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Breast Cancer General Information

Chemotherapy and Food

K, I am a cancer patient and I am on Chemotherapy. Cancer cells are basically my own body cells that have been altered to reproduce too rapidly, threatening tissues that surround them, such as my organs. Chemo destroys those defective body cells (cancerous cells) but in the process kills some good cells... cells that naturally duplicate themselves rapidly. These include my hair, reproductive cells and the cells that line my stomach to protect it from the hydrochloric acid that I have for digestion. When I lose those cells, my acid harms my stomach walls, causing nausea. I have to be sure to listen to my Oncologist regarding the use of anti-nausea medications. I must eat good food for the healing and replacing of my good body cells that were destroyed by the Chemo.

Sadly, I am not interested in eating any more. For most people, eating food is a pleasurable experience, and sometimes eating becomes too pleasurable and we eat more than we can really use. But right now, I am not interested enough to help my body get better and stronger. I need good nutrition to keep up my energy to fight the good fight. I have found that Chemo has changed my taste buds, and food is no longer as appealing as it was, and eating has become more of a 'chore'. These are some thoughts about helping me to eat the food that I should eat.

Eating meals needs to be made more appealing and more pleasurable. It needs to be a more positive experience to offset the negatives I am experiencing. These are a few tricks that my family and I can try that might make it easier for me to eat my food:

Eat small amounts of food

A small amount of a food may be tolerated more than facing the task of moving a larger amount from the plate to my body. We can usually tolerate 'negatives' in smaller doses.

Eat on a planned schedule

Schedules tend to remind us that we need to do something. The important thing is that I eat, and sometimes I need to be reminded because I will likely not be hungry.

Sucking on a slice of lemon or mint

Because our taste buds make eating good-tasting food a pleasurable experience, consuming these might tend to awaken my taste buds just a little.

Eat a large breakfast

I am usually more hungry in the morning after sleeping. I am more likely to get more down.

Avoid the aroma of cooking

Sometimes smelling food cook can really turn my stomach, so I might leave the house while it is cooking, or we will go out to eat, or others may cook foods and bring them over, already prepared.

Make the dining experience pleasant

If it is fun or interesting to come to the table, I may be able to get past the fact that the food does not taste good to me.

Create diversions at the table

If I read the paper, watch TV, or have a friend to talk to, I don't think about the food that I am consuming.

Use plastic utensils

Sometimes everything seems to have a metallic taste, so I try to avoid contact between metal and my mouth.

Avoid red meat if bitter

I can get protein from many sources, but if I usually count on meat products to provide protein but beef tastes bitter I eat more chicken or fish.

Choose foods you did not like in the past

I have found that foods I never did like before are now OK to eat. Sometimes people never again like their favorites after chemo is over.


Informative Sources:

  • "CURE", Winter 2012, "Food For Thought" by J. Erdmann, p. 30
  • Facilitators and members of Living Beyond Limits Cancer Support Group, Pleasanton, CA. (925 .846.8594)