People living with cancer may have different nutrition goals and challenges, depending on their:
- type of disease or treatment
- stage of disease or treatment
- other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or depression
Your disease and treatment may increase your body's need for calories and protein. Chemotherapy, other drug therapies and radiation therapy create a need for more calories and protein each day. Eating enough can be a challenge during and after treatment and can affect:
- appetite, taste and smell
- chewing or swallowing
- the ability to absorb the nutrients from food
You can often manage side effects with drugs or other therapies so you can get the protein-rich nutrition you need to:
- tolerate and recover from treatment
- promote healing, including growing new blood cells
- fight infection
- prevent weight loss
- provide energy and prevent muscle loss
- maintain general health
Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables, Too
- Aim for five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. One serving is half a cup for most fruits and veggies and one cup for leafy greens, melons and berries.
- Include one or more servings of cruciferous vegetables in your diet almost every day. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, watercress and radishes. One serving is half a cup for most vegetables and one cup for leafy greens such as kale.
- In some cases, your doctor may advise you to eat only cooked fruits and vegetables for a time. This is called a neutropenic diet.
Drink Enough Water
Drinking an adequate amount of water during cancer treatment is especially important because:
- certain cancer therapies, including chemotherapy, some drug therapies and radiation therapy, can cause you to become dehydrated
- some treatment side effects, such as diarrhea or vomiting, can increase your need for more fluids
- liquids can help relieve fatigue or constipation
Intravenous (IV) fluids are given during treatment for some chemotherapies. If you're taking oral medications, drink plenty of water or other noncaffeinated beverages with your treatment team's guidance. Try to drink water and other approved liquids throughout the day. Sipping even small amounts of water at regular intervals helps if that's all you can manage.
Sometimes, you can drink too much water. Ask your doctor about the amount of water you should consume each day. He or she may recommend liquids, such as broths or sports drinks, that can restore your body's balance of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphates and bicarbonate. Limit liquids such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol that may deplete your electrolyte. If you drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages, your doctor may advise you to have a noncaffeinated beverage for every caffeinated beverage or serving of alcohol you drink.