Achieving good nutrition before, during and after cancer treatment is important. Our registered dietitian helps patients prepare for treatment, manage side effects and symptoms, and maintain a healthy weight.
A meeting with our dietitian may be helpful if you have specific nutrition concerns, are having trouble with eating and/or weight loss, or are having difficulty taking in adequate nutrition.
Cancer patients experience a variety of symptoms as a result of cancer or its treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. Please select a symptom below for guidelines on staying healthy during your treatment.
Diet can help relieve temporary diarrhea resulting from radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other medications. Some foods and liquids increase the risk of developing diarrhea, while others are known to control diarrhea. This page is intended to provide tips on which foods and liquids to choose during this time. Talk with your registered dietitian for recommendations regarding your individual situation.
Drinking fluids by mouth is the first way to help restore fluids lost in the stool. Drink about 1 cup of liquid following each loose stool or mostly watery discharge. Also try to include some fluids that have calories. Depending on your taste preferences, you may want to select from sports drinks (e.g., Gatorade), bouillon and broth-based soups. Try to avoid carbonated, alcoholic, and caffeinated beverages, and chocolate because they could worsen diarrhea.
Try to avoid becoming dehydrated. Drinking at least eight glasses of liquids between meals will prevent dehydration. Some people tolerate liquids at room temperature better than if either too hot or too cold. You may wish to limit or avoid milk until diarrhea is no longer a problem. Yogurt with probiotics is a good source for calcium, and it also helps to restore the health of the colon.
Foods to Eat
Follow the BRAT diet: Bananas, Rice, Apples and Toast. Other foods to eat during episodes of diarrhea include crackers, pretzels, apricots, applesauce, mashed potatoes, noodles, cream of wheat or cream of rice, smooth peanut butter, eggs prepared any way but fried, skinless poultry, mild white fish, lean beef, low-fat cottage cheese and canned vegetables. It is best to eat small, frequent snacks and meals instead of larger meals.
Foods to Avoid
Stay away from greasy, deep-fried, fatty foods and rich sauces because these may worsen diarrhea. Sugary or very spicy foods may also be bothersome. Sugar-free gums and candies usually contain sugar alcohols (sweeteners) that may cause diarrhea. Any foods that form gas will likely be a cause for diarrhea also. Some of foods to avoid are: onions, beans, cabbage, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, whole grain breads and cereals, nuts and popcorn.
When to Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you experience black, bloody or tarry stools, moderate to severe cramping and bloating, dizziness or a fever. If you have a significant change in bowel habits and/or you have bothersome symptoms, call your doctor.
Some medications used in treating cancer, pain and other conditions may cause infrequent or hard bowel movements. Without exercise and adequate fluid and fiber in the diet, one might also experience constipation.
*Some vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, legumes (beans), and carbonated beverages can cause uncomfortable gas. Introduce them slowly into your diet and monitor how they affect you.
Practice good oral care!
Please contact our Saint Louis University Cancer Center registered dietitian for specific nutrition questions during your treatment: 314-268-7033.
When you're being treated for cancer, your immune system may be weak, unable to fight off infections caused by food. Therefore, you should always make sure that your food is safe to eat and safely prepared.
Kirsten Thomas, MS, RD, LD, received her Masters of Science in Medical Dietetics from Saint Louis University in 2015. Kirsten meets with patients and their family members to develop individualized strategies for managing symptoms and maintaining weight during and following treatment. You can reach Kirsten at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-268-7033.