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Diet and Nutrition through Chemotherapy Treatments

Updated on March 18, 2014

No Broths or Soups on Chemo

Broth and Soups No; on Chemo
Broth and Soups No; on Chemo | Source

On Chemo

Being on chemo is tough, especially when your first chemo session starts just a few weeks after a cancer removing operation. Especially if your operation was a major operation.

You are weak from the surgery. You may still have pain from stitches. Your body might still not be functioning properly. In fact you are very much in the early stages of convalescing from the operation. So having your fist blast of chemotherapy is going to make you feel weaker.

Having further 'blasts' of chemo are going to make you feel even weaker as the weeks go on, even though you are recovering from the cancer-removing operation and in fact, as you recover from cancer.

It is vitally important to do everything in your power to build up your strength whilst you undergo the debilitating effects of chemotherapy.

Nutritional foods prepared correctly will help. Eating a varied diet with a balanced quantity of protein always present, with mixed vegetables and seasonal fruits, using only biological foods to avoid 'additives' is the way to do this.

A balanced, healthy diet helps recovery from the effects of chemotherapy.

Here follow some nutritional food tips for health on chemo to help you know what is going to help specifically - and what is NOT

First - what is NOT going to help.

Tip Number One

What Kinds of Foods NOT to Eat

Avoid eating liquid foods such as broths, soups or stews.

The digesting enzymes of the stomach are going to be 'diluted' by the liquids so they can't 'stick' to the food - which means that those liquid foods can't be digested well.

The gastric juices of the intestines, which activate the digestion, can easily attach themselves to solid foods - thereby helping foods 'go down' through successive parts of the intestine.

Tip Number Two

No Spices on Chemo

No Spices on Chemo
No Spices on Chemo | Source

Herbs and Spices are Difficult to Digest

Avoid herbs and spices. They are more difficult to digest and because they are a more complicated task for the digestive apparatus to work on, they can create problems for a patient who isn't well or who is in a weak physical condition - who needs to make the job of digesting foods well as simple as possible. Herbs and spices are taxing.

People may suggest taking ginger or turmeric when on chemo but these spices will actually hinder your digestion.

It's always a good idea to verify what is helpful and what is not with your nutritionist. (Obviously people mean well, but nutrition is a science you can't dispute.)

Tip Number Three

Avoid Cheese on Chemotherapy

Avoid cheese on chemotherapy
Avoid cheese on chemotherapy | Source

Is Cheese OK on Chemo?

Since cheese is an animal protein which is quite fat-rich, it asks a lot of the digestive system and too much of the liver - which is in crisis (due to the heavy pharmacological treatments).

Digesting is going to be slowed down, as will emptying the stomach; so cheese is not a first choice food to eat on chemotherapy

I live in Italy where it is normal to sprinkle Parmesan cheese on a bowl of pasta, but during the treatments I got used to eating without the cheese!

And now for some more ideal nutritional foods to eat that are good for your health.

Tip Number Four

Is Bread Good For You?

Bread is best toasted because it diminishes the amount of fermentation.

Without the 'rising yeast' present in un-toasted bread, it is easier for the digestive enzymes to attack and dismantle the bread for digestion.

A few slices of bruschetta drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with salt and perhaps topped with fresh chopped tomatoes makes a healthy snack, or first course - when the body is fatigued from chemotherapy.

Says nutritionist Dr Francesco Steiner in Rome, "The carbohydrates from the bread and the tomato help their liver to build body energy. Olive oil assists re-building the mucous of the stomach lining, protecting its coat. The salt betters the digestion."

Tip Number Five

Bitter Green Chicory is Good For You on Chemo

Chicory is good for you on Chemo
Chicory is good for you on Chemo | Source

Which Vegetables are Good For You on Chemo?

The best vegetables are bitter tasting vegetables because they act faster to 'flush' the system out. Chicory, preferably organically grown, and vegetables of the chicory family such as 'radichio', endive and 'puntarelle' are the best types though a diet of different seasonal vegetables eaten twice a day, (cooked and raw), is essential for the recuperation of the liver and vital forces both during chemo - and for afterwards!

Tip Number Six

Is Yogurt OK to Eat on Chemo?

As with eating eggs whilst on chemo, or eating a slice of home made cake from time to time, or a piece of bitter chocolate, the amount of yogurt that will be good for you to eat will depend on factors such as weight and age - and physical condition.

A few tablespoons of 'naturally made, pure' yogurt eaten as a snack, mid morning, is fine - but not too close to chemo bashes.

If it is difficult to digest, then its best to suspend!

The protein you get will be from the diet your nutritionist gives you each day. Yogurt will be an extra, not an essential.

What about Eating Eggs on Chemo?

The number of eggs a person eats each week will be different for each patient, depending on their weight and size and age and what their nutritionist decides. An egg could be too heavy to digest for a chemo patient - but if its boiled or steamed it will be much easier to digest than cooked in any other way.

As an example, I was 62 when I underwent chemotherapy, I weighed approx 78 kilos, had had major surgery and my nutritionist added one boiled egg a week to my diet - (further away from a chemo treatment and not too close to the next bash). Someone younger might be able to eat more, someone older and heavier might have to eat less than one egg a week.

The only eggs to be eaten, in any case, should be biological/organic and come from open air farms - because they are the only kind of egg NOT to damage the body.

Depending on the individual, a slice of home made cake or tart made with fresh, natural ingredients is a good thing to have for breakfast, introduced slowly into the weekly diet.

Tip Number Seven

What to Eat and Drink For Breakfast on Chemotherapy

Either a caffe latte, or a cup of tea, or hot chocolate or green tea would be good to drink for breakfast.

It's important not to insist that one is better than the other, but to value what your appetite is like and how well you digest the drink - and how far or close you are to the next treatment.

I really enjoyed a caffe latte and a home made croissant most mornings, but close to chemo I had tea and simple toast for breakfast, with some home made jam.

Nutrition is Important, so is a Nutritionist

When a patient is on chemotherapy it is important to seek out the assistance of an nutritionist who will monitor and encourage your well being - through a healthy diet of nutritional foods.

For a correct nutrition, a healthy diet is to give the body 'nutritional-elements' that can quickly help the repairing processes to recuperate the liver and the kidneys. Says Dr. Francesco Steiner of Komen Italia "These are the organs, which minute by minute, hour by hour, every day of our lives, work to get the toxins out of our bodies".

The way to do this is to eat a varied diet, with a little protein always present, with fruits and with vegetables, using only seasonal biological foods - to avoid 'additives'.

© 2012 Penelope Hart


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    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thank you so much.

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 5 years ago from UK

      I think the information in this hub is not only for people on chemo interesting. Thank you GoodLady for an in high level informal article. Voted up and shared.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Hope your husband gets his taste buds back soon and that life can be fully enjoyed once more.

      Appreciate your share. Wishing you both well. x soon

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      My husband found that his taste buds went haywire during chemo. Foods that he had previously enjoyed tasted "funny".

      On the whole, the side effects were much less awful than we had expected though.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Glad you are sharing it and many, many thanks. I do appreciate your visit and comment.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      Such important and interesting information - sharing it.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Yes, AliciaC. Nutrition at such an important time is essential - and there isn't much general knowledge about how important it is - which is surprising.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the information, GoodLady. There are a lot of interesting and important facts in this hub and lots to think about!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Natashalh Yes, people have thought that broth was good but it isn't when you are on chemo - and it's so important to help the body as much as possible with the right nourishing foods.

      wilderness. I hope a lot of people on chemo get to read it too and will search out their nutritionist. I was so helped on chemo by the right foods all the way through, thanks to Dr Steiner!

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      As Natashalh says, there were lots of surprises for me in this hub. Good work in getting such important nutritional information out to people on Chemo.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Interesting that liquid foods are indigestible for people undergoing chemo. People always associate soups and broths with nourishment, so this seems like pretty important information to get out there!