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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 May 15, 2019

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

As it appears, the human mind is not capable of not thinking, at least on the subconscious level. Our mind is always occupied by thoughts, whether we want to or not, and they influence our every action.

“Happiness cannot come from without, it comes from within.” – Helen Keller

When we are still children, our thoughts seem to be purely positive. Have you ever been around a 4-year old who doesn’t like a painting he or she drew? I haven’t. Instead, I see glee, exciting and pride in children’s eyes. But as the years go by, we clutter our mind with doubts, fears and self-deprecating thoughts.

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Just imagine then how much we limit ourselves in every aspect of our lives if we give negative thoughts too much power! We’ll never go after that job we’ve always wanted because our nay-saying thoughts make us doubt our abilities. We’ll never ask that person we like out on a date because we always think we’re not good enough.

We’ll never risk quitting our job in order to pursue the life and the work of our dreams because we can’t get over our mental barrier that insists we’re too weak, too unimportant and too dumb. We’ll never lose those pounds that risk our health because we believe we’re not capable of pushing our limits. We’ll never be able to fully see our inner potential because we simply don’t dare to question the voices in our head.

But enough is enough! It’s time to stop these limiting beliefs and come to a place of sanity, love and excitement about life, work and ourselves.

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So…how exactly are we to achieve that?

It’s not as hard as it may seem; you just have to practice, practice, practice. Here are a few ideas on how you can get started.

1. Learn to substitute every negative thought with a positive one.

Every time a negative thought crawls into your mind, replace it with a positive thought. It’s just like someone writes a phrase you don’t like on a blackboard and then you get up, erase it and write something much more to your liking.

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2. See the positive side of every situation, even when you are surrounded by pure negativity.

This one is a bit harder to put into practice, which does not mean it’s impossible.

You can find positivity in everything by mentally holding on to something positive, whether this be family, friends, your faith, nature, someone’s sparkling eyes or whatever other glimmer of beauty. If you seek it, you will find it.

3. At least once a day, take a moment and think of 5 things you are grateful for.

This will lighten your mood and give you some perspective of what is really important in life and how many blessings surround you already.

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4. Change the mental images you allow to enter your mind.

How you see yourself and your surroundings make a huge difference to your thinking. It is like watching a DVD that saddens and frustrates you, completely pulling you down. Eject that old DVD, throw it away and insert a new, better, more hopeful one instead.

So, instead of dwelling on dark, negative thoughts, consciously build and focus on positive, light and colorful images, thoughts and situations in your mind a few times a day.

If you are persistent and keep on working on yourself, your mind will automatically reject its negative thoughts and welcome the positive ones.

And remember: You are (or will become) what you think you are. This is reason enough to be proactive about whatever is going on in your head.

Featured photo credit: Kyaw Tun via unsplash.com

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