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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 July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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