omitting ‘gas producing’ foods is the first thing to try. These would include beans, peas, corn, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables. Unfortunately, these are also the foods that we know can promote good health. However, temporarily omitting these foods may help with your symptoms. You can start adding these foods back into your diet once you feel like the bloating is manageable.

Other suggested strategies for reducing bloating include:

  • Avoid carbonated beverages
  • No talking while eating (which causes more air swallowing)
  • Avoid the use of straws (also causes more air swallowing)
  • Avoid dairy (some people get temporary lactose intolerance)

Digestive Aids

There are a few supplements and natural foods that may help your digestive system. While data is limited for the following suggestions, they are unlikely to cause harm. You will want to discuss the potential use with your health care providers.

  • Glutamine sometimes helps to improve digestive functioning and alleviates gas.
  • Digestive enzymes may help your situation. These require a prescription and you take them with meals.
  • Supplemental, food derived enzymes may help. Bromelain is one that has some evidence for digestive health.
  • Adding herbs may help, such as fennel, ginger, and peppermint (if you don’t have gastro-esophageal reflux disorder).

Remember that over-the-counter supplements are not regulated in the US, so be sure to get a recommendation from your doctor or dietitian on what brand and dose schedule.


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Alterations to Taste and Smell Due to Chemotherapy and Radiation

Chemo Diet

Changes in taste and smell may happen due to chemotherapy, infection or xerostomia (lack of saliva)

Chemo therapy induced changes to taste are reversible but, may take several weeks. However, Radiation therapy induced changes can be permanent. Some of the symptoms are intolerance to meats, increased bitter or sweet sensations, as well strange tastes like metallic or “gamey” tastes between meals.

There may be heightened sense of smell that may cause sensitivity to food preparation, aversion to perfumes or soaps may also happen.

Tips for management:

  1. Serving foods cold instead of hot may help.
  2. Regular rinsing with a baking soda solution (1 tablespoon baking soda in 1 quart water) will help with taste changes.
  3. Avoid mouth washes containing alcohol.
  4. Use plastic utensils instead of stainless steel to help with the metallic taste.
  5. Try adding mint to milkshakes or oral supplements that may taste too sweet.
  6. Fresh or frozen foods may taste better than canned foods.
  7. Sip on liquids or suck on ice chips throughout the day. Aim at 8-10 cups fluid/day.
  8. Marinades and spices can be used to mask the strange tastes.
  9. Add lemon, lime, or vinegar to foods that taste too sweet.
  10. If unable to have meat try another protein source, like dairy, soy products, eggs or poultry.