Ways to improve diet of patients with cancer

Cancer diet

Malnutrition is the most frequently identified determinant of severity of illness and death among cancer patients. Cancer patients with adequate nutrition have been shown to fare better in general, and specifically have a higher tolerance for side effects related to therapeutic interventions. Many factors determine the severity of side effects, including the type and location of the tumor, and the type, length, and dose of treatment.
Here are some of the suggestion;
  • If immune function is compromised, avoid uncooked meats, unpasteurized dairy products, raw vegetables such as sprouts, and herbal nutrient supplements.
  • Because fever expends considerable energy, adequate intake of carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins should be encouraged, especially during episodes of infection.
  • During chemotherapy treatments, meat often seems to have a very bad taste and smell for the patient. One way to counteract this is to use fruit or fruit juice when preparing or serving meat.
  • Dry mouth symptoms can be alleviated by rinsing with a saline mouthwash before meals. Mouthwash can be made from one tea teaspoon salt and one teaspoon baking soda added to about a liter of water. Commercial mouthwashes and alcoholic and acidic beverages can aggravate an irritated mouth.
  • For patients with mouth or throat soreness, bland, lukewarm, or cool foods can be soothing. Acidic, spicy, or salty foods may be irritated.
  • Drinking enough fluids will help counteract constipation often caused by analgesics. If the gastrointestinal tract is not too tender, then constipation may be alleviated by high-fiber foods such as whole-grain bread, raw fruit and vegetables, dried fruits, seeds, and nuts.
  • Diarrhea due to chemotherapy or radiation may be alleviated by a soft diet and avoidance of whole grains, legumes, dried fruit, and raw fruit and vegetables. Limiting intake of high-fat foods may also help.
  • Patients reporting difficulty in swallowing solids should be advised to drink thick fluids such as soups, high-calorie or protein drinks, yogurt, ice cream, and milkshakes to meet the patient’s nutritional needs.
  • The primary concern in vomiting patients is dehydration. Frequent fluid intake should be advised. Clear, light and cool drinks may be tolerated well than icy or hot drinks.
An important aspect of nutrition during chemotherapy is that if the treatment causes an immediate negative gastrointestinal reaction (nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea), food eaten just before treatment may cause an aversion reaction thereafter. It is best, therefore, not to eat a favorite food just before chemotherapy.

  1. Hu, F.B., Manson, J.E, and Willett, W.C. Types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease; a critical review. J. Am. Nutr. 2001
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