Why Does Chemo Cause Nausea
Chemotherapy is an intensive cancer treatment that has some negative side effects. One of the main ones is nausea. Chemo patients can feel nauseous for several reasons while undergoing treatment. Its helpful to understand why nausea occurs after chemo so you can learn how to minimize it.
When the medicines from chemo enter your body, they are treated as foreign substances. Chemo is a rigorous treatment that targets cancer cells and can negatively impact other bodily processes and cells. As you receive chemo, your body triggers feelings of nausea intentionally. Because chemo can be seen as harmful by your body, it will try to rid itself of toxins through vomiting. Thats what causes that queasy feeling.
That being said, everyones body responds to chemo differently. You may feel nauseous before receiving treatment, as your body anticipates it. You could feel very nauseous immediately after treatment or feel sick for several days after. Chemo patients can expect to feel nauseous because of the nature of the treatment.
Foods To Eat During Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment that uses one or more drugs to combat cancer cells in your body.
Its symptoms, which may include dry mouth, taste changes, nausea, and fatigue, can make eating seem like a chore.
However, its important to eat a healthy, balanced diet during cancer treatment to keep your body functioning optimally. Foods that are mild in flavor, easy on your stomach, and nutrient-dense are some of the best options (
Why Is Your Diet Important During Cancer Treatment
Since cancer treatment can lead to fluctuations in appetite and body weight, its important to pay close attention to your diet. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet during chemotherapy or radiation therapy can:
- Help manage treatment side effects
- Increase energy
- Reduce inflammation
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Diets For Other Medical Conditions
If youre already following a specific diet because you have a medical condition such as diabetes, Crohns disease or irritable bowel syndrome having breast cancer doesnt mean your diet has to change.
However, if youre concerned about how your breast cancer treatment may affect your diet or any existing condition, talk to your breast care nurse or treatment team. They can talk to a dietitian or other medical staff to ensure any existing condition remains under control during your treatment.
What Should I Eat During Cancer Treatment
When going through cancer treatment, deciding what to eat can be confusing. For patients with cancer and particularly those undergoing chemotherapy, eating healthy can be key to managing energy levels, immune function, and overall health. It is important to eat a well balanced diet and follow the healthy eating plate proposed by Harvard School of Public Health and endorsed by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables , a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with whole grains, along with plenty of water and a small source of healthy fats, says Dana-Farber senior clinical nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO. Following these guidelines can help to boost energy during treatment, prevent unwanted weight gain, and manage symptoms that may come with treatment, including bowel changes.
- The Ask the Nutritionist app, a free app from Dana-Farber Nutrition, offers recipes and meal planning ideas to help manage a range of side effects of chemotherapy, from nausea to mouth sores.
To prevent weight and muscle loss during chemotherapy, Kennedy recommends eating smaller, more frequent meals that are high in calories, nutrients and protein rather than three large meals a day. Eating protein is also important for patients undergoing chemotherapy to support immune function and energy. Good sources of protein include hummus, nuts, beans, fish, lean meats, and eggs.
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Chemo And Your Taste Buds
When you’re going through chemotherapyand even for a while afteryour favorite comfort foods may not taste the same. Your beloved chocolate may take on a metallic aftertaste, or the childhood staple of mac ‘n cheese can start to taste like wallpaper paste.
These are unfortunate side effects of some chemotherapy drugs. They can affect your taste buds in the oddest of ways. On the flip side, you might develop a taste for foods that you never used to enjoy.
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.
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Staying Comfortable During Chemo
- Relieve Mouth Sores. Some types of chemotherapy can cause mouth sores, also known as oral mucositis. To encourage healing, avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and hot temperature foods. Keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Rinsing your mouth with salt water after meals may also be helpful.
- Stay Hydrated. Diarrhea and vomiting combined with low fluid intake can cause dehydration. Signs of dehydration may include a dry or sticky mouth, sunken eyes, low urine output , and an inability to produce tears. Drinking plenty of water can help you avoid dehydration.
- Control Nausea. Eating cool foods instead of warm foods, chewing on crystallized ginger, or sipping on peppermint or ginger tea can help discourage nausea. Itâs also best to avoid greasy or fried foods and foods with strong odors.
- Eat Mini-Meals. Eating smaller sized meals tends to be tolerated better during the chemo process than larger, less frequent meals. Eating smaller, more frequent meals will help with nausea as well.
- Talk to a Dietitian. It may be helpful to meet with a registered dietitian, which is a food and nutrition expert. A dietitian can help you with the specific food and diet issues you are experiencing during cancer treatment.
Should You Take A Supplement
Because many vitamins play a role in building immunity during chemotherapy, does this mean that taking dietary supplements will help? Well, the answer isn’t so straightforward.
There are concerns that some supplements decrease the effectiveness of chemo, while others may help improve treatment tolerance, according to a March 2016 review in âNutrientsâ. This illustrates the importance of talking with your cancer care team about supplements and only taking what is recommended.
Moreover, the FDA does not require supplements to be proven safe or effective before they are sold, so there’s no guarantee that any supplement you take is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
What’s more important is the “symphony” of a diet rich in whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods like colorful fruits and vegetables, per the ACS. The interactions between different foods, nutrients and plant chemicals is something supplements alone can’t provide.
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Keep In Touch With Your Doctor
Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have any diet-related questions during your treatment journey. They can advise you about food options for your specific symptoms. If you experience any serious side effects such as struggling to chew or swallow, dark urine and extreme weight loss, call your doctor immediately.
Foods To Ease 6 Common Chemo Side Effects
When you start chemotherapy, one of the first things youll learn is how important it is to eat healthy and keep a balanced diet. Of course, thats easier said than done when youre dealing with side effects that include dry mouth, nausea, fatigue and changes in taste. There are, however, some food strategies you can use to restore that lost appetite.
Some of the healthiest foods can both ease your discomfort and fuel your body as you deal with treatment and symptoms. Here are some of the most common chemotherapy side effects along with meal-planning tips that can help.
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An unfortunate truth about cancer is that cancerous cells grow and multiply faster than most of the other cells in the body. Thats why cancer treatments are often aggressive, intended to kill and get ahead of the growth of cancerous cells before they spread to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy is one of the most common and powerful drug treatments for cancer. Its effective at treating many types of cancer, either alone or in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or radiation. But chemotherapy comes with side effects including ones that alter the foods you can eat. Over the years, advances in chemotherapy have made the treatment more tolerable and safe, and less harmful to the bodys healthy cells. Yet still, many people still experience side effects when treated with chemotherapy, which may include:
- Appetite and taste changes
- Easy bruising or skin bleeding
Since people often experience nausea, loss of appetite and tiredness while receiving chemotherapy, weight loss is a common result of the treatment. Its important for patients to have help with meals so their calorie needs are met. The following foods can help give caregivers some ideas of foods to try:
Five Quick Food Tips For Thriving Through Chemo
Now that youve read about the best foods for chemo patients to eat, there are a few tips and tricks to consider as you plan your chemo-therapy meals.
Eat bland foods whenever possible. Foods that have too strong a taste or scent, or that are too spicy, can set off bouts of nausea and vomiting. Foods that are greasy or too fatty could do the same thing. Start off with easy-to-digest foods and add other well-balanced foods on the days when you feel better.
Cook all your food thoroughly. This is important because raw foods can contain microbes, and people undergoing chemotherapy may not be able to fight them off because their immune systems wont be working optimally. This doesnt mean you have to cook all your food to mush, though. Lightly steaming vegetables for about three minutes helps keep the nutrients while killing off microbes, so you can get the best nutrition while staying safe.
Eat small meals throughout the day. Keeping your stomach full with small meals can help keep the nausea at bay.
Use chemo as a healthy eating reset. As you end your chemotherapy treatment, remember to include foods like cruciferous vegetables, healthy teas, and fiber-filled foods in your daily diet. This can help prevent new cancer cells from growing.
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Outsmart Your Poor Appetite
Chemotherapy kills your appetite as surely as it kills cancer cells. The very thought of food may make your stomach turn. Try some of the following to make eating a more tolerable experience:
- Get a little bit of exercise before your meals if you can. Take a walk around the block to try to stimulate your appetite.
- Variety can help switch things up by trying new foods and recipes or eating in a different location.
- A bit of distraction helps too eat with friends or watch a show on TV when eating alone.
Shopping And Cooking During Treatment
Simple tasks like shopping and cooking can seem exhausting during your treatment and as you recover. Try to accept any offers of help, even if youre used to coping on your own. You can also take advantage of online shopping or ask local shops if they have a telephone ordering and delivery service.
Its important to have fresh food in your diet, but if you canât shop regularly, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables are full of nutrients and can be eaten every day. Choose tinned fruit in juice rather than syrup and tinned vegetables that have less salt.
Find out more about coping with fatigue during and after treatment.
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Tailoring Your Diet To Your Needs
If youre struggling to find food that is easy on your stomach during chemotherapy, there are certain types of foods that may help alleviate some of the common symptoms associated with this type of treatment such as nausea and fatigue. Foods like potatoes, eggs, bananas, oats, applesauce and yogurt are all great options for providing essential nutrients without being too heavy on the stomach. Smoothies can also be an excellent way to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals in one easy-to-digest drink. If youre having trouble getting enough calories in your diet, adding healthy fats like olive oil or avocado can be helpful in boosting calorie intake without being overly taxing on your digestive system.
Carrots Give Chemo A Boost
Carrots should be a staple in every diet for cancer patients. Certain plant compoundsalso found in parsleycan make chemotherapy more effective by stopping a mechanism in the body that can interfere with cancer treatment, according to a 2014 study. Researchers hope these foods could be used to complement conventional treatments to potentially deliver better results for patients, according to senior scientist Arjan Scheepens, PhD, a senior scientist at the New Zealand Plant & Food Research. Here are more astounding health benefits of carrots you never knew.
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Treatment Side Effects & Nutrition
Now, lets look at some of the common side effects of cancer treatment and how modifying your diet may help you to manage them.
Fatigue is a common side effect of all cancer treatments. Dehydration can worsen fatigue, so its important to make sure you drink enough fluids each day. Start with drinking extra fluids first thing in the morning. Then, sip water and other unsweetened beverages throughout the day. After about 6:00 p.m., you should aim to eat your water by consuming foods with high water content. Eating soups and broths is an effective way to add electrolyte-rich, tasty fluids to your diet . Coconut water and other electrolyte-rich fluids are also good choices. Additionally, some people find drinking green tea or eating dark chocolate helps with fatigue.
During cancer treatment, you should choose foods that taste good, dont cause heartburn, and help you have regular bowel movements.
Ensure Cleanliness To Prevent Infections
The world is swarming with bacteria. Under normal circumstances, your body can tackle almost any germ. But when your defenses are down, you are at a high risk of infection. Make sure that you follow some simple precautions:
- Wash your hands before cooking and eating.
- Make sure that your utensils and knives are cleaned before cooking.
- Keep raw food away from cooked food.
- Refrigerate food whenever possible dont keep it lying out in the open.
Getting Calories And Protein
During your treatment, your clinical dietitian nutritionist may recommend certain foods to help you get more calories, get more protein, or eat more comfortably. Some of these foods may seem like less healthy choices. Its important to remember that you will only be eating this way for a short while. Once your side effects go away and your appetite goes back to normal, you can stop eating foods you feel are unhealthy. Your clinical dietitian nutritionist can help you find an eating plan that works best for you.
Whole Grains Battle Constipation
On the other hand, if you are constipated, drinking plenty of fluids and eating foods high in insoluble fiber, such as whole-grain bread or cereals, dried fruits, and dried beans or peas, will aid your digestive system. The National Cancer Institute recommends drinking eight to 12 cups of liquid a day for those undergoing cancer treatment. Here are other sneaky ways you might be making yourself dehydrated.
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Foods For Cancer Patients To Avoid
If youre losing too much weight, try to avoid foods that provide little energy or nutrients. These include low-calorie drinks, salads and clear soups. These fill you up without giving your body the calories and protein it needs.
You might find you need to avoid certain foods because of side-effects youre having during treatment. If you have a sore mouth, you might want to avoid spicy foods. If your immunity is low , you may need to avoid foods that could cause infection. These include cheeses that are mould-ripened or made from unpasteurised milk, raw meat and seafood, and runny eggs. Your nurse will discuss this with you.
Check with your doctor or nurse before drinking alcohol when youre having treatment for cancer. Youll usually be able to drink small amounts of alcohol with most types of chemotherapy. But alcohol can interact with certain chemotherapy drugs and make you feel unwell. It can also irritate any sores in your mouth caused by cancer treatment.
You can read more about foods to avoid in our section: Tips for eating well during cancer.
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