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Eating Problems during Cancer Treatment

Many cancer treatment methods like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy have potent side effects. It can bring about changes in your senses of taste and smell, which might lead to various eating problems. It is not necessary that everyone should experience eating problems and in many cases these effects subside once the treatment ends.  Many a time eating problems like diarrhea or constipation crop up from your over anxiety or nervousness. 

Poor appetite is a common side effect associated with oncology treatment. It can be easily tackled by tagging along some useful tips. Go for small meals comprising of liquids or powdered food items.

Protein biscuits, fruits, peanut butter crackers, muffins, etc., are handy fillers. Fruit juices and milk shakes are treasure houses of nutrients and calories, and it is an ideal way to sign off the day. If you take a wholesome liquid diet at bedtime you will be full till the next meal.

Try to make the food items as appetizing as possible by trying out various combinations. For instance, if you do not like to eat apple, mash it up in fruit salads or milk shakes; regular exercise also increases your appetite; wine or beer might also stimulate your appetite; but be careful to take it in very small quantities as per your doctor’s advice.

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so take care to replenish the fluids in your body. Including food items rich in sodium and potassium like bananas, apricot or mashed potatoes might be useful to offset for the mineral loss during diarrhea. Fiber rich vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, peas, etc., are also useful. It is better to keep away from very hot or cold food and beverages containing caffeine. Lactose might worsen your condition so cut down on milk.  Avoid junk and oily foods. Drink plenty of liquids or pre-boiled water at room temperature.

It is also likely that you get constipation by using some anticancer drugs and pain killers during the course of treatment. Here are some useful tips for managing constipation. Drink a hot drink at least half an hour before going to the toilet to ensure a smooth bowel movement. Try to include a fiber rich diet containing peas, wheat bran, fresh fruits or whole grain breads, and drink at least eight glasses of water/fluids every day.

Cancer therapy might also result in mouth sores or inflammation of the esophagus, which leads to swallowing problems. Hard and dry foods might worsen the situation, so pick up soft and easy to swallow food items like watermelon, noodles, potatoes and scrambled eggs among others. However, you should take care not to compromise on the nutritional value while selecting the diet.

Submitted on January 16, 2014