Chemotherapy can take an incredible toll both physically and emotionally. Common side effects of chemotherapy and from the drugs that are often administered with them include anemia, brain fog, indigestion or acid reflux, stomach upset and gas, mouth sores, constipation, fatigue, chemo brain, nausea, loss of appetite, loss or alteration of taste, peripheral neuropathy, and anal irritation. These symptoms are associated with the type of chemotherapy given.


What To Eat during Treatment

Nutrient focus during chemotherapy should aim to aid digestion and absorption and decrease acid reflux. Addressing these will serve to decrease most of the side effects mentioned earlier. Tasty meals containing complex carbohydrates and a protein complement are helpful. Foods with adequate B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and calcium top the list as well.

It’s recommended that foods be cooked or steamed lightly, not raw. Raw foods pose increased risk of infection because sometimes the immune system has been lowered as a result of chemotherapy. Ability to digest is often lowered during chemotherapy. Cooking food helps to break down fiber and aid your body’s digestive ability.

Bitters, such as collard greens and arugula, foods high in glutamine such as eggs, and food high in electrolytes such as broths, are a good bet during this time. Calcium and tryptophan/glycine-containing foods, for example turkey and kale, help to induce sleep and prevent insomnia and anxiety which can depress the immune system.

Sometimes chemotherapy causes red blood cell anemia and white blood cell anemia. Foods like apricots and molasses, high in iron, can help build the blood back up. Fish is an excellent protein source at this time due to its omega-3 fatty acid content. It reduces inflammation and also contains vitamin D.

During chemotherapy you should lower your cruciferous vegetables intake. These include foods like broccoli and cabbage. They are very high in nutrients but can produce a lot of gas and gastrointestinal discomfort. Reducing beans (unless soaked to decrease gas), is also helpful. We use lentils and split peas instead. Asparagus, if it’s in season, is a sure bet due to its culinary dose of glutathione.

Chemotherapy can also cause a disruption in taste sensation for many people. Strong-tasting foods can help with this problem. The use of salt, sweeteners, and even some condiments such as mustard can help improve food’s taste as well. As mentioned earlier, foods containing magnesium, copper, and zinc are helpful for maintaining and restoring taste. Foods high in these nutrients include nuts, kale, collards, and cilantro.


Beyond Nutrition: Other Tips for Getting through Chemo

  • Stay Hydrated: Make sure you drink at least 64 ounces (eight glasses) of water starting at least 2 days before chemotherapy treatment and continue for at least 3 days after treatment. Dehydration can lead to exacerbation of nausea and fatigue. Sometimes water just doesn’t taste right during treatment. You can try to add some lemon juice to your water, or use carbonated water.
  • Seep/rest: We’ve observed that patients who are well rested bounce back from all treatment phases more quickly. It can be tough to sleep through pain and the steroid treatment. Consult with your health-care provider if you need assistance with sleep. It’ll be worth it.
  • Exercise: According to the EPIC study, the top factor corresponding to positive effects on cancer prevention and remission is exercise. In addition, other positive effects include sustained stamina, energy, bowel regularity, and mood stabilization.
  • Get Support: This is a period of time to ask for help and to rely on those family and friends that want to assist. Hopefully, this period of treatment will be a blink of time in your life. Be smart and don’t go through it alone or without asking for help. In 2004, Dan Buettner, CEO of the Blue Zones Project, partnered with researchers from National Geographic to study the places around the world that enjoy the greatest longevity. They found that what distinguishes places like Ikaria, Greece, and Okinawa, Japan, are environments and cultural attributes that foster community, family life, and physical activity.