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The chemotherapy diet.

In one of the episodes of the popular American television sitcom "Sex and the City," Samantha Jones was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite her illness, she looked like she was having the time of her life in a fabulous hospital suite surrounded by her best friends all looking impeccably fashionable while eating popsicles to support Samantha during her chemotherapy session.

How I wish it was that easy but that scene albeit a very nice one is far from reality. I have suffered the pain of supporting and losing loved ones over cancer. I watched my grandfather take his last breath in the ICU after undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer. I saw how my favorite grand aunt's body wasted away while leukemia was eating her alive. I held my dearest aunt's hand while she was undergoing chemotherapy. I cried with her when her hair started to fall off. I rejoiced with her when she survived breast cancer.

This dreaded disease affects a patient physically, psychologically, emotionally, and even spiritually. It also greatly impacts the lives of the patient's loved ones.

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy are the most common treatment for cancer. Patients mostly experience side effects like nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, sore/dry mouth and throat, lack of appetite, weight loss or gain. Some medications may be prescribed to lessen the side effects but it is important for a patient to know what to expect and be guided on what to do.

Nutrition intervention plays a vital role in preventing, managing, treating and, surviving cancer. There are two factors needed to be addressed: feelings and food intake.

Feeling depressed and fatigued after chemotherapy cause lack of appetite and lead to inadequate nutrition and eventually weight loss. Other symptoms of side effects also affect food intake. It is important to rest whenever exhausted and eat small frequent meals or snacks when able or hungry. Food preference and favorite foods must always be considered when there is lack of appetite. Drink beverages that contain calories: non-fat or low fat milk, 100 percent fruit juice, and smoothies. Meal replacements can also increase energy and nutrient intake.

Vomiting can be addressed by prescribed anti-emetic drugs. However, nausea can be managed by eating the right foods at the right time. It is best to nibble food more often and avoid an empty stomach. Ginger tea or locally known as salabat has been proven to relieve nausea. Eat bland foods as too much seasoning, spices, and fat can trigger nausea. Salty foods like crackers may also help. Avoid foods with strong aroma by using a straw to drink and staying out of the kitchen when it's food preparation and cooking time.

Soreness and dryness of the mouth and throat can be lessened by avoiding irritating and acidic foods like citrus, crunchy and dry foods, hot liquids and foods, alcohol and foods with small seeds. Be mindful of the texture, consistency, and temperature. It is best to choose warm or frozen, soft or liquid foods like soup, popsicles, frozen fruits, yogurt, milk, porridge, and hard boiled or poached egg.

To prevent or relieve constipation, consume fiber-rich foods like black, brown or red rice, whole wheat or multigrain breads and crackers, oatmeal, lentils, fruit juice with pulp, fruits, and vegetables. It is important to drink plenty of water to help expand the fiber in the gut.

Medication may be needed to control diarrhea but foods can also help control this problem. Eat soluble fiber sources such as banana, peeled apple and pear, warm tea, white rice, and toasted white bread.

To decrease episodes of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, liquids should not be taken during meals. Lying down after meals can also alleviate these conditions.

Emotional eating may lead to weight gain. If you find comfort in food, it is recommended to seek professional help and consider counseling, support groups, alternative treatments like massage, art therapy, music therapy, yoga, breathing techniques, and the like. Manage stress by praying, reflecting, communicating and, staying away from negativity. Walking can also help relieve stress.

Having cancer is not easy but here is always hope for everyone.

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all." - Emily Dickinson

(For comments email or visit Twitter: CheshireQue)


Nutrition intervention plays a vital role in preventing, managing, treating and surviving cancer.
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Title Annotation:Well-being
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Mar 4, 2014
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