6 Tips for Eating Healthy While Undergoing Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is the use of specialized drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is a systemic treatment that keeps the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and multiplying throughout the body.
Chemotherapy is effective in fighting cancer cells since the drugs circulate throughout the body through the bloodstream.
Because of this, it can treat cancer nearly anywhere in the body.
Oncologists recommend chemotherapy if there is a need to shrink cancer cells before surgery and prevent it from coming back post surgery or radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy is already prescribed as a treatment on its own if the cancer is sensitive to it.
Lastly, it is also used to treat cancer that has spread from where it first began.
Modifying Your Eating Habits During Chemotherapy
If chemotherapy is your cancer treatment in Dubai or part of it, you need to stay as healthy as possible throughout the therapy.
Having a good diet can help you feel comfortable and at ease as you undergo chemotherapy. It will also keep your immune system strong since your body will get the nutrients it needs to facilitate the regrowth of healthy tissues.
Your diet and eating habits will also help you sustain your energy, tolerate and manage the treatment’s side effects, reduce your risks of infection, and speed up your recovery.
Your specialist will give you a list of instructions to follow regarding your diet and eating habits during chemotherapy.
Additionally, you can follow these tips to have a diet that works for and not against you while undergoing chemotherapy:
1. Load up on carbohydrates
Fatigue and weakness are common side effects of chemotherapy. You can combat this condition by eating more healthy carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates provide the body with the fuel it needs for the organs and body to function properly. Because of this, they are the body’s primary source of energy.
Some foods rich in healthy carbohydrates are:
- Sweet potatoes
Bread, rice, cereals, corn, and pasta dishes are also excellent sources of carbohydrates.
If you add more of these foods rich in healthy carbohydrates, you will also supply your body with essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, such as fiber and phytonutrients.
2. Add protein-rich foods to your diet.
Protein is another nutrient that plays various important roles in the body.
These include repairing and building body tissues and keeping your immune system healthy.
If you are undergoing chemotherapy and not getting enough proteins, your body may break down muscle to get the fuel it needs. This, in turn, will make recovering from illnesses longer for you and reduce your resistance to infections.
Since protein is crucial for the body, include protein-rich foods in your daily diet, such as:
- Lean red meat and poultry
- Low-fat dairy products
- Nuts and nut butter
- Beans, peas, and lentils
3. Fight your lack of appetite.
Although your fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy foods, you may find yourself not eating any food, even if you are hungry. This is because chemotherapy can cause you to lose your appetite.
Additionally, chemotherapy can affect your taste buds, making some foods and beverages taste bitter, metallic, or simply unpleasant.
If you are suffering from a loss of appetite, try to eat more carbohydrate snacks loaded with flavour, such as toast with peanut butter, pita bread with hummus, smoothies with yoghurt and berries, and blended soups.
These snacks are packed with flavour and nutrients and make you feel full for several hours, thus ensuring you stay energised and healthy all day.
If you keep having a metallic or bitter taste in your mouth when eating, use plastic utensils instead of silver and metal ones.
If plain water and red meats also leave a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth, try drinking flavoured mineral water and other sources of protein such as eggs, fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy products.
4. Avoid sticking to strict meal times.
Following a meal time routine may not work to your advantage if you are undergoing chemotherapy. Since you may suffer from a lack of appetite, it may mean making up your own eating schedules or even not having any at all temporarily to stay nourished.
Start by having small meals. Eating five small meals instead of three large ones per day can facilitate faster and efficient digestion. It will also help you reduce your nausea, another side effect of chemotherapy.
Also, vary your meals. For instance, if you don’t feel like having cereal or toast for breakfast, don’t hesitate to eat soup or a small serving of your favourite pasta dish in the morning.
The bottom line is, avoid limiting the types of food you eat based on the time of day. As long as you have a balanced diet and find the meal or snack appetizing, you can indulge in those anytime.
5. Be prepared to deal with constipation and diarrhoea.
Constipation and diarrhoea are also common side effects of chemotherapy. As such, you have to know how to keep them at bay or deal with them when you experience them.
To avoid constipation, drink plenty of water every day. Also, add more fibre-rich foods to your diet.
Ensure these foods are rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre to prevent or ease constipation.
Oats, chia seeds, lentils, and white rice are examples of foods that contain soluble fibre, while whole wheat, wheat bran, nuts, and seeds are rich in insoluble fibre.
If you are dealing with diarrhoea, avoid greasy and fried foods, sugary beverages, and raw produce.
You will do well to eat more foods rich in soluble fibre and foodstuffs that absorb water and have a sticky quality when cooked. These include oatmeal, white rice, and barley. Sweet potatoes, squash, and peeled fruits are also safe options.
6. Stay hydrated.
Hydration is a crucial element of a healthy chemotherapy diet. Because of this, you need to drink at least eight glasses of water every day to ensure the body cells get the fluid they need.
If you have diarrhoea, drink more to avoid dehydration.
Keep a water bottle with you at all times so that you can sip water frequently throughout the day.
All liquids, including fruit juices, smoothies, jelly, ice cream, popsicles, soup, and even milk, also count toward your daily fluid intake goal. As such, add these to your diet, too.
Before making drastic changes in your diet and eating habits, consult your doctor first.
Your specialist knows your condition and treatment program better, which means they can provide you with a customised meal plan that will help you weather the challenges of undergoing chemotherapy.