How To Deal With Diet-Related Side Effects During Radiation Therapy

Nutrition during cancer treatment is especially important, as eating a healthy diet makes it easier for your body to recover from the treatments and helps keep your immune system functioning as well as possible to limit the risk of infection. Eating right can also minimize the side effects that occur with many types of cancer treatment, including radiation therapy. If there's radiation therapy in your treatment plan, here are some tips that can help get you through it.   

Potential Diet-Related Side Effects

The exact diet-related side effects of radiation therapy will depend at least in part on the area of the body being treated. For example, radiation treatment in the abdomen can cause bloating, gas, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty digesting dairy products, diarrhea and vomiting. Getting this type of treatment in the head or neck area can make it so things taste different, make it hard to swallow and give you a sore mouth and throat. These side effects are typically the worse when treatment is about two-thirds of the way finished, but they may continue for a month or more after the radiation treatments are finished.

Dealing With Loss of Appetite

While it can be difficult to eat when you don't feel hungry, it's important not to lose a significant amount of weight while having radiation therapy, as this can alter the effectiveness of the treatment. Eating smaller meals more often and eating foods higher in protein or fat can help you get the calories and protein you need even when you're not particularly hungry. Adding protein powder to your food can help you increase the protein in your meals without you having to eat a lot more food. Avoid any smells that make you feel less hungry, choose the foods that appeal to you the most, and eat at regularly scheduled times even if you don't feel very hungry. Drink liquids separately from meals, and try getting a little more exercise to help increase hunger.

Eating When Swallowing is Difficult or Your Throat Is Sore

If you can't swallow well, try soft of liquid foods. You can puree food to make it easier to swallow, or eat mainly foods that are naturally soft, such as yogurt, bananas, puddings, cooked cereals and eggs. Drink liquids that are high in calories and protein. Avoid spicy foods, as this can make a sore throat worse.

Dealing With Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhea

Make sure to drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration, but drink these in between meals instead of with meals. Eat small snacks as often as possible, and limit any foods that are likely to cause gas. Whole grains, fried foods and uncooked fruits and vegetables can sometimes make this problem worse. Warm food may be more likely to sit well than very cold or very hot food.