Colon Cancer Nutrition
Stock the pantry and freezer with favorite foods so that you won't need to shop as often. Include foods you know you can eat even when you are sick.
Keep foods handy that need little or no preparation, such as:
- Peanut butter
- Tuna fish
Do some cooking in advance and freeze food in meal-sized portions.
You might want to talk to friends or family members about helping with shopping and cooking. Or, ask a friend or family member to manage that job for you.
You can also talk to a registered dietitian about your concerns and what you might expect. He or she can give you ideas and help you plan meals. Ask for help in developing a grocery list with foods that might help with potential side effects, such as constipation or nausea.
All the methods for treating colon cancer -- such as surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy -- are powerful. Although these treatments for colon cancer target the fast-growing cancer cells in your body, healthy cells can also be damaged. Healthy cells that normally grow and divide rapidly, such as those in the mouth, digestive tract, and hair, are often affected by colon cancer treatments. The damage to healthy cells is what produces the unpleasant side effects that cause eating problems.
Side effects of colon cancer treatment vary from person to person (see Table 1: How Cancer Treatments Can Affect Eating). The part of the body being treated, the type and length of treatment, and the dose of treatment determine whether side effects will occur.
Some eating problems are caused by the treatment itself. Other times, people may have trouble eating because they are upset, worried, or afraid. Nausea and losing your appetite are two normal responses to feeling nervous or fearful. Once you get into your treatment period and have a better sense of what to expect and how you will react, these anxiety-related eating problems should get better.
While you are in the hospital or undergoing treatment, talk to your doctor, nurse, or a registered dietitian. They can answer your questions and give you suggestions for specific meals, snacks, and foods, and for dealing with any eating problems you may have. They can also help with dietary preferences that reflect various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Feel free to talk to them if problems arise during your recovery as well. Ask them what has worked for other people.
Remember, there aren't any hard and fast colon cancer nutrition rules. Some people may continue to enjoy eating and have a normal appetite throughout most of their cancer treatment. Others may have days when they don't feel like eating at all -- even the thought of food may make them feel sick. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- When you can eat, try to eat meals and snacks with sufficient protein and calories; they will help you keep up your strength, prevent body tissues from breaking down, and rebuild tissues that cancer treatment may harm.
- Many people find their appetite is better in the morning. Take advantage of this and eat more at that time. Consider having your main meal of the day early, and have liquid meal replacements later on if you don't feel so interested in eating (see Table 3: Examples of Full-Liquid Foods).
- If you don't feel well and can eat only one or two things, stick with them until you are able to eat other foods. Try a liquid meal replacement for extra calories and protein.
- On those days when you can't eat at all, don't worry about it. Do what you can to make yourself feel better. Come back to eating as soon as you can, and let your doctor know if this problem doesn't get better within a couple of days.
- Try to drink plenty of fluids, especially on those days when you don't feel like eating. Water is essential to your body's proper functioning, so getting enough fluids will ensure that your body has the water it needs. For most adults, six to eight cups of fluid a day are a good target. Try carrying a water bottle with you during the day. That may help you get into the habit of drinking plenty of fluids. (See Table 2: Examples of Clear Liquids and Table 3: Examples of Full-Liquid Foods for other examples of fluids you can try.)