How The Diet Can Change During Radiation Therapy
When it comes to healthy eating, we know that usually means eating plenty of vegetables and fruits. But what about milkshakes and gravy sauce? Would you ever expect those to be good for you too?
Your diet during radiation might include foods you wouldnt normally eat when otherwise healthy. Thats because your bodys needs during radiation are different.
Calorie and protein needs increase during radiation to help keep weight stable, says Komar.
It is not uncommon for radiation therapy to zap a patient of their energy and lessen their appetite. Many patients feel nauseous, which also dampens the desire to eat. Therefore, calorie and protein needs are higher than usual.
What you eat during radiation therapy will be a combination of what tastes good and what your body needs during treatment.For example, here are some of the ways that the key components of your diet may change:
Calories: Some radiation patients need a higher-calorie diet to make sure that the food they are able to eat provides the body with enough energy to promote healthy tissue growth.
Patients should aim to consume 25 to 35 calories per kilogram of body weight, says Vanessa Lara, a dietician with a background in cancer biochemistry. For example, a 150-pound male should try to eat between 1,705 to 2,386 calories.
Supplements can be a safe way to ensure patients undergoing radiation therapy get enough vitamins and minerals, says Lara. However, they can also be harmful if taken improperly.
What Can You Do To Get Your Taste Buds Back After Radiation
Season foods with herbs, spices, sugar, lemon and other seasonings to enhance flavor. Avoid bad odors and cigarette smoking. Try tart foods, such as citrus fruits or lemonade, unless you have mouth sores. Use mints, lemon drops, or chewing gum to mask bitter or metallic tastes.
What should I eat if I have a metallic taste in my mouth?
Reduce the consumption of foods that may taste metallic or bitter. Examples include red meat, coffee, or tea. Choose high-protein, mildly flavored foods, such as chicken, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Good oral hygiene.
You Can Now Find Food Thatll Actually Taste Good During Chemo
More than half of people undergoing chemotherapy experience changes in taste that keep them from enjoying or wanting to eat food. Gourmet companies are trying to change that.
Plain water started to taste different, she tells Healthline. It started to have this metallic taste exactly the same as if you were to lick a metal spoon.
Then, the metal tinge spread to food. I used to love steamed fish, but during chemo, I couldnt even take the dish, it smelled so awful. The fishy smell was so bad Id throw up, she says.
The changes were manageable, but the experience was alienating. It can be quite a struggle when people dont understand what you mean by loss of taste. To them, the food tastes exactly fine and normal, Teh says.
She learned to cook, which was a good way to occupy her free time and adapt to her new taste buds. But even that was hard, emotionally, at times. Sometimes not getting the perfect taste with chemo taste buds can be severely depressing, she adds.
Having your favorite foods suddenly taste like sawdust or metal is surprisingly common among people undergoing chemo.
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Proteins To Heal Cells
Protein is the building material of your body, and is necessary for healing and rejuvenating your body. It is particularly important to get sufficient amounts of protein-rich foods during all the stages of your cancer treatment and recovery. A review published in “CA,” a journal for clinicians, recommends that patients in recovery get at least 10 percent of their daily calories from proteins. The best sources of protein include low-fat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat milk and dairy products, legumes and nuts.
Tips For Adding More Protein To Your Diet
Your body needs a balance of calories and protein to work best. Your doctor or clinical dietitian nutritionist may tell you to temporarily increase the amount of protein in your diet. If you recently had surgery or have wounds, eating more protein will help you heal. The suggestions below will help you increase the amount of protein in your diet.
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How Long Do Changes Last
Most changes will get better with time, but this depends on what type of treatment you have and where the cancer is in your body. Your doctor will be able to tell you how long your senses are likely to be affected.
If you have chemotherapy, you might notice that symptoms change during the course of a single treatment cycle. For example, flavour problems are usually worse in the first week after chemotherapy and then gradually improve. Studies have shown that people who only have chemotherapy treatment start to taste and enjoy food two months after treatment has ended.
People who have radiation therapy to the head or neck area may continue to experience problems, especially when their bodies do not create enough saliva.
Foods To Eat During Chemotherapy If Your Appetite Is Increased
Some of the drugs given alongside chemotherapy, such as steroids, can increase your appetite. If youre worried about gaining weight:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Choose low-fat foods and drinks
- Watch out for the sugar content of food including some diet foods
- Avoid sugary drinks
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Nutrition Is One Tool To Fight Cancer
Since my own cancer diagnosis in 2013, I have been reading scientific and medical journals to find foods that could help me. I wanted to fight my breast cancer with everything I had. And nutrition was one of the tools I could use.
I am not alone. Scientists also want to find out how foods play a role in cancer and cancer therapies.
There is a lot of information out there about foods and ways of eating that can help make cancer treatments more effective. Most of these studies are with chemotherapy. But if you look carefully, there are some studies on foods and radiation therapy too.
Many People Say Certain Foods Taste Bad During Chemotherapy How Can Someone Keep Food Tasty Can You Recommend Some Alternatives
Altered sense of taste is a common complaint among people receiving chemotherapy. If food tastes truly terrible and you notice white patches in your mouth, tell your doctor. This can be a sign of infection in the mouth and it requires prompt treatment.
For most people, some adjustments in the types and flavors of food can help when food doesnt taste right.
The following tips can help you cope with chemotherapy-associated changes in taste:
If food tastes metallic, try using plastic or wooden utensils. Avoid canned fruit, sauces, and vegetables. Opt for fresh or frozen instead.
Add avocado, nuts, and nut butters to salads.
Treat food like medicine. While its not fun to eat when you have no appetite, your body needs fuel in the form of calories and protein. Eating well can help you recover from treatment and rebuild your immune system.
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Stretching The Gullet Oesophagus
Radiotherapy to the head and neck area can cause the top of your gullet to narrow. This may be shown on a videofluoroscopy. You may be offered a quick procedure to make swallowing easier. A doctor puts a tube down into the gullet to stretch it. This makes more space for food and fluid to pass through. You can have this done as an outpatient.
You usually have a local anaesthetic for this procedure. But it is sometimes done under general anaesthetic. Your doctor can tell you what the possible benefits and risks are.
Fuel Up With Healthy Carbs
Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of fuel you need plenty of energy to sustain your body during radiation treatment. Healthy carbs, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit, are rich in essential nutrients, antioxidants and dietary fiber. Avoid refined and sugary carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice, chips, biscuits and baked goods, which cause your blood sugar levels to spike and lead to fatigue. These carbs can damage how your body uses insulin, the hormone that helps to balance blood-sugar levels. According to the journal “CA,” sugary foods may also increase your risk for certain cancers.
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More Things To Avoid During Your Radiation Therapy Foods
Its important to note before diving into this section Only your doctor should advise/prescribe a specific diet for each patient based on their individual situation. Consult your doctor for any and all dietary questions.
This is a common topic and a familiar question asked by those undergoing radiation therapy:
What foods should I avoid during radiation?
Food can go a long way towards easing side effects of radiation therapy, as well as aiding in the fight against cancer itself. And while there are plenty of foods that WILL help your body throughout your treatment, there a plenty you should steer clear of as well.
Tasty Recipes If You Have Chemo Mouth
The category of dysgeusia-designed fare is still new and is much more popular abroad.
In addition to Mamma Beer, Amsterdam boasts the HungerNDThirst Foundation, an organization that helps people find relief from dysgeusia through education, research, tastings, and product development.
In England, the nonprofit Life Kitchen offers free cooking classes at restaurants around London to people undergoing chemo.
For those of us stateside, circumventing the changes in taste go back to the basics.
Teh, for example, started getting heavy-handed with spices. I adapted to the changes in taste by trying out different spices that are good for health, like basil, turmeric, ginger, and black pepper, and trying new cooking methods like frying, grilling, baking, and pan-searing, she explains.
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The American Cancer Society Recommends Eating Extra Protein After Chemotherapy To Help Heal Tissues And Fight Infection Is There A Recommended Amount What About People Who Are Vegetarian/vegan Can Plant Protein Shakes Work For Them
During cancer treatment, aim for at least 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, aim for at least 90 grams of protein every day.
If you have other medical issues, such as kidney or liver disease, you may need less protein. Ask your doctor or dietitian for guidance on meeting protein needs if you have chronic conditions that may affect protein needs.
Vegetarians and vegans can meet protein needs with plant foods. Plant protein shakes are one good option. These products can fill in the protein gaps for people who do not eat meat, chicken, fish, dairy or eggs. Greek yogurt and eggs are good protein sources for vegetarians. Vegans should focus on beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds.
Be Prepared Stock Up On Healthy Foods
Another ingredient to a healthy diet during radiation therapy is to plan ahead.
- Stock up your pantry with diverse and healthy foods.
- Prepare and store healthy meals in your refrigerator and freezer before you begin therapy.
- Always have your favorite snacks available at work or on the go.
A small amount of pre-planning and preparation will make it easy to eat well even if you are not feeling your best.
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How To Get Rid Of The Metallic Taste In Your Mouth
Here are some ways to fight back against the metal taste in your mouth. 1 Try eating foods that are more on the spicy side. 2 Use plastic eating utensils, and when drinking a canned drink, 3 Cold or frozen foods often taste better to those going through treatment. 4 Many people swear by sucking on hard candy like lemon drops or citrus fruits.
How to deal with metallic taste during chemotherapy?
Coping With a Metallic Taste Caused by Chemo. Drink acidic drinks like lemonade or limeade. While this can help with the metallic taste, you need to avoid these drinks if you have mouth sores, and they may be irritating if you are experiencing dry mouth.
Other Ways To Improve The Way Food Tastes
- Eat with plastic instead of metal cups or silverware.
- Try cool or frozen foods like smoothies, which Hultin says can be soothing and offer a lot of nutrients packed into one cup.
- Add herbs, spices, lemon, lime, sugar, and salt to help amp up the flavor, Sheth suggests.
- Opt for plant proteins like beans, lentils, tofu, or tempeh if meat sounds sickening, Hultin says.
Need some help getting started? Try one of Hultins recipes, full of both flavor for chemo taste buds and nutrients to help your body heal.
What To Do If You Have Problems
Focus on eating high fat foods if you are having difficulty eating enough. There are more calories in fat than in protein or carbohydrate.
Remember that you might lose a little weight during radiotherapy. But if you are having any problems with eating tell the team involved in your treatment. If you are having radiotherapy to the head or neck you may need a tube into your stomach to have liquid food for a time.
Foods That Taste Good During Chemo And Radiation Cancer Treatment
Nutrition is of critical importance during cancer treatment and it is key to find foods that taste good during chemo and radiation. Your body needs enough calories to stay strong, but sometimes eating can be a challenge.
Eating before and during cancer treatment can be a long, tiring struggle but there are tips to keep you nourished before and during treatment so you can focus on fighting cancer.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I earn a percentage of any sales made through those links, at no extra cost to you. Affiliate links are identified with an asterisk .
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Nutrition Tips To Follow:
- Try to eat frequently in small portions. Split the main three meals into 6 or 7 small meals.
- Fruit milkshakes can attract you to eat more than fruit. So, change the form of what you want to eat in an interesting way.
- Use a straw to sip drinks. It will be helpful if you have a sore mouth or sore throat.
- Take sugar-free mints, candies, ginger candies or gum, which keeps the pleasant taste in the mouth when you have nausea.
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Regular Diet Sample Menus
Has information on diet and cancer prevention research and education as well as recipes.
Cook For Your LifeMany recipe ideas for patients with cancer. Recipes can be filtered by diet type or treatment side effect.
FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied NutritionHas helpful information on food safety.
MSK Integrative Medicine Servicewww.mskcc.org/integrativemedicineOur Integrative Medicine Service offers many services to complement traditional medical care, including music therapy, mind/body therapies, dance and movement therapy, yoga, and touch therapy. To schedule an appointment for these services, call .
The Integrative Medicine Service also provides counseling on nutrition and dietary supplements. You can find more information about herbal and other dietary supplements at www.mskcc.org/herbs.
You can also schedule a consultation with a healthcare provider in the Integrative Medicine Service. They will work with you to come up with a plan for creating a healthy lifestyle and managing side effects. To make an appointment, call .
MSK Nutrition WebsiteUse our diet plans and recipes to help with healthy eating habits during and after cancer treatment
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
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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.
New Companies Are Supporting People Undergoing Chemo With Food And Drinks That Taste Good
Luckily, in our foodie-obsessed world, creative companies are coming to the rescue.
Launched earlier this year in the Czech Republic, Mamma Beer is an alcohol-free brew specifically formulated to taste good to folks experiencing dysgeusia.
Created by Jana Drexlerová after undergoing chemotherapy herself for breast cancer in 2011, the entrepreneur told NPR she was motivated by disappointment at how much everything tasted like sand.
She set out to craft a formula that would circumvent the newly unsavory flavors and not only taste good to people undergoing chemo, but also boost nutrition and improve health during treatment.
This is why Mamma Beer is alcohol-free , crafted with apples , and fortified with potassium and vitamin B .
The secret weapon to Mamma Beer, though, lies in Drexlerovás other goal.
In a country where beer is a crucial part of the culture, she wanted to give women back a sense of normalcy during a process that transforms your body and life into anything but normal.
Its not just beer thats coming to the rescue of impaired taste buds.
Home Care Nutrition, a meal company for caretakers, launched the line Vital Cuisine, which offers high-protein, high-nutrient shakes and ready-to-serve meals featuring special additions like algae protein to give the bland meals a nicer, gourmet mouthfeel.
These foods and drinks are specifically designed to taste good to chemo patients. But they can also help people find more interest in eating healthy food.
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