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Foods To Eat During Chemo Treatment

Vitamins Minerals And Antioxidants

9 Foods You Should Eat During Chemotherapy

Getting enough vitamins and minerals is critical to overall health. Following a well-rounded diet is the best way to ensure a person has an optimal intake of vitamins and minerals. However, some people with cancer may need to supplement with specific vitamins and minerals.

Depending on the type of cancer, 3090% of people may have an inadequate diet. This can increase the likelihood of nutrient deficiencies. For example, people undergoing chemotherapy are more likely to be deficient in several nutrients, such as magnesium, iron, vitamin D, and folate.

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, stopping them from damaging healthy cells. They include certain vitamins and minerals, such as:

People can consume more antioxidants by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. Doctors do not usually recommend taking large doses of antioxidant supplements during chemotherapy.

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.

Foods To Avoid During Chemotherapy

Oliver Eng, MD, is a double board-certified surgeon and surgical oncologist and an Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago.

Are there any foods that you should avoid during chemotherapy? The short answer is: yes. Understanding why certain foods could be dangerous can help you stay healthy.

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How Conventional Treatments Work

Simply put, both radio- and chemotherapy treat cancer by killing the cells that grow and divide quickly in the body. However, this process does not discriminate between cancer and healthy cells normal cells are also destroyed in the process. From a TCM perspective, such damage to healthy cells results in the deficiency of the bodys Qi, Blood, Yin, and Yang. As such, it is essential for cancer patients to adopt a diet and lifestyle that can help alleviate these deficiencies and boost the bodys immune system.

Will Breast Cancer Treatment Affect What I Eat

Tips for Eating Well During Chemotherapy &  Cancer Treatment

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.

Find out more about diet and breast cancer.

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Mouth Sores Chewing Or Swallowing Difficulties

Soreness and tenderness in the mouth and throat are not uncommon. If your swallowing difficulties are minor, the following suggestions may help. You may need to work with a dietitian or swallowing therapist or consider alternative methods of feeding if you have severe problems.

  • Eat frequent small meals and snacks to ensure that you are getting enough calories. Choose cool, smooth and bland foods. Soft solids and liquids work best.
  • Cut foods into bite-sized pieces or grind them so that less chewing is required.
  • Choose soft foods or foods that can be cooked until tender such as mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes , carrots, applesauce, ground beef or turkey and tofu.
  • Consume liquid supplements such as Prosure, Ensure Plus, Boost Plus or shakes that can be made in your blender.
  • Consider using a blender to puree the foods your family is eating. When adding liquid to process the foods, remember to add high-calorie liquids such as gravy, milk or soy milk, or broth instead of water.
  • Drink generous amounts of nutritious liquids with meals.
  • Be adventurous. Try new sauces, gravies, or different oils on foods to make swallowing easier.
  • Try apple, cranberry, or grape juices or fruit nectars if you are sensitive to citrus juices.
  • Keep some baby food on hand for something quick and tasty.
  • Try drinking liquids through a straw or as recommended by your swallowing therapist.
  • Avoid spicy, salty and acidic foods and beverages.

Why Some Foods Are Taboo

Chemotherapy suppresses your immune system, which may affect what you should and should not eat until your immune function is back to its full potential.

Many people experience neutropenia related to chemotherapy. Neutropenia refers to a reduced number of white blood cells called neutrophils. These are white blood cells that fight off bacteria that enter the body.

Ordinarily, when you eat foods containing harmful bacteria, these white blood cells fight them off and you’re not aware of their presence. Chemotherapy can change that.

Certain foodsthink raw or under-cooked foodscan actually make you sick. If your immune system is already tied up fighting on other fronts, the sickness can become more serious than a case of diarrhea or a bellyache.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 48 million Americans suffer foodborne illnesses annually. If your immune system is weakened, the chance of severe illness, hospitalization, and even death increase with one of these illnesses.

Not only are ordinary infections worse than they otherwise would be, but you are more likely to develop infections that would never even begin if your immune system was in good order.

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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 (

Healthy Eating During Chemotherapy If Your Appetite Is Small

Eating well during chemotherapy

If your appetite is small, or taste changes are affecting your diet, eating little and often can be better than facing a large meal. It may help to:

  • Eat five to six small meals or snacks each day instead of three bigger meals
  • Drink milkshakes, smoothies, juice or soup if you dont feel like eating solid food
  • Do something active, if you feel able to, as exercise can help increase your appetite for instance, you might have more of an appetite if you take a short walk before lunch
  • Be careful not to reduce your appetite by drinking too much liquid before or during meals

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Should You Take Supplements During Cancer Treatment

If youre not eating as much as usual during treatment, or if you have side effects like vomiting and diarrhea that cause you to lose vitamins and nutrients, you might consider taking a multivitamin.

Vitamin D tends to be the most common vitamin deficiency, says Rajagopal. Vitamin D helps keep your immune system strong, reduces fatigue and supports bone health. Especially if youre on steroids, youll be at risk for bone density loss.

Talk to a registered dietitian and your oncologist before adding any vitamins or supplements to your diet.

Foods That Affect Cyp Enzymes

The best known foods that affect the CYP enzymes are grapefruit and Seville oranges. This includes their juice and other products that are mostly made from these, for example marmalade.

The food and drink you may need to avoid depend on the drug you are having and which CYP enzymes are involved. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you if you need to avoid particular foods or drink while on treatment.

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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 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

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

Eating Well During Chemotherapy

12 Foods to Avoid During Chemotherapy

There is no specific diet to follow while you’re on chemotherapy, but getting adequate nutrition is essential to strengthen your immune system and help you get well. It can also help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy works by killing all the fast-growing cells in the body, and sometimes this includes noncancerous cells, such as those in the gastrointestinal system and cells that line the mouth and lips. This can lead to nausea, vomiting and mouth sores, which can all affect appetite. Feelings of anxiety and depression that often accompany a cancer diagnosis can also affect appetite and food choices, sometimes leading to weight gain or loss.Taste changes during or after chemo can be another side effect. Foods may taste bland or just different than usual. For example, some people report a metallic taste after eating meat or other high-protein foods. Taste changes can also result in loss of appetite and weight loss.

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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 Foods Should You Avoid During Cancer Treatment

Be aware of whats going into your body during cancer treatment. Read nutrition labels and prepare as much of your own food as you can. Its best to stay away from highly refined, processed food. You should also avoid fried foods that contain a lot of hydrogenated oils, which can increase inflammation.

Since people with cancer often have compromised immune systems, consider skipping foods that carry the risk of foodborne illnesses, including:

  • Lightly cooked or raw fish, such as sushi
  • Soft-cooked eggs or foods that contain raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise
  • Unpasteurized cheeses and dairy products
  • Unwashed fruits or vegetables

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Eating Well Can Mean Feeling Better

Including well-tolerated and nutritious foods to your diet can help you stay strong during treatment. Eating regularly, staying well-hydrated and maintaining muscle mass will help you feel as good as possible during chemo, so you can spend less time on the couch and more time doing the things you enjoy. Our care team is here to help, wherever you are on your cancer journey.

Nausea Is A Very Common Side Effect Of Chemo Are There Foods Or Ways To Eat If You Feel Nauseated Can Probiotics Help

What I Eat On A Day Of Chemotherapy | Fighting Nausea

The following tips can help you cope with chemotherapy-associated nausea:

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    Take any anti-nausea medicines exactly as prescribed. Many people make the mistake of waiting until they are nauseous to take these medicines. Nausea is much easier to prevent than to stop once it starts. Food and nutrition can help with nausea, but medicines are your fist line of defense.

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    Avoid food smells strong odors can make nausea worse. Ask for help preparing food and stay out of the kitchen while meals are being made. Take a quick walk before each meal to get some fresh air.

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    Stick to small, frequent meals. Avoid eating or drinking too much at once. Feeling overly full will make nausea more intense.

  • Avoid laying down immediately after meals.

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    Avoid drinking large amounts of liquid with food. Instead, sip liquids slowly and often throughout the day to stay hydrated.

Probiotics generally do not help with nausea, although some people take them for diarrhea. If you want to take probiotics during chemotherapy, ask your doctor or dietitian first because they may not be safe for people with neutropenia.

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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

Taste And Smell Changes

  • Avoid red meats if they taste metallic. Eat more chicken, turkey, dairy products and casseroles.
  • When foods have less taste, try tart foods such as yogurt, lemon or orange Jell-O, or lemonade.
  • When foods taste or smell funny try cold or room temperature foods.
  • Try marinated or spicy foods such as enchiladas, herbed chicken or spaghetti if you do not have nausea, vomiting or mouth sores.
  • Use hard candies to take away bad taste between meals.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene.

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How Does Cancer Treatment Affect Your Diet

Treatments such as chemotherapy and some forms of radiation therapy can cause a variety of side effects, including:

  • Constipation, which can cause discomfort and further reduce your desire to eat
  • Diarrhea, which can drain your body of nutrients
  • Fatigue, which means youre less active, so you burn fewer calories and dont feel as hungry throughout the day
  • Loss of taste, which can make food unappealing
  • Nausea and vomiting, which might reduce your appetite and cause weight loss

Sometimes it also depends on the specific type of cancer you have, explains Rajagopal. Treatment for breast cancer and blood cancers often involve steroids. Steroids can actually increase your appetite and increase your blood sugar levels, which might lead to insulin resistance and weight gain. So instead of losing weight, its possible to gain quite a bit of weight from the combination of medications and a more sedentary lifestyle during cancer treatment.

Some people also have hormone therapy after chemotherapy for breast cancer or endometrial cancer. The drugs suppress production of estrogen, a hormone that plays an important role in metabolism. If your metabolism slows down, you may put on weight.

People with pancreatic cancer often find it difficult to maintain their weight. Since the pancreas isnt functioning the way it should, they may not be able to digest food normally. This can lead to weight loss or malnourishment.

What To Eat During Chemotherapy


Once treatment starts, a persons body will need healthy foods to function at its best. It is essential to get enough calories and proteins during this time.

Foods that a person does not typically enjoy may taste better during treatment, so people are encouraged to try new foods.

A person should eat foods containing health-promoting properties, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and high protein foods. They should limit sugary and highly processed food.

Protein-rich snacks such as Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds, chicken salad and crackers, or hard-boiled eggs may help maintain strength and energy.

The side effects a person experiences during chemotherapy may affect their eating. For example, a person with a sore mouth may find it uncomfortable to eat acidic fruits, or a person who experiences diarrhea may wish to avoid very high fiber foods.

Following chemotherapy, it is important to:

  • Check with the cancer care team to find out about food restrictions.
  • Ask a dietitian to help create a balanced, nutritious eating plan.
  • Eat a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits daily, such as dark green and yellow vegetables, and citrus fruits.
  • Eat high fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
  • Limit intake of highly refined carbohydrates and added sugar.
  • Incorporate protein-rich foods at every meal and snack.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol.

Chemotherapy can cause a number of eating problems as common side effects of the treatment. These may include:

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Cancer Diet: Foods To Add And Avoid During Cancer Treatment

Cancer can affect every aspect of your health, including your appetite and diet. Selvi Rajagopal, M.D., a specialist in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, explains why your diet is so important during cancer treatment, and provides tips on foods to add and avoid.

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