Use of chemotherapy and radiotherapy as cancer treatment tools is common knowledge. While they are beneficial in most cases, their aggressive nature damages not only cancer cells but normal cells as well. This results in side effects on taste buds, sense of smell and affects appetite, limiting the foods that are appealing to taste and smell. The combined effect is loss in weight and the body’s diminished immunity to fight the disease and halt its progress.
[Read: Beating Cancer with Nutrition]
Diet is a method by which this can be contained. Chemotherapy results in anorexia or loss of appetite, which can happen on account of radiation, stress and by the cancer in the body. Other effects could be soreness in the mouth and low white blood cell count. The following suggestions can help in diminishing the effects of the side effects mentioned above:
- Eat by the clock regularly as appetite signals have been damaged by the treatment.
- Eat between meals using high calorie, high protein foods like cheese, peanut butter, hard boiled eggs and nutritional energy drinks.
- Add cream and butter to soups, cooked cereals, and vegetables to increase calories.
- Marinating meat in soy sauce and fat free Italian dressingmay make the food flavourful and inviting. Addition of onion, garlic, chilli powder, mustard, and ketchup a little bit at a time to see whether it perks up the taste buds of the person.
- To avoid risk of infection, when the blood count is low, one should avoid fresh fruits, raw meat and fish and avoid crowds where one could come into contact with others who are ill.
- Persons who have dry and sore mouths as an effect of radiation should practice good oral hygiene and stick to soft textured foods that are not spicy, beverages that are not too hot or cold or tangy with high citric acid content. They should also limit alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, which are foods that dry the mouth and cause more irritation and instead eat more easy to swallow foods such as cream cheeses, mashed potatoes, yogurt, custard, ice cream, syrups etc.
- Persons in whom the gastro-intestinal tract has been affected by cancer treatment face problems of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and constipation. In the case of constipation, high fibre foods such as whole grain breads and cereals should help. In the case of diarrhoea, one should avoid high fibre foods, and concentrate on foods that are soothing to the stomach such as ginger snaps and ginger candy. Cases with diarrhoea can lose a lot of fluid that may cause dehydration.Such persons should drink water regularly and take supplements that increase the potassium and other important nutrients in their bodies.
[Read: Lifestyle Changes for Better Life after Cancer Treatment]
In conclusion cancer treatment with chemotherapy can cause a lot of side effects, chief of which is a loss of appetite and aversion to food. This leads to the person losing weight and immunity to tackle the cancer and retard its progress. Diets rich in calories and high nutritional values can ease the side effects of cancer treatment.
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