Chemotherapy is the treatment given to patients with cancer to kill the rapidly multiplying cells in the body. This form of treatment that uses strong chemicals, can affect the food intake of the person. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, change in taste, food aversion, lactose intolerance, are some of the side effects of chemotherapy that affect food intake, leading to nutrient insufficiency.
Nutritious foods taken during chemotherapy can, to some extent, alleviate nutrient deficiencies. Some of the strategies used to overcome the problems of food intake are small & frequent meals with nutrient density, avoiding liquids during meals, staying away from low-calorie foods that fill the stomach, using soft and pureed foods when required, making the dishes low in fat and fibre when there’s nausea and/or vomiting, adjusting the temperature of foods to help overcome the person’s symptoms, reducing spices and oil in the dishes, and so on.
Most commonly used foods during chemotherapy include khichdi, idli, curd rice, vegetable puree / soup, fruit juice with pulp, boiled / poached egg, soft fruits (e.g. – banana, chikoo, papaya), boiled vegetables, milk, smoothie, porridge (rice or sooji or ragi or oats), well-cooked dal-rice, soft cheese, nut butters, soft pasta, custard, pudding, and others. Spices may be added depending on the tolerance.
Benefits of good nutrition during chemotherapy include better strength and energy, weight maintenance, reduced risk of infection, faster healing, among others. A qualified clinical dietitian is the right person to approach for a tailor-made diet plan during chemotherapy.
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