Stomach Cancer and Weight Loss

When you have stomach cancer, you want to keep your body as strong and healthy as possible during treatment. And that means getting good nutrition and staying at your normal weight.

But it can be challenging. Lots of people with stomach cancer lose weight when they don't want to. Not only can cancer and its treatment make you queasy and lose your appetite, but it can also block your body's ability to get the calories and nutrients it needs from foods.

There are lots of ways to get around these problems -- during and after treatment.

Tips to Boost Calories

If your doctor says you need to get more calories, these strategies will help.

Swap low-calorie foods with high-calorie alternatives. Choose drinks like hot chocolate, shakes, and fruit juice instead of water, tea, or diet sodas. Put heavy cream in your coffee instead of milk. Add butter, oil, margarine, sauces, salad dressing, sour cream, and peanut butter to foods when you can.

Have ready-to-eat options on hand. You may not have a lot of energy for cooking right now. At home and work, keep high-calorie foods nearby, like cheese, nuts, or dried or canned fruit (in heavy syrup).

Don't fill up on fluids. If you drink too much during meals, you may not be hungry enough for the calories you need. Instead, try to drink 30 minutes before or after your meal.

Ask your doctor or dietitian about nutritional shakes. They can be a good way to increase the number of calories you take in. You may find that drinking is easier than eating right now.

Tips to Fight Nausea

Cancer and the treatments for it can make you feel sick, so you may not want to eat much. Try these strategies to settle your stomach:

Eat smaller meals, and eat more often. Six to eight small meals a day may be easier to handle than three regular meals.

When you're hungry, eat. When your appetite is strong, take advantage of it. Lots of people with cancer say that they feel hungriest in the morning, after they've slept.

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Eat foods straight from the fridge. A hot meal can have a stronger smell, which can make you feel sick. But if you eat foods cold or at room temperature, they may be more appealing.

Keep a record of what you eat. If you feel sick after meals, find out if specific foods trigger your symptoms. For a few weeks, write down what you eat and how you felt that day. Then look back to see if you can figure out which foods give you trouble.

Prevent Weight Loss After Treatment

If you get treatment for stomach cancer, weight loss may still be a problem as you recover. For example, if some of your stomach was removed during surgery, you may not be able to digest foods like you used to. Your doctor will guide you on how to eat, but you may need to:

  • Eat smaller meals more often
  • Take vitamin supplements
  • Drink liquid meals to boost calories

Work With a Dietitian

Your doctor will be a key resource about how to adjust your diet. But it's a great idea to work with a dietitian, too.

Dietitians can offer advice that's tailored to your needs and suggest strategies on how to eat during and after treatment. If you don't already have a dietitian on your treatment team, ask your doctor for a recommendation.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on October 28, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Eating Well During and After Your Cancer Treatment."

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: "Meeting with a Dietitian During Cancer Treatment: What to Expect."

Cancer Research U.K.: "Stomach Cancer and Weight Loss," "Boosting Energy and Protein in Everyday Foods."

American Cancer Society: "Lifestyle Changes After Stomach Cancer."

Mayo Clinic: "No appetite? How to get nutrition during cancer treatment."

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Nutrition During and After Cancer Treatment."

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