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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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