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What to Eat during chemo....... Interesting info

idlehunters's picture
Posts: 1792
Joined: Apr 2009

Food is often a challenge with chemotherapy. Can you choose certain foods to lessen the impact of chemo side effects? Are there foods you should eat or avoid during chemo? How can you maintain your nutrition so you can tolerate the chemo and fight your cancer?

I've invited Natalie Ledesma, MS, RD, an Oncology dietitian to join the group to give advice in this area. Natalie will be checking into this discussion and chiming in where she can. Please reply to this topic.

What to eat during chemo is a loaded question? The answer really depends on what chemo and if you're experiencing any side effects that may be mitigated by diet and/or supplements. In general, I advocate for a healthy diet during and following treatment because eating well will help increase your energy, facilitate your recovery throughout treatment, lower your risk of other chronic illnesses, and possibly inhibit the growth of the cancer. I added brief information about various topics below that commonly arise with chemo. If you need more detailed suggestions about something, don't hesitate to ask. Regards, Natalie

Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

Plant-based diet



Whole grains


Other plant protein sources

Low fat diet with emphasis on certain types of fats

Limit simple & refined sugars


Eat regular meals - having some food in your stomach may help you feel better.

Small, frequent meals

Slowly drink fluids throughout day.

Avoid fried, greasy, & rich foods.

Try foods that are easy on your stomach.

Whey protein powder stimulates glutathione, which helps to strengthen immune system and improve the liver's ability to detoxify.


If powdered ginger, 250-1000mg/day with liquids

High-sugar foods & beverages may trigger nausea.

Discuss with physician medications that may help.

Visualization & relaxation exercises may help as well as other CAM therapies.


Increase dietary fiber, most notably, the insoluble fiber sources.

Vegetables, whole wheat, wheat bran, flaxseed

Choose breads with 3 gm or more fiber/slice

Choose cereals with 5 gm or more fiber/serving

Increase fiber gradually to lessen bloating/gas.

Drink a warm, non-caffeinated beverage upon awakening.

Increase physical activity as tolerated.

Drink plenty of fluids.


Increase soluble fibers in diet.

Fruits, oats, barley, millet

Avoid dairy, whole wheat & wheat bran.

Limit sugar-containing foods & beverages.

Avoid greasy, fried, or rich foods.

Limit caffeinated beverages.

Be cautious with RAW vegetables.

Consider BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, tea, & toast.

Consume small, frequent meals.

Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Note that large amounts of vitamin C or magnesium may lead to diarrhea.

Probiotics – Healthy bacteria that facilitate digestion & absorption of nutrients.

Can be taken as a powder or capsule.

Effective amount depends on strain used as well as concentration of viable organisms.

Potential concern during chemo if blood counts very low.

Glutamine – Amino acid essential to the integrity of the gut.

Preferred use is with powder.

Start with 8-10gm/day, can ­ to 30-40gm/day.

Digestive enzymes

Most commonly used for pancreatic cancer patients.

Zinc - may not be absorbed efficiently as a result of diarrhea

Studies in third world countries have found supplementation with zinc to reduce, or prevent, infectious diarrhea in children.

Poor Appetite/Weight Loss

Eat small, frequent meals.

Consider eating by the clock rather than by your hunger mechanism.

Consume a variety of foods - include various colors, textures, and flavors.

Carry food with you at all times to enjoy while waiting in line, while traveling, waiting for appointments, etc.

Keep snack foods in the refrigerator in Ziploc bags so that they are readily available.

Prepare several portions of your favorite foods & freeze them for future use.

Request help in preparing your meals.

Choose high-calorie, high-protein (BUT healthy) foods.

Include omega-3 fatty acids & whey protein.

Healthy High-Calorie, High-Protein Ideas

High Calorie, High Protein Ideas

Fruit smoothies

Combine any of the following:


Milk, soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, rice milk, or juice

Yogurt or tofu

Protein powder (i.e., whey, hemp, brown rice, soy)

Peanut butter or other nut butters

Protein powder

Add to:


Mashed potatoes & yams

Dry mixes (for example: muffin mix, breads)

Hot cereals




Gravies and sauces

Energy bars

Eggs (limit egg yolks)

High Calorie, High Healthy Fat Ideas


Nuts & seeds

Peanut butter or other nut butters


Cold-water fish (for example: salmon, herring, sardines, trout)


Coconut milk

Items made with olive or canola oil

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Help reduce or prevent cachexia, known as muscle wasting.

Also enhance immune system & may inhibit tumor cell growth.

EPA may enhance the effectiveness of chemo drugs.

Dietary sources include cold-water fish, flaxseed, walnuts, & soybeans.

Aim for 2gm EPA/day for weight loss.

Chewing or Swallowing Difficulties

Eat small, frequent meals to ensure sufficient calories.

Cut foods into bite-sized pieces or grind them so that less chewing is required.

Choose soft foods, such as mashed sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, applesauce, tofu, fish, ground lean turkey, etc.

Consider a blender to puree foods or make smoothies.

Oral Mucositis

Defined as inflammation & ulceration of the moist tissue that lines the mouth.

May be helped by:


Papaya juice or pineapple juice

Glutamine rinse


PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

Jennie, you can go to this post and under EDIT choose DELETE POST so you won't have a duplicate one

idlehunters's picture
Posts: 1792
Joined: Apr 2009

What would I do without you!!!!!!!


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