What you eat is really important when you have cancer. Your body needs enough calories and nutrients to stay strong. But the disease can make it hard to get what you need, which can be different before, during, and after treatment. And sometimes, you just won’t feel like eating. You don’t need a drastic diet makeover. Just a few simple tricks to make good-for-you foods easy and appetizing.
Manage Side Effects
Many side effects of cancer treatments can make it hard to get enough to eat. Your diet Avoid high-fat, greasy, or spicy foods, or those with strong smells. Eat dry foods like crackers or toast every few hours. Sip clear liquids like broths, sports drinks, and water. For sores, pain, or trouble swallowing, stick with soft foods. Avoid anything rough or scratchy, and spicy or acidic foods. Eat meals lukewarm (not hot or cold). And use a straw for soups or drinks.
For diarrhea, it’s really important to stay hydrated. Drink lots of liquids, and cut back on high-fiber foods like whole grains and vegetables. If you’re constipated, slowly add more high-fiber foods to your diet. Plenty of liquids is key for this problem, too. Treatment can have a funny effect on your taste buds. Things you didn’t like before might taste good now. So be open to new foods. See if you like sour or tart flavors like ginger or pomegranates. Spices such as rosemary, mint, and oregano might help you enjoy other foods, too.
Vitamins and minerals
Your body needs vitamins and minerals to function properly. The best way to obtain vitamins, minerals or other nutrients is by eating healthy foods. But if cancer and its treatments make it hard for you to eat healthy for a long period of time, someone on your healthcare team may suggest that you take a vitamin and mineral supplement every day. If taking a supplement is your idea, be sure to talk to your doctor or healthcare team first. You need to make sure taking a vitamin and mineral supplement is appropriate and safe, especially if you’re getting chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Cancer diet during cancer treatment
Careful food choices will help support your immune system’s fight against cancer. The foods you choose to eat during active cancer treatment will vary according to any side effects you may be experiencing. Learn how to manage side effects with nutrition. View our nutrition guides to learn more about what to eat during cancer treatment.
Although research into dietary fiber and its effect on breast cancer is currently inconclusive, several studies suggest that it can help protect against the disease. Because fiber supports the digestive system and regular elimination of waste, it helps the body to get rid of toxins and limits the damage they can do. Whole grains and legumes also contain antioxidants, which can help to prevent many diseases. Eating more fiber-rich legumes, such as lentils, has also been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Ida & Joseph Friend Cancer Center recommend 30 to 45 grams of fiber per day. Dietary fiber supplements are available for purchase online.
Some studies have found that the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish might be due to its ability to reduce inflammation, a possible contributing factor for breast cancer. Researchers suggest that fiber contributes to the prevention of breast cancer by helping the body eliminate estrogen. Many breast cancer treatments are designed to keep estrogen from interacting with breast cancer cells, so eating a high-fiber diet can support this process and accelerate the elimination of estrogen. Beta-carotene, found in vegetables including carrots, has been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Scientists speculate that this may be because it interferes with the growth process of cancer cells.
Will breast cancer treatment affect what I eat?
Many people wonder what foods they should eat and avoid while having breast cancer treatment, and how their diet may change. Breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and hormone therapy can have a range of side effects, some of which may affect what you want to eat and drink. Your usual routine may be disrupted, which can affect your eating pattern. You may also find that going through a stressful and anxious time affects your appetite, causing you to eat more or less than normal.