According to the American Cancer Society, cancer survivors should consume at least five servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day. If you’re planning your diet around chemotherapy, follow these nutritional tips to ensure optimal health:
- Eat any foods you can tolerate. This does not include desserts, candy and soda. Any foods you consume can help maintain or improve your nutrition status.
- Eat more protein. While your diet plan might vary depending on your type of cancer and ongoing treatment, dietitians recommend high-protein diets for chemotherapy patients. Eating cheese, eggs, chicken, ice cream, beans and other high-protein foods might help you rebuild damaged skin tissue and maintain strength. Consuming proteins while cold will minimize smells that occur when proteins are heated, which might cause or increase nausea.
- Eat when you feel most hungry. Regardless of when you have the strongest appetite, it’s important to eat. Whether it’s late at night or extremely early in the morning, never ignore food cravings.
- Properly prepare food. Before you eat vegetables, fruits or meat, ensure all food is handled safely. Eating improperly cooked meats or unclean vegetables and fruits increases your risk of developing infections or contracting illness. While it’s important for all people to ensure safe food preparation, it’s vital to chemotherapy patients due to their weakened immune system.
Although chemotherapy can positively alter the course of cancer, it often causes extreme fatigue.
Killing cancer cells and healthy cells at the same time, chemotherapy causes extensive side effects that affect the entire body. Whether your chemotherapy fatigue is short or long term, its side effects can drastically impact your daily life.
According to the British Medical Journal, supervised exercise programs that involve high- and low-intensity cardiovascular and resistance training can help reduce fatigue among patients undergoing chemotherapy.
While exercise might help you manage fatigue, it’s also important to try to avoid stressful situations. Participate in activities during times you are less fatigued and engage in regular relaxation habits.
Caroline Thompson is a registered dietitian and director of nutrition systems at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center. If you would like further information on healthy eating strategies, MUSC Health provides free one-on-one outpatient nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian. Call 843-674-4525 to schedule an appointment.