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Helpful Strategies for Managing Side Effects of Cancer Treatment Through Diet


Nausea & Vomiting Management

Nausea (feeling queasy or sick to your stomach) with or without vomiting (throwing up) can be caused by your cancer, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. We strive to prevent nausea and vomiting by taking specific measures. These include receiving IV anti-nausea medications prior to the administration of chemotherapy and prescribing anti-nausea meds for home. Your provider and nurse will go over these medications in detail. It is important to take your anti-nausea medications at the first sign of nausea.  Please notify us if your medication is not working, as there are many other medications available to treat your nausea. Sometimes nausea can be from increased anxiety and fatigue. Physical and mental relaxation techniques, as well as diet changes, can often help in this area.

Some helpful eating tips surrounding nausea include:

Effective treatment for nausea may be different for each person. If your symptoms persist, please call the office.

Constipation Management

Constipation is defined as being unable to move your bowels, having bowel movements less often than is normal for you, or having to push harder to move your bowels than you have in the past. It causes bloating, pain, and discomfort. Being less active, eating or drinking less, or taking certain medications can cause constipation.

Tips to avoid constipation include:

Diarrhea Management 

Diarrhea is defined as having more than two loose or watery stools per day. It can be caused by your cancer treatments. Diarrhea can be worse if you are taking more than one kind of cancer treatment at the same time (such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy together). Uncontrolled diarrhea can lead to weakness, poor appetite, dehydration, and weight loss.

What you can do:

Remember, dehydration can happen very quickly if your diarrhea persists. Symptoms include lightheadedness, headache, increased weakness, and low blood pressure. If you are feeling dehydrated, please call the office early in the day. We can give you some IV fluids if necessary.

Increasing Calories in Your Diet

It is important to eat well during your cancer treatments so you can maintain your current weight.  Suggestions to increase calories and protein during this challenging time include:

Remember, variety is the key to success. Try different foods on different days for the best results.  Consider having smaller prepackaged snacks that are easy to carry with you during the day to snack on whenever you are hungry. If you need additional help with eating strategies or menu planning, contact the dietitian for assistance. 

Hydration

It is very important to drink plenty of fluids during cancer treatments to maintain good hydration. Goal volume is at least eight to ten cups (sixty four to eighty ounces) of fluid daily. Don’t forget that fresh fruits and vegetables are also a source of fluid.  

Some tips to help you stay hydrated include:

Remember, dehydration can happen very quickly.  This is especially true if you are experiencing any nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Symptoms may include lightheadedness, headache, increased weakness, and low blood pressure.  If you are feeling dehydrated, please call the office early in the day. We can give you some IV fluids if necessary.

Coping With Dry Mouth

Your mouth can become dry as a side effect from radiation treatment, some chemotherapies, or some medications. The salivary glands can become irritated and produce less saliva or your saliva can become thicker or stringy. For some, this dryness is mild and easily managed by increasing fluid intake. For others, the dryness is more severe and can interfere with eating, talking, and sleeping. 

Here are some tips to help you manage dry mouth.

It is important to make your provider aware of any mouth sores you may have. Sometimes white patches in the mouth or on the tongue may form. Contact your provider if this happens and a medication will be prescribed.

Sore Throat Management

Cancer and its treatments can cause your throat to become very sore making it more difficult to eat and swallow.  Radiation therapy to the head, neck, and chest areas and some chemotherapy can irritate your throat, aggravate gastric reflux, and increase heartburn.

Here are some tips to help you during this challenging time.

Dealing with Changes in Taste and Smell

Cancer and its treatments can cause changes in your senses of taste and smell. These alterations can affect your appetite and intake. You may notice that your senses of taste and smell vary on a daily basis so it is a good idea to keep experimenting with new foods.

To get rid of bitter or metallic tastes:

To improve smells:               

Millkshakes & Smoothies Can Help Increase Calories and Protein

Listed below are a variety of milkshakes and smoothies that may be helpful in increasing calories and protein in your diet. To maximize your nutrition support, you may consider substituting a commercial nutrition supplement (Boost, Ensure) for the liquid listed in these drinks. Protein powders can also be added. Most powders provide at least 15g protein per serving. If you don’t care for protein powders, other options include plain greek yogurt (15-20 grams per ounce in 6 ounces) and cottage cheese (12 grams per ounce in 4 ounces). 

Fortified/Double Strength Milk

1 quart whole milk

1 cup nonfat dry milk powder

Combine in blender until smooth.  Refrigerate.  Makes 4 servings.

210kcal/14gpro per serving

Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink

1 packet Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink

8 ounces skim milk

Stir packet into skim milk until smooth.  Makes 1 serving.

220kcal/14gpro per serving

Fortified Instant Breakfast Drink

1 packet Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder

Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth.  Makes 1 serving.

400kcal/25gpro per serving

High Calorie Breakfast Shake

1 packet Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink

1 cup half and half

3/4 cup ice cream

Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth.  Makes 1 serving.

650kcal/18gpro per serving

Banana Milkshake

1 whole banana

2-3 drops of vanilla extract

1 cup whole milk

Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth.  Makes 1 serving.

190kcal/9gpro per serving

Banana Flip

2 whole bananas

1 packet Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup orange juice

Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth.  Makes 1 serving.

580kcal/13gpro per serving


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