Diet for Chemo Patients with Colon Cancer

Chemotherapy is one of common conventional treatments for colon cancer. With other cancer treatments, it is required to help kill and shrink cancer cells. However, it also carry some side effects which some could be very difficult to cope! What and how you eat can have an effect to deal with it. Here are some helpful checklists about diet for chemo patients with colon cancer.

Protein – should you eat it a lot during chemo?

Actually, there is no specific guideline of diet you need to follow when taking chemotherapy.

Each patient may have different dietary requirements. If you do need specific and personal advice, it’s better to talk to your healthcare provider!

It’s true that during treatment, some cells (especially cancer cells) will be damaged and your body needs plenty of nutrients (especially like protein) to help repair itself. However, most western diets usually include adequate protein.

If you have a normal balanced diet, there should be nothing to worry since it usually will contain adequate protein to supply what your body needs.

So in general, protein deficiency is usually not the major issue for chemo patients with colon cancer. Instead, the major goal is how to make the treatment work more effectively and reduce the risk of side effect from the treatment.

But if you do believe that your body needs extra amounts of protein, talk to your doctor! If necessary, you may be prescribed particular supplements to boost your recovery!

What your diet can do to help cope with the side effects of chemotherapy?

Each treatment for cancer carries some side effects. However the decision of each treatment should outweigh the risks – and your doctor has completely understood about it!

Some common side effects of taking chemotherapy include appetite loss, diarrhea, constipation, dehydration, tiredness, sore eyes, hair loss, feeling of sickness, and heartburn.

How to improve your appetite?

In a few days when taking the treatment, you may experience decreased appetite that could be mild or severe. The good news, appetite problems during chemo are usually temporary.

Cancer itself can absorb more energy to support its growth. As a result, you are easier to have fatigue and may also experience a significant weight loss (see also weight loss due to colon cancer)! The problem can get worse since cancer also has contribution to cause appetite loss.

So cancer and its treatment (including chemotherapy) are a lot to cope with! But even though you don’t have appetite at all, try to eat! Remember that your body continuously needs plenty of nutrient supply to fight against cancer!

It’s better to also evaluate whether there are other underlying causes of the problem. For instances, conditions such as depression, stress, dry mouth, mouth sores, and pain can affect your appetite. Treating these other causes can help improve the problem.

image_illustration355Foods you eat and the way of how you eat can have an effect, too. The following dietary approaches may help to maintain your appetite:

  1. Avoid eating large meal! Instead, split it into several small meals and eat them throughout the day so thus your appetite will be easier to manage. Placing your meal on smaller plates may help, too! Another idea, you can try with some nutritious snacks (especially some high in calories and protein) and try to keep them on your hand for snacking!
  2. Don’t drink too much water before eating. Fill your stomach and intestines with a large amount of fluid can decrease your appetite before you eat your meal. Drink between meals, not with meals in order to not make you full too fast!
  3. If you experience a significant weight loss and if you do concern to keep your weight up, try some high calorie foods but just make sure your choice is healthy, too! If necessary, ask your doctor whether you can have drinks rich in calories that you can sip between your chemo treatments.
  4. It’s also not bad idea to write down times of day when you are hungry, and eat at these times so thus you have better appetite when eating your meals!
  5. Try to have a meal in pleasant surroundings. For instance, try to eat with your family or friends!
  6. If there is particular taste /smell from food makes you feel nausea, eat it at room temperature /cold to help reduce the smell. On the other hand, sometime you may find difficulty to taste food. For such case, adding some spices may help make them more appealing.
  7. During treatment you need plenty of rest, but this doesn’t mean you can forget exercise at all. Even light workout like a 20-30 minute walk can help stimulate and improve your appetite. Try it about 1-2 hours before eating your meal!

Dehydration

Another important thing to remember is always to keep hydrated. Make sure you drink enough, even though you have severe appetite loss!

In moderate weather, you should drink at least 2 liters of fluid a day, about 8 glasses of water. If you have condition that can make you lose more fluid, such as diarrhea, you may need to drink more!

Drinking adequate water is also recommended after having certain chemo. This is intended to help flush the medicine out of your system.

Diarrhea

Cancer itself and its chemotherapy treatment can lead to diarrhea. Cancer, especially bowel cancer, is pretty common to be associated with some digestive problems such as diarrhea. You may already have the problem before taking your chemo. And it may get worse with the treatment.

Diarrhea associated with chemo usually occurs and worsens in the first few days after the treatment. However during treatment, some chemo medicines may also have contributed to cause the problem. It is also a common side effect from other cancer treatments such as hormone therapies.

Foods high in fiber are usually better to eat and good for our digestive system, but they can worsen your diarrhea. These foods include; nuts, fresh and dried fruits, whole grain breads, any cereals rich in fiber, and veggies (particularly such as beans, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower).

To cope with diarrhea, break the rules for a while by temporarily restricting foods containing too much fiber! To keep safe, ask your nurse or healthcare provider about how long you should do this for!

Again, diarrhea can make you easily become dehydrated, as noted before. So, it’s important to drink adequate water.

If you think you lose more fluid than you can replace (you cannot drink enough), tell your doctor! He /she can prescribe medicine to help slow down your intestine.

In addition, severe diarrhea may lead to the back passage skin to sore, causing broken skin around your anus. To reduce this risk, ask your nurse whether you need soothing creams around your back passage!

Overall, the problem can be very exhausting. It can cause weakness and tiredness, too. Therefore, it’s important to have plenty of times for adequate rest. Let your body rest immediately when you can!

Sickness (nausea)

Not all chemo medicines can lead to feeling of sickness. But if they do, the problem usually starts to occur within a few minutes or hours after taking the medicine.

How long does sickness related to chemo last can vary from patient to patient. It can last for only a few hours, but sometime it may also continue the next day.

Even in less common cases, it may last for several days. And if the medicine makes you sickness in the first day, you probably will have sickness again whenever you take it throughout the course of the treatment.

Nowadays, this problem is commonly treated with anti-sickness medicines. One of them is anti-emetics. It can be prescribed along with your chemo medicines if you tend to have sickness throughout the course of your treatment.

The following tips may help, too: