Chemotherapy tests people to the limits which are why everyone looks at it as the toughest battle anyone could ever face. One of the things chemo hurts is your appetite, taste buds and bowels and if you don’t figure out your diet in the early stages of chemo, you might lose the battle to starvation rather than the chemo itself. Now, the first thing you have to learn is to be familiar with the metallic taste in food, especially meat and water. Your mouth may also develop sores and your mouth is dry and cracked which makes eating painful. You still need to eat for your strength and immunity to stay up and that means eating even when you don’t feel like it. Here are the tips that will help you get some food into your mouth and keep it down while on chemo.
The diarrhoea and nausea which causes vomiting takes a toll on the water level in your body. Unfortunately, you won’t love the taste of water either because it tends to be metallic for some people. That is why your doctor/nutritionist will advise you to introduce water and fluids into your diet as much as possible. You need to be properly hydrated for your body to clean your bloodstream of the excessive chemicals from chemo. Adding lemon or oranges to your water or buying flavoured water instead will also help you drink more water and stay hydrated.
You have to become a clean freak
When you go for a party, you may have to limit the foods you eat to a few packaged snacks or straight-off-the-fire meals. You also need to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and not eat any food that has been exposed at room temperature for too long. Chemotherapy destroys your immunity by killing some of your white blood cells and that means you are more vulnerable to infection. The last thing you want is to go down with a running stomach while preparing for another cycle of chemo.
Fibre goes a long way in keeping diarrhoea and constipation away
Chemo affects everyone differently but the one thing you won’t miss is the side effects on your bowels. Some people have diarrhoea, others have stomach pains while others suffer from severe constipation. All these go down to the reduced probiotics in your gut. Eating fibre rich food such as bananas, potatoes and beans help ease constipation and also improves your probiotics which play a major role in preventing diarrhoea.
Try eating more food early in the day
Joy comes in the morning and no one could agree with this more than someone on chemo. As the day proceeds, your taste buds seem to become worse and the aroma of food only increases nausea. The best way to go about it is to try and concentrate your meals between early and mid-mornings and make sure you consume as many calories and proteins as you can keep down.
Get yourself a blender/juicer
Chewing with a sore cracked mouth can be a tasking job which is why concentrating your calories in drinks will help. You need to invest in a reliable blender that can crush your favourite meats, nuts and beans into juice and purees. A blender also allows you to muffle some of the tastes that increase your nausea in juice by putting in lemons, oranges or anything that pleases your taste buds.
Develop a snacking habit
After the second round of chemo, things get tougher on your taste buds and stomach and you just don’t feel like eating anymore. Eating main meals with family and friends can be even harder since the foods that turn on your nausea may be at the table. To get some food down, you need to develop your list of healthy snacks including yoghurt, nuts, fruits and homemade juice. Regular snacking will help you make up for the calories you need that you couldn’t eat through regular meals.
Embrace proteins and green vegetables
You tend to lose muscle and other important cells in your body as a result of chemo which means you need to rebuild as quickly as possible before the next cycle. Carbs will help you rejuvenate energy but to rebuild lost tissue cells, you need lots of protein. You need to boost your intake of oily fish, lean meat, beans, peas and other protein-rich foods in plenty. You also need lots of antioxidants to fight free radicals in your cells which means lots of fruits and green leaves.
Befriend frozen foods
As food becomes less appealing to the taste buds, you will have to look for another way to eat food and that may mean turning your fruit juice into a homemade popsicle. Frozen fruits and vegetables still carry the same immunity-boosting vitamins as their unfrozen counterparts. Mixing frozen food with other foods will also reduce the aroma and effect of spices on your taste buds which helps you eat more food before nausea sets in.
Dealing with the bloating
For some reason, food moves slowly through your gut when on chemo which means having more gas and feeling full even when you haven’t eaten. You, therefore, need to reduce the number of fatty foods you eat so that the food is easier for your gut to digest. Having five to six small meals per day will help you eat more food without feeling full because chemo also tends to cause people to feel full all the time. You should also reduce foods that cause you to be gaseous.
You still need to watch your wait
While you are hardly keeping the food down, your body still converts excessive sugar to glycogen and that means a little pot belly. You need to keep exercising as it also helps you rebuild muscle and improve digestion. The most important thing is sticking to a healthy diet by cutting down on fatty foods as well as refined sugar and excessive sodium.
Do you have any other tips for enjoying food while going through Chemo? Do let us know in the comments below.