Last year I wrote an article about nutrition tips during chemotherapy for my friend Ali Gilmore’s 2nd book: The C Card and Me 2: How I Beat Stage 4 Cancer (again & again). I decided that it was time to update/add to the tips. I also wanted to add a few resources for you.
The first resource is Ali Gilmore’s page. You couldn’t ask for a better role model to follow. Her books are about the lessons she learned during her cancer journey. The books are full of useful information written with a wonderful sense of humor. She is not only an author, but a singer & song writer as well. But she didn’t stop there; her newest adventure is called 12 Adventures. Right now she is in Montana on her 2nd adventure, to learn to “mush”. Here is an article written about this: A bucket-list ride on a dog sled. I am following her on Facebook; the page is called 12 Adventures. What an amazing lady!
At the end of this post you will find a list of Blogs by other cancer survivors. You may find some of them a little “too close to home” & maybe even upsetting. I think you will also find them inspiring & easy to relate to. Regardless, they are honest about what they are going through & it helps to hear other peoples stories.
During chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy maintaining a healthy immune system should be your goal. Diet, exercise and stress management can help you attain this. My additions/edits will be in red.
Because you are an individual, not a statistic, your cancer experience will be different from anyone else’s. Keeping a food diary will be very important. I know I have said this many, many times before, but believe me this is really important. Write down the foods you eat each day. Add how you felt physically, emotionally and if you had any symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, or pain. When you experience the same side effect the next day or week go back and compare the foods you have eaten. This will help you build a list of foods that work for you and which to avoid. You will also see this changing during your treatment. What made you nauseous during chemo the first week will no longer do that by the next round of chemo. Important for you and your caregivers to know.
Apps to track your food:
- Food Diary and Calorie Tracker by MyNetDiary HD by MyNetDiary Inc.
- Nutrition Menu
- Fooducate Rates your food by healthiness. Apple/Android.
Here are a few tips to help you during treatment. Pick what works for you. You are an individual. What works for the person next to you in the chemo bay may not work for you.
- Changes in taste & smell. A metallic taste is the most common.
Avoid: Red meat & food with strong odors. Any foods that are unappealing to you at this time.
Eat: Add flavor to your food with spices. Broil or bake mild flavored meats: chicken, turkey, & fish. Try flavoring your water with lemon, cucumber and or mint.
Tips: Use plastic or wooden utensils; glass or ceramic cooking pots. Avoid metal utensils, canned foods, and metal pots & pans. Cold or room temperature foods don’t smell or taste as strong as hot food does.
Avoid: Processed foods, white foods (rice, bread, and pasta), red meat & dairy.
Eat: High fiber foods such as whole grains, beans, nut butters, vegetables (the lowly radish is very high in fiber & a natural detox food), & fruits. A fresh whole pear, kiwi, or prunes eaten an hour before breakfast will keep you regular. If you prefer, a glass or warm water with lemon juice first thing every morning helps to keep you moving as well.
Tips: Keeping yourself hydrated is very important. Fiber requires fluids. Herbal teas such as Smooth Move by Traditional Medicinals & Soothing Mint: Get Regular by Yogi Tea, are safe to use. Have one cup in the evening before bed time.
Avoid: Sugary drinks including fruit juices, greasy & fried foods, dairy, alcohol & spicy foods. High fiber, high fat, and high sugar foods can cause diarrhea & should be avoided.
Eat: Eat potassium and sodium rich foods such as miso soup, bananas, peaches, & white potatoes. Low fiber foods are needed in this case: white rice, pasta, low fiber bread, cream of wheat. Baked or broiled lean meats.
Tips: Have all foods at room temperature. Increase your water intake to replace the fluids you lose. Chamomile, ginger or mint tea will help settle the stomach.
- Dry Mouth: very similar to sore mouth.
Avoid: Dry foods such as crackers, course raw vegetables, & dry meats or vegetables without sauces.
Eat: Pureed or soft foods as seen under sore mouth. Casseroles with sauces, stews, smoothies & soups are easier to swallow.
Tips: For a take along snack try a small bottle of organic baby food. It is already pureed & tasty. Make sure you check the ingredient list. Sip on water frequently to keep your mouth moist. Rinse your mouth with just water as salt will dry it out.
Avoid: Sugar! Fruit juice is concentrated sugar; avoid drinking more than 4-6 ounces a day. Ensure is also high in sugar, avoid drinking it unless your health team has recommended it.
Eat: Healthy protein snacks throughout the day. Nuts & nut butters are easy & portable. Whole fruits & vegetables will give you a pick-me-up without an overload of sugar. Greek yogurt with fresh fruit is high in protein; 21 grams per cup. Small meals & snacks 8 times a day will keep your energy level stable.
Tips: Hydrate! Drink water. Dehydration can contribute to fatigue. Light exercise will help. Nap when needed.
- Loss of appetite.
Avoid: Processed foods, added sugar, sodas, & foods with strong odors.
Eat: High calorie, nutrient dense snacks. Nut butter on whole grain bread or crackers, small portion of turkey, chicken or fish, avocado, whole fruits (fruit juice is too high in sugar without the fiber), hummus, oatmeal, nuts & seeds.
Tips: Eating small meals & grab & go snacks frequently during the day will work better than the traditional 3 meals. By eating 6 to 8 snacks/meals a day you will take in more calories. Ginger chews or Ginger tea 2- 3 times a day will stimulate your appetite. A drop of orange essential oil on your napkin will also stimulate your appetite!
- Mouth sores.
Avoid: Spicy foods, alcohol, acidic foods, rough, course or dry foods,
Eat: Soft foods, mashed yams/potatoes, smoothies, oatmeal, bananas & applesauce. Puree fruits, vegetables & meats if the sores are causing difficulty with swallowing.
Tips: Eating a tablespoon of dark honey slowly (Manuka honey is very beneficial) will not only coat your mouth and throat, it will promote healing. Sip water frequently, keeping your mouth moist. Rinse your mouth with salt water after each meal.
Avoid: Strong odors, greasy & fried foods, sugar laden drinks & foods. High fat foods stay in your stomach longer & are more difficult to digest.
Eat: Warm cereals, soups & low fat protein foods; skinned chicken & tempeh for example. Ginger chews or crystallized ginger helps with all types of nausea.
Tips: Small meals or snacks. Hydrate! Being dehydrated can cause nausea & headaches. Drinking mint or ginger teas during the day also relieves nausea. Keep crackers at your bedside or in your purse along with the ginger chews.
- Thrush: An oral yeast infection caused by candida albicans.
Avoid: Sugar (all types) and yeast-containing foods. Foods such as bread, beer and wine encourage candida growth. Avoid sprouted whole grains. Kambucha is popular but should also be avoided in cases of thrush. Dairy; butter, milk, cheese & yogurt.
Eat: Garlic, 1 clove, raw if tolerated, per day. Eggs, avocado, nuts, & seeds. Eat lean meat; chicken, turkey, & fish. Fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and spices (if they don’t irritate your mouth).
Tips: Plain yogurt (the exception) with lactobacillus acidophilus in small amounts will act as a probiotic. It will keep your ‘gut buddies’ healthy. An alternative to the yogurt is to take a dairy free probiotic daily. If you are having difficulty swallowing consider pureeing your meals.
- Weight Loss: Maintaining your weight is important. Here are some tips to help you.
Eating small meals/snacks 8 to 10 times a day helps get those calories in. Make each one nutrient dense and high in calories and protein. Check out my Blog post Tips for a Healthy Weight Gain for more information. Put together several “grab & go” snack bags to carry with you to appointments or for that long chemo day. Don’t forget water!!!!
- Whole grain crackers
- String cheese in one serving packages
- Baby Bell cheese in one serving packages
- Cut up veggies: carrots, celery, avocado; high in fiber and nutrient dense.
- Fruits: apples, oranges, pears, berries; all are high in antioxidants, fiber & are nutrient dense.
- Whole grain cereal: remember doing this for small children when on an errand?
- Nut butter that comes in small one serving packages for those crackers & veggies.
As I stated before: You are an individual. What works for the person next to you in the chemo bay may not work for you. This is also true of the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation & surgery. A person with the same diagnosis on the same chemotherapy meds will experience their treatments differently than you will. They may lose all their hair & you may lose none. They may be weak & nauseous & you may not. Go into your treatments whether it be chemo, radiation &/ or surgery with an open mind. Your healthcare team has to tell you what the side effects might be but you may not experience them!
Blogs you might like to follow. If you google your type of cancer with the word blog after it, you will find a long list of sites. These are just a few that I am aware of.
- Dancing with Cancer: “Dancing with Cancer: living with mets, the new normal.”
- Nancy’s Point: “My name is Nancy Stordahl. I am an educator, author, blogger and free-lance writer. I also review products via this blog if they are relevant to breast cancer survivorship.”
- The Accidental Amazon: “Readers of Kathi Kolb’s Accidental Amazon will get a healthy dose of snarky attitude, but they also get much, much more. Kolb is a force of nature, calling out for better treatment, more research, and simply a greater understanding of breast cancer. She rails against the “pink peril” of breast cancer awareness merchandise, and questions the healthcare system’s approach to the disease.”
- My Fabulous Boobies, “Nicole speaks out to young black women dealing with breast cancer just like she was not that long ago. She was diagnosed in her 30s and endured treatment successfully.”
- Blog for a Cure: Cancer Sucks: This is a community of cancer survivors who blog. These blogs cover all cancer diagnosis. “The mission of Blog for a Cure is to make life a little bit easier for cancer survivors by providing a free personal web publishing service for them and continuing to develop and upgrade this service to be the best it can be for its users.” This site is free.
- Prostate Cancer Blogs: This site is from the Prostate Cancer Association & lists blogs by prostate cancer survivors.
- Kris Carr: This is a good site. Kris wrote Crazy Sexy Cancer. I think her story is inspiring.
Start your own Blog or journal your story on a computer or in a notebook. Writing about your struggles puts them into perspective & also shows the progress you have made. I recommend attending Expressive Art Therapy with Alessandra Colfi. She will guide you in expressing your highs & lows through art.
For information, please email: Alessandra@AlessandraColfi.com
Until next week…………Mary 🙂