The side effects of chemotherapy--including nausea, loss of appetite, and a bad taste in your mouth--may make the thought of eating anything at all a difficult prospect. But there are few things as important to the successful recovery from chemotherapy than eating a healthy diet. Your body's immune system is compromised by chemotherapy, and your body needs nutrients, calories and energy in order to overcome the effects of the cancer and the treatment alike.
Although your body needs a lot of protein while you're undergoing chemotherapy, eating meat may cause nausea. Fortunately, there are other ways of getting protein. If you are able to eat meat, avoid red meat for the most part, as it takes more energy to digest than poultry or fish, and is more likely to cause nausea.
Other sources of protein include eggs, nuts, dairy and beans. Try to eat protein at every meal, especially breakfast, which is usually the most tolerable meal of the day during chemotherapy. Stock up on protein drinks for days when you are not able to eat, and add unflavored protein powders to smoothies, mashed potatoes, sauces and gravies whenever possible to boost your protein levels.
What could be more important to a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy than a substance that heals damaged cells? That substance is an antioxidant. Think "color" when you are looking for good sources of antioxidants: The more colorful the fruit or vegetable, the more likely it is to contain antioxidants.
Vegetables with high levels of antioxidants include most orange or yellow vegetables: pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes and carrots. Papaya, cantaloupe, strawberries and cranberries are high antioxidant fruits. And don't forget that green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, and green peppers also contain high amounts of antioxidants.
If your white blood count is low, you may have to cut back on the amount of fruits and vegetables you are consuming. Cconsult with your doctor to make sure you are eating what your body needs during this difficult time.
If you have always watched your carb consumption in the past, you may have a hard time forcing yourself to eat them now. But this is not a time to worry about calories or fats or carbs. Some sources of high carbohydrates, including potatoes, breads and dairy, may be more easily tolerated during chemotherapy. Less likely to cause nausea, easy to digest, and often soft, carbohydrates may be a chemotherapy patient's nutritional lifeblood on days when the effects of chemotherapy are particularly harsh.
It is particularly crucial to drink water during chemotherapy. The fluids will help to flush the chemicals through the body and ease the nausea. If the taste of the water bothers you at this time, try adding slices of cucumber or lemon to it, and refrigerate for several hours before drinking.
During chemotherapy, it is best to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day, rather than trying to eat three larger meals. Breakfast is the most important meal, and it should contain at least 1/3 of your protein and calories for the day. Eat as healthily as possible, but eat whatever sounds goods at any given time: Cravings are often your body's way of asking for a particular nutrient. Do not eat on the run. Sit down and eat your food slowly. Eat until you are no longer hungry, but avoid eating until you are full. This will help prevent nausea.