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Starting Chemotherapy: 15 Nutrition Tips

Staying Comfortable During Chemo

  • Relieve Mouth Sores. Some types of chemotherapy can cause mouth sores, also known as oral mucositis. To encourage healing, avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and hot temperature foods. Keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Rinsing your mouth with salt water after meals may also be helpful.  
  • Stay Hydrated. Diarrhea and vomiting combined with low fluid intake can cause dehydration. Signs of dehydration may include a dry or sticky mouth, sunken eyes, low urine output (urine is dark yellow when it is concentrated), and an inability to produce tears. Drinking plenty of water can help you avoid dehydration.
  • Control Nausea. Eating cool foods instead of warm foods, chewing on crystallized ginger, or sipping on peppermint or ginger tea can help discourage nausea. It’s also best to avoid greasy or fried foods and foods with strong odors.
  • Eat Mini-Meals. Eating smaller sized meals tends to be tolerated better during the chemo process than larger, less frequent meals. Eating smaller, more frequent meals will help with nausea as well.
  • Talk to a Dietitian. It may be helpful to meet with a registered dietitian, which is a food and nutrition expert. A dietitian can help you with the specific food and diet issues you are experiencing during cancer treatment.

Staying Healthy During Chemo

  • Avoid Alcohol. During chemotherapy, be kind to your liver because it is helping to metabolize all the potential toxins in your bloodstream. According to Anselmo, alcohol can cause undue stress on the liver and make it harder for the liver to process chemo drugs. Alcohol can also make your nausea or other gastrointestinal side effects worsen and may interact with certain drugs that are given in conjunction with chemo.
  • Watch Supplements. Dietitians in top cancer treatment centers across the country suggest not taking dietary supplements during chemo. These include vitamins, minerals, herbals, and botanicals. There are potential drug-nutrient interactions that can interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Talk to your doctor about taking any supplements when you are undergoing chemo.
  • Limit Green Tea. Some physicians limit the amount of green and white tea consumed by patients who are undergoing chemo. Anselmo advises her patients to limit tea drinking to one or two mugs a day. Green and white teas are packed with antioxidant phytochemicals and may interfere with the desired effect of chemo.
  • Ask Your Doctor About Soy-Based Foods. Before eating soy-based foods, check with your oncologist regarding your specific type of cancer or chemotherapy.
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Reviewed on May 28, 2010

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