We know that diet and digestion may not be at the forefront of your mind when you are navigating through the journey of cancer treatment. However, many patients and survivors experience digestive concerns during and after treatment of many different types of cancer.
Here we will offer nutrition and food advice and tips to manage digestive side effects relating to cancer or cancer treatment. These side effects will range from person to person but often include diarrhoea, bloating and constipation, ranging in degree from mild to severe.
During cancer treatments, radiation and/or chemotherapy are often used to decrease the size of a tumour and to reduce the spread of cancerous cells in the body. Unfortunately, these treatments can negatively impact on the body’s healthy cells. This includes cells that are in the gastrointestinal tract, mouth, and stomach. Harming these health cells in the digestive areas of the body can cause symptoms of dehydration, diarrhoea, and reduced absorption of nutrients.
When this occurs, it can be beneficial to consume amino acids to support your body in absorbing essential electrolytes and nutrients to protect your digestive health. Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to make proteins. These amino acids and proteins are building blocks of life as they help build and support the function of healthy cells in your body. Consuming amino acids during this time can support your gastrointestinal tract’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. enterade® Advanced Oncology Formula is the only amino acid based, glucose free medical food specially created for the dietary management of side effects of cancer treatment. This unique formula provides amino acids and electrolytes to restore and shield the gastrointestinal tract to keep your body hydrated during cancer treatment.
Many people experience constipation due to dehydration during cancer treatment. To combat constipation during this time, it is important to stick to 3 simple rules. Firstly, try to include 30 minutes of physical activity into each day. Second, drink 8 cups of water or fluids throughout the day. And lastly, increase your fibre intake to approximately 25-35 grams. However, it is not uncommon during this time to experience poor appetite and fatigue during your treatment. If it is difficult for you to eat and move your body during this time, try:
- Taking a short 10-minute walk before eating
- Sipping hot beverages like a decaffeinated tea around the time you would normally have a bowel movement
- Increasing your consumption of fluids by eating frozen fruits, sucking on ice chips or by having soup with your meals
We understand that it may be uncomfortable to discuss your bowel movements and habits with your team of healthcare professionals. Although, it is common to experience diarrhoea during cancer treatment. Diarrhoea can deplete the body of important nutrients and fluids needed to maintain a healthy gut. The number one way to reduce diarrhoea during this time is by avoiding digestive stimulants like caffeine, peppermint, and ginger. Also, it can be helpful to increase your intake of low fibre foods like leafy greens, grains, and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage). It may also be beneficial to consume beverages between meals rather than with your meal.
There are many ways to give yourself the best fighting change of good gut health during and after cancer treatment. If you have not yet started on your cancer treatment journey, it can be valuable to start optimising your gut health now before cancer treatment begins. This can be accomplished through diet and exercise. Regular exercise can reduce inflammation and stress in the body whilst also keeping you fit and strong. While a balanced diet of whole foods, rich fibre and probiotics can promote good gut function.
If you would like more information on your gut health during and after cancer treatment, seek support from qualified dieticians and your healthcare team.
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