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Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects to Improve Your Dietary Intake

Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects to Improve Your Dietary Intake

If you are among the 650,000 people in the United States who experience chemotherapy each year, you are probably no stranger to the side effects it can bring. From extreme tiredness to digestive upset, the unwanted secondary effects of this cancer treatment can have an adverse impact on your dietary intake and increase your risk of malnutrition. Eating well during chemotherapy is not easy, but you can take steps to manage your symptoms to give yourself the best chance of meeting your nutritional needs, which can positively influence your treatment outcome.

1. Fighting fatigue

If you feel wiped out during chemotherapy, you may not have the energy to do a grocery shop or prepare meals. Getting enough rest by prioritizing activities and asking for help from relatives, friends, and neighbors can help you conserve your energy.

Additionally, although it may seem counterintuitive, doing gentle exercises may help reduce tiredness. Your healthcare team can give you advice on suitable activities to try.

Eating and drinking well is also essential to maintaining your energy levels, but when you feel drained, a well-stocked store cupboard and freezer can ensure there is always something at hand if you can’t get to the shops or you don’t feel like cooking. For instance, options like sandwiches, chunky soups, baked beans on toast, macaroni cheese, or a ready-prepared meal are still nutritious.

2. Coping with nausea and vomiting

Whether feelings of nausea last for a few hours or several days, you are unlikely to feel like eating, particularly if your nausea is accompanied by vomiting.

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Anti-sickness drugs, called antiemetics, offer relief from both symptoms, but you can also adjust your eating and drinking habits to minimize them. For instance, eating little and often, eating and drinking slowly, and keeping drinks to outside of mealtimes can all help.

You may find that avoiding foods high in fat and sugar, while favoring those that are dry or do not require cooking, can also offer symptom relief. Ginger has antiemetic properties, so having items like ginger tea, ginger ale, ginger biscuits, or stem ginger is another possible way to relieve nausea.

Taking cool, clear drinks, as well as sucking ice cubes or mints, are further ideas to manage feeling nauseous.

3. Dealing with poor appetite

If you find that you can’t eat much at a time, try having small meals with snacks in between. While snacks like chips and candy are OK from time to time, try to keep snacks as nourishing as possible. Yogurt, cheese with crackers, nuts, a small sandwich, or a small bowl of cereal are all good options. You may also find that trying different foods, taking a short walk before a meal, and eating with company can all boost your food intake.

4. Relieving constipation

Constipation can have a negative effect on your appetite. Your doctor may prescribe a laxative if you struggle to relieve your bowels regularly, but there are some steps you can try yourself to aid digestive transit. For example, drinking plenty, especially warm fluids, helps your stools stay soft.

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Including fiber-rich foods with every meal, such as fruits, vegetables, whole-wheat bread, and cereals, can help you keep regular, as can gentle daily exercise.

5. Managing diarrhea

As the cells lining your intestines rapidly divide, chemotherapy attacks these cells, which causes diarrhea. After discussing your symptoms with your doctor, he or she may recommend an anti-diarrheal medication, but dietary changes may also offer symptom relief. Avoiding fatty, spicy, or fibrous foods, as well as tea and coffee, may help.

Some people also find that milk worsens their diarrhea, so limit milk if this is applicable. Meanwhile, keep up your fluids to prevent dehydration. Clear fluids, such as water, fruit teas, broth, and flat carbonated drinks are best.

6. Alleviating a sore mouth

Chemotherapy also inadvertently targets the cells of your mouth, causing irritation and sores. Good oral hygiene is essential to manage mouth problems, and your doctor may give you medication to ease the pain and aid healing of your mouth ulcers.

To make eating easier when you have a sore mouth, avoid warm foods and those that are acidic, salty, spicy, or rough. Soft foods are gentler on your mouth, and for a time you may want to purée foods to make them smoother. Alternatively, add moisture to dry foods with a sauce, gravy, or margarine.

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If your mouth is also dry, drink plenty fluids and chew sugar-free gum.

7. Don’t worry about weight gain

Although many people lose weight during chemotherapy, some drugs can cause weight gain. If you find yourself gaining weight, it is tempting to restrict what you eat, but eating a balanced diet with sufficient calories is essential during chemotherapy to help your body fight the cancer and protect your body from the rigors of treatment.

8. Improving your weakened immune system

You may be ignoring their health effects, but lemon and extra virgin olive oil can be your natural allies when it comes to fighting cancer and cancer side effects.

Lemon (citrus) is a fruit that has been found to inhibit cancer cell proliferation. One of its most interesting virtues is the effect it produces on cysts and tumors.

Lemon doesn’t only inhibit cancer cell proliferation, but also has many antifungal properties as it’s been proven to effectively treat oral thrush (a frequent complication of HIV infection).

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Likewise, good quality extra-virgin olive oil contains many health-relevant chemicals or phytochemicals known for their ability to trigger cancer cell death.

Try this juice recipe:

Cut a lemon in quarters. Put the pieces in a blender. Add a cup of water and one tablespoon of extra virgin organic olive oil. Blend well and serve to drink on a daily basis. You can sweeten your drink with a few tablespoons of orange juice.

Featured photo credit: googleusercontent via lh3.googleusercontent.com

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Jae Berman

Health Writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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