Chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and other cancer treatments are often accompanied by side effects that make it difficult to function. 


Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, hair loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, and susceptibility to infections, bruising, and bleeding. Similarly, radiation therapy can cause effects such as fatigue, nausea, headaches, and blurred vision. Immunotherapy, designed to stimulate your body’s immune system to fight disease, can lead to fatigue, nausea, bowel problems (constipation and diarrhea), and skin problems, among other things.


These effects can be disheartening and unpleasant in themselves on top of the discomfort, infirmities, or pain you may be suffering from the cancer itself. Under these circumstances, you must pay particular attention to your diet. Even if you lack an appetite, it is critical that you keep eating to bolster your health and fortify your body to cope with the challenges it is undergoing. Even more, your food choices can either intensify these side effects or reduce them. The food you consume can also affect the speed of your recovery. For these reasons, Beacon Clinic offers nutritional counseling to our cancer patients.


How Certain Foods Can Affect You During Cancer Treatment


Certain foods and drinks are more nutrient-dense and less irritating for the body. Raw fruits and vegetables have been shown to strengthen the immune system. Nutritional counseling will educate you on how certain foods will affect you during cancer. We can help you develop a diet that addresses your dietary needs based on the type of treatment you are undergoing and your overall physical health. We can discuss things to watch out for and different strategies that may enable you to address the various side effects that you may experience. 


As a general rule, dietitians will recommend getting a good balance of protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrates for all cancers. The plant-based proteins found in beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds offer high levels of vitamins and minerals, so they are almost always great choices. Regarding meat, chicken and wild-caught fish are your best choices. Healthy fats can be found in avocados, walnuts, grapeseed oil, and olive oil. For carbohydrates, stay away from processed foods and lean toward carbohydrates like bran, oats, and whole wheat.


When you have cancer, you want to stay away from any foods that can cause inflammation. Many of these inflammation-causing ingredients are found in heavily processed food, so avoid processed meats, fried foods, and almost all snack foods like chips, cookies, cakes, and mass-market cereals. 


Another thing to watch out for is foods that are highly likely to contain pathogens that can cause food poisoning. This means steering clear of raw or undercooked meat, fish, and eggs, unwashed fruits or vegetables, and unpasteurized dairy products.


Hydration is always important for health and is especially important during cancer treatment. Adequate hydration keeps your body functioning and helps flush waste and toxins. Water is always the best choice because it does not irritate your stomach. However, beverages like milk and fresh orange juice are also beneficial, as they provide vital nutrients like Vitamins D and C. Again, stay away from processed drinks like sodas, especially those with high amounts of caffeine.


While it won’t hurt to have an occasional glass of wine or a can of beer, avoid excessive amounts. In general, check with your doctor to make sure it is okay to consume alcohol and avoid heavy alcohol consumption. Also, talk to your doctor about caffeine consumption if you are a heavy coffee drinker. Tea, however, has been shown to have potentially beneficial effects on those fighting cancer.


In addition to nutritious foods, you may have to supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D and calcium. Not only do many cancer treatments deplete your body, but you may have difficulty obtaining essential nutrients if your appetite is low, your treatments make it difficult to keep food down, or you are consuming less food. 


Find Nutritional Support at Beacon Clinic


As you undergo treatment, remember that your body works hard to make you healthy. To do this, you need to give your body the necessary nutrients. Even if you were conscientious about your dietary choices before cancer, recognize that your diet may change significantly as you undergo cancer treatment. While the guidelines above are generally helpful, remember that each patient’s cancer is unique, and each patient responds differently to treatments. When you work with a nutritional counselor at Beacon Clinic, your counselor will focus on your particular needs in developing recommendations.


If you have been diagnosed with cancer or have embarked on cancer treatments and would like to work with a cancer center that provides nutritional counseling and other cancer support services, please contact Beacon Clinic to schedule an appointment today. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of offering comprehensive cancer care services to patients in North Idaho. Beacon Clinic will help guide you through your cancer journey.