Nutrition during Cancer Treatment

Photospin.com/ Toh Kheng Ho

Blog by Joanna Manero

Treating a client undergoing cancer treatment can be a difficult task.  Many things are happening in their lives, which may lead to nutrition being put on the back burner.  However, we know how important proper nutrition can be during this time.  According to the American Cancer Society, proper nutrition during treatment can lead to feeling better, keeping up strength and energy, maintaining weight and body nutrient stores, better-tolerating side effects, lower risk of infection, and a faster recovery.

Cancer treatments may result in an altered sense of smell, taste, and appetite, which may lead to malnutrition.  These changes are especially problematic in this population as it may leave patients too weak to fight disease.  Furthermore, other side effects of cancer treatment include anorexia, anxiety, constipation, depression, dry mouth, diarrhea, mouth sores, nausea, and trouble swallowing.  These side effects can further inhibit someone’s willingness to eat. If you find that your client is struggling to consume adequate energy and nutrients during cancer treatments, try some of the tips below.

If the problem is appetite:

  • Eat five or six small meals per day.
  • Eat large meals when you are hungry.
  • Start a meal with high-protein foods.
  • Keep your favorite high-energy foods and drinks nearby at all times.
  • Try to be physically active to help stimulate hunger.
  • Ask a family member for help with meal preparation.
  • Drink your calories using smoothies and semi-solid foods that require less chewing.

If the problem is nausea:

  • Avoid strong smelling foods.
  • Eat small, frequent meals.
  • Eat sitting up.
  • Having small sips of clear, room-temperature fluid, may be better tolerated.
  • Sip on drinks between meals rather than with a meal.
  • Avoid foods that are heavily spiced, greasy, or overly sweet.
  • Nibble on plain foods such as pretzels and crackers to help control vomiting.

If the problem is fatigue:

  • Ask for a family member to help prepare meals.
  • Prepare large meals when you have energy and freeze leftovers.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Temporarily consume ready-to-eat meals.
  • Look into programs that can provide meals such as Meals on Wheels.

If the problem is altered taste and smell:

  • Choose foods that you enjoy.
  • Consume foods at lower temperatures; often lower temperature can help mask the smell and taste of foods.
  • If food tastes bitter or salty, try adding small amounts of sugar.
  • Brush your teeth and rinse your mouth regularly.
  • Try marinades or spices that taste and smell good to you to mask the off-taste of other foods.

As you can imagine, this is only a short list of problems that can arise during cancer treatment.  Check out the resources below for more information and please join us for a free webinar featuring Dr. Anna Arthur Parker on May 4th, 2017 at 10 am CT to learn more. Register at https://learn.extension.org/events/3026

Resources/References:

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/staying-active/nutrition/nutrition-during-treatment/benefits.html

http://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/appetite-loss/nutrition-pdq

http://www.aicr.org/assets/docs/pdf/education/heal-well-guide.pdf

 

This blog was posted by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebookon Twitterand LinkedIn.

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