Nutritional advice for managing side effects of cancer treatment

Nutritional advice for managing side effects of cancer treatment


Radiation, chemotherapy and other medicines used to treat cancer can cause a wide range of side effects. These include changes in the sense of taste and smell, sore throat, swallowing difficulties, nausea, fatigue, poor appetite, and more. These tips, from the experts at St. John’s Cancer Institute, can help you manage it.

Changes in taste and smell

Causes:  Cancer and cancer treatment can cause changes in your sense of taste and smell.

Symptoms:  How foods taste and smell change from day to day, and these changes may affect your appetite.

Prevention tips:
To find appealing foods, experiment with new foods or cuisines, pickles, seasonings, and ways to prepare what you eat. Practicing good oral care is generally beneficial.
Oral care tips:
To keep your mouth clean and healthy, rinse and clean your teeth after meals and before bed.
Before eating, rinse your mouth with a solution of 1 liter of water, half a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of baking soda.
Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
Taste loss tips:
Choose foods with pungent flavors.
Mix fresh fruits into shakes, ice cream, or yogurt.
Eat frozen fruit.
Choose fresh vegetables.
Tips for a salty, bitter, acidic or metallic taste:
Add sweeteners or a little sugar to foods.
Season foods with herbs, spices, and other seasonings.
Use plastic utensils or chopsticks.
Add lemon juice or other flavorings to the water.
Suck on sugar-free drops, gum, or mints.
Weird meat taste tips:
Choose other foods rich in protein such as beans, lentils, and tofu instead of meat.
Marinate the meat and cook it in sweet juices, fruit, citrusy sauces, or wine to improve the taste of meat.
Foods or drinks have foul odor Tips:
Choose foods that do not need to be cooked.
Serve foods cold or at room temperature.
Avoid the kitchen during meal cooking time to avoid food odors.
Eat in cool, well-ventilated rooms.
For protein shakes and other beverages, use a lid on the cup and drink with a straw.

Sore throat or sore throat

Causes:  Certain types of cancer, certain chemotherapy agents, or radiation therapy to the head, neck, or chest can cause a sore throat. Heartburn and gastric reflux can also cause a sore throat.


Prevention tips:
Food options to manage a sore throat:
Eat foods that are light, semi-solid, soft and easy to swallow.
Make smoothies with soothing fruits.
Choose foods that are soothing at room temperature or foods that are cold.
Do not drink alcoholic beverages.
Ask your healthcare provider if nutritional supplements would be helpful.
Avoid foods that are likely to irritate your throat, including: sour or acidic drinks and foods, salty foods, rough or crunchy foods, or strong or spicy flavors.
Tips to help heal your throat:
Take small bites, chew your food well, and swallow it carefully. Leave enough time between bites.
If reflux or heartburn is a problem, stop eating two to three hours before bed and sleep with your head supported.
Do not use tobacco products or commercial mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
Talk to your doctor about medications that can numb and soothe your mouth or throat.


Swallowing difficulties


Causes:  People with cancer may have dysphagia (difficulty swallowing foods or liquids) due to mouth or throat sores from cancer treatments or head or neck cancer.

Symptoms:  They may find it difficult to chew hard or rough foods, and may not be able to swallow thin liquids (such as water) without coughing or choking.

Prevention tips:

It may be helpful to make changes to the texture and consistency of the foods you eat and the fluids you drink. Your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian (RD) or speech-language pathologist (SLP). These professionals can recommend the best diet and fluid consistency for you. SLP can also teach you exercises and positions to improve your ability to swallow.

Tips for dealing with swallowing difficulties:

  • Talk to your healthcare team!
  • Follow the advice of the SLP and the RD.
  • Eat three to five small meals each day.
  • Consume liquid nutritional drinks if you cannot eat enough solid foods at meals.
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid every day. If necessary, thicken drinks and other liquids so they are easier to swallow.

mouth ulcer

Causes:  Cancer and cancer treatments can sometimes make your mouth ache and make chewing and swallowing difficult.

Prevention tips:

  • Choose soft, light foods that are served cold or at room temperature.
  • Try pureed foods. This makes the food easier to swallow.
  • Moisten foods with broth, soups, sauces, broths, butter, or shortening. You can also dip foods or soak them in whatever you drink.
  • Eat foods high in protein and calories to speed up recovery.
  • Ask your doctor or registered dietitian (RD) about nutritional supplements, such as liquid meal replacements.
  • Avoid foods that are likely to irritate your mouth, including: acidic foods, irritating spices, seasonings, seasonings, rough or dry foods, plain foods, or alcoholic and acidic beverages.
      • poor appetite


        the reasons:

        • Sadness, depression, sadness, anxiety.
        • Diseases or medical conditions, such as fever or pneumonia.
        • Cancer and cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.
        • certain medications.

        Symptoms:  * Some symptoms and side effects associated with poor appetite are particularly serious. Call your doctor if:

        • You lose 5 pounds or more.
        • You cannot eat for more than a day.
        • You have pain with eating.
        • You have rare, strong-smelling, or dark-colored urine.
        • vomiting for more than 24 hours
        • You have uncontrollable pain.

        Prevention tips:

          • Discuss the medications you take with your doctor. Some medications for constipation, nausea, or pain can cause poor appetite.
          • Ask your doctor if a drug that increases your appetite is right for you.
          • Eat small amounts throughout the day.
          • Choose drinks that are nutritious, high in calories and protein.
          • Make every bite count by choosing high-calorie foods.
          • Move when possible.
          • Make your surroundings joyful.
          • Keep a list of recipes and favorite meals on hand for friends and family members helping out with the cooking or shopping.

        Keep your pantry and freezer well stocked with foods that make meals and snacks quick and easy.

        • Use the watch, TV shows, or commercial breaks to remind you to take a sip, take a bite, or eat a snack.

        Tips for treating your mouth:

        • Tilt your head back and forth to help foods and liquids move to the back of the throat for swallowing.
        • Drink through a straw.
        • Get rid of food and germs by rinsing your mouth often.
        • Avoid tobacco and mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
        • Ask your doctor about medicines to soothe your mouth or throat.


      • Vomiting and nausea


        Causes:  Because of cancer, or it may be a side effect of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Other causes of nausea and vomiting include pain, fatigue, illness, medications, and the stress of coping with cancer.

        Symptoms:  Feeling sick for a long time can affect your appetite and can lead to weight loss. If you vomit a lot, you may become dehydrated (lose a lot of fluid).

        Prevention tips:

        * The best treatment for nausea or vomiting will depend on the cause of the problem.

        • In the case of nausea caused by chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you may need to take a prescription anti-nausea medication or a prescribed schedule to control symptoms and to better tolerate certain meals and foods.
        • If your nausea is caused by anxiety or fatigue, your health care team may recommend physical and mental relaxation techniques.
        • If nausea is a side effect of supplement medication, you may feel better when you take the medication with food rather than on an empty stomach.
        • Eat six to eight small meals a day instead of three large meals.
        • Sip drinks that save calories.
        • Drink clear fluids as much as possible after vomiting to prevent dehydration and to keep your mouth clean.
        • Freshen your mouth by rinsing it with a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a quart of warm or cold water.
        • Eat light foods.
        • Eat dry foods.
        • Avoid strong smells.
        • Create a quiet, relaxing place to eat to help calm you down and make eating easier.
        • Suck on pungent hard candy, such as lemon drops, to relieve nausea and get rid of any bad taste in your mouth.
        • Avoid eating your favorite foods when you feel nauseous so that you don’t hate those foods.
        • Try taking 0.5 to 1 gram of ginger extract along with your prescribed anti-nausea medication.
        • Try using the sea difference.


        • Diarrhea, constipation, or other changes in bowel function.
        • Drink milk and dairy products if you have difficulty digesting lactose (the natural sugar in milk).
        • Swallowing a lot of air while eating or drinking.
        • Eat foods rich in fiber.Gas causes:  It may be a side effect of cancer treatments such as radiotherapy to the intestines or chemotherapy. When treatment causes changes in bowel function, the result may be more gas than usual. Other possible causes include:


        Prevention tips:
        Avoid swallowing too much air by:
        Eating slowly.
        Do not talk while eating or chewing.
        Not drinking with a straw.
        Not chewing gum.
        Manage lactose intolerance (if you have it) by:
        Use over-the-counter digestive enzymes to treat lactose intolerance.
        Choose dairy products that are low in lactose, such as yogurt, sweet milk or low-lactose milk.
        Reduce excessive gas from eating foods rich in fiber by:
        Avoid foods that cause gas (such as beans or some vegetables) or limit the amount you eat at one time.
        Use an over-the-counter medication such as Beano to reduce gas.


      • exhaustion


        Causes:  Fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer and its treatment. You may feel tired from the cancer itself, from stress, diarrhea, dehydration, chemotherapy, daily radiation therapy, anemia, or infection.

        Symptoms:  weakness, tiredness, sadness, difficulty thinking, lack of energy, dizziness.

        Prevention tips:

        • Keep a diary of your symptoms. Write down the things that make you more tired and the things that make you feel better. Note how often you feel tired and how long the fatigue lasts.
        • Nap during the day and try to get a good night’s sleep.
        • Try to do light exercise or physical activity every day.
        • Ask your friends and family to help you shop for food and prepare meals.
        • Fill your kitchen with foods that are easy to prepare and eat.
        • Try to eat small, frequent meals and snacks consisting of your favorite foods and drinks.
        • Choose foods and drinks that are good sources of calories, protein and fiber.
        • Drink at least 8 glasses of fluids daily.
        • Limit caffeinated drinks to two a day and consume them early in the day so they don’t interfere with your sleep.
        • Enjoy your meals in a pleasant environment.


      • Diarrhea


        Causes:  Certain types of cancers, treatment such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, bone marrow or stem cell transplants, infection, certain medications, or emotional distress.

        Symptoms:  Uncontrolled diarrhea can lead to weakness, poor appetite, dehydration, and weight loss.

        Prevention tips:

        • Drink plenty of light, clear fluids during the day.
        • Drink at least 1 cup (8 ounces) of liquid after each soft bowel movement.
        • Oriental several small meals and snacks throughout the day.
        • Drink and eat small portions of foods that provide sodium and potassium (two minerals your body loses when you have diarrhea).
        • Eat foods that are high in pectin to promote bowel movement.
        • Avoid fatty, fried, spicy and very sweet foods.
        • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
        • When you have diarrhea for more than a day or so, limit milk and dairy products to no more than two cups a day. Prolonged diarrhea can cause temporary lactose intolerance.
        • Limit drinks and foods that cause gas, including soft drinks, vegetables in the cabbage family, beans, and dried peas.
        • If you want a carbonated drink, stir it or pour it into a glass to reduce bubbles.
        • Avoid foods and chewing gum and tablets made with sorbitol, xylitol, or mannitol.
        • When you have diarrhea, limit high-fiber foods.

        Ask your doctor, nurse, or registered dietitian if it may be appropriate for you:

        • Take vitamin and mineral supplements.
        • Eat foods that contain probiotics or take probiotic supplements.
        • Use a bulking agent that contains psyllium fiber.


      • drying


        the reasons:

        • When you do not take in enough fluids to replace fluids lost through bodily functions such as urination, bowel movement and sweating.
        • A sore mouth or throat, nausea, or poor appetite may prevent you from drinking enough fluids.
        • Vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and/or excessive sweating can cause fluid loss above normal.
        • If you are urinating more than usual due to uncontrolled diabetes or using water pills.
        • Some medications, caffeine and alcohol.


        • thirst
        • dry mouth and tongue
        • Dry and cracked lips and skin
        • dark urine
        • Headache
        • Frequent and small amounts of urine
        • Constipation (hard and small stools)
        • Heart rate faster than normal heart rate
        • Confusion or change in thinking
        • Dizziness or light-headedness when standing up

        Prevention tips:

        • Drink small amounts of fluids as much as you can tolerate. Drink at least a glass of fluid every 1-2 hours. Every day you should drink about 8 to 12 cups of fluids per day. (Drink more if you have diarrhea or vomiting.)
        • Ask family and friends to encourage or remind you to drink more fluids.
        • Keep a water bottle with you during the day to sip on.
        • Keep a glass of water by your bed to drink at night.
        • Drink fluids with meals.
        • In addition to plain water, also drink fruit juices, soft drinks, flavored water, coffee, decaffeinated tea, sports drinks, milk, and other beverages.
        • Eat foods with a high fluid content.
        • Avoid alcoholic beverages.
        • Limit caffeinated drinks to two a day.

    Dry mouth or heavy saliva


    Causes:  A common side effect of radiotherapy, some types of chemotherapy, and some medications.

    Symptoms:  He may have problems eating, talking and sleeping. Dry mouth also increases the risk of tooth decay and oral infections.

    Prevention tips:

    • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of fluids daily to keep your mouth moist and thin out thick saliva.
    • Limit caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.
    • Carry a water bottle with you.
    • Eat soft, bland foods, at room temperature or cold.
    • Moisten foods with broth, soups, sauces, broths, butter, or shortening.
    • Talk with your registered dietitian (RD) about whether you should use liquid meal replacements.
    • To increase salivation, try pungent foods and drinks. Avoid acidic foods and drinks if you have a sore or tender mouth.
    • Enjoy soothing frozen fruits.
    • Suck on frozen fruit balls.
    • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy to stimulate saliva.
    • Keep up with good oral care and hygiene.

    Good oral care and hygiene:

    • Brush your teeth with toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush after every meal and snack.
    • Rinse your mouth before and after meals with plain water or a mild homemade mouthwash (1 liter of water mixed with ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda).
    • Alcohol can make dryness worse, so choose an alcohol-free mouthwash, such as biotin.
    • Rinse with soda or soda-lime to help loosen and remove dry or thickened saliva.
    • Brush your teeth with floss every day.
    • Talk to your doctor about using oral lubricants, saliva substitutes, and saliva-stimulating medications.
    • Chew antibacterial gum to help reduce gum inflammation and stimulate saliva production.
    • Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.

    It makes chewing and swallowing difficult.

    • Constipation


      the reasons:

      • Being less active than usual for you.
      • Eating or drinking less than usual amounts.
      • Take certain medications, such as medicines for nausea or pain.
      • Take calcium or iron supplements.


      • You cannot move your bowels.
      • You have fewer bowel movements than usual.
      • You have to push harder than usual to move your bowels.
      • It can be painful or uncomfortable.

      Prevention tips:

      • Eat at around the same times every day.
      • At breakfast, drink a hot drink or eat hot cereal to stimulate a bowel movement.
      • Try to drink at least 64 fluid ounces (8 cups) of fluid each day.
      • Discuss with your registered dietitian (RD) whether you should increase the amount of fiber you consume each day. If you plan to add fiber, do so slowly.
      • Increase your fiber intake by no more than 5 grams each day.
      • If possible, increase the amount of physical activity you do.
      • Consult your doctor before using over-the-counter bulking agents, stool softeners, or laxatives.
      • Give yourself enough time in the bathroom to defecate. Try not to rush yourself.

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