Cancer Nutrition

Simple Remedies for the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

January 8, 2019

Simple Remedies for the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

A diagnosis of cancer can turn your world upside down and sometimes the side effects from cancer treatment can make things feel worse. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are powerful treatments against cancer, but can also cause powerful effects in our bodies. If you or a loved one has received these treatments – you may recall having low energy levels, poor appetite and even taste changes. Unfortunately we can’t always prevent these things from happening, but we can try to be prepared to deal with them.

It is always important to be open with your oncology team as they are there to help you! Just because a side effect is common, doesn’t mean you have to suffer through it – there may be solutions. Here are common complaints while undergoing cancer treatment and what you can do that might help.

  • Poor Appetite
    • Cancer treatments can make your appetite plummet and may lead to unintentional weight loss.
      • Aim to eat or drink something every few hours, this can sneak in calories without being overwhelmed by large amounts of food.
      • Consume higher calorie and protein foods for the most benefit. Think a peanut butter smoothie, mashed potatoes with butter and cheese or nutritional protein drinks.
  • Taste Changes
    • Treatment can also create unpleasant taste and smell changes.
      • For a metallic taste, try seasoning food with herbs and eating off plastic utensils.
      • If food seems bland, use tart flavors or fresh produce for maximum flavor.
  • Changes in bowel habits
    • It can be awkward to talk about your elimination patterns, but it is so important.
      • If you are struggling with loose stools you may benefit from a low fiber diet and avoidance of spicy or sugary foods.
      • If you are suffering from constipation trying higher fiber foods, adequate fluids and possibly some medications may help.

The side effects from Cancer treatment can be uncomfortable and hard to talk about.  Remember that you are not alone!  Share all side effects with your oncology team and do not be afraid to ask for help.  Visit CHI Health Cancer Support Services for more cancer treatment support options.

Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE, IFNCP™

Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE is a clinical dietitian at CHI Health, working in Oncology and Functional nutrition. Ellen helps patients improve nutrition habits during cancer treatment and beyond. She is a group fitness instructor at the CHI Health Lakeside Wellness Center and enjoys helping people of all fitness abilities be active. Ellen is passionate about helping patients improve their lives through nutrition, activity and stress management.

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