Oftentimes, the effects of chemotherapy or radiation cause our taste buds to shun the flavors we once savored.
This can be difficult as our bodies want to eat, and even more so need to eat, in order to sustain and encourage healing. The goal is to find foods that not only spark some interest back into those taste buds, but also decrease symptoms and promote optimal health.
The most common appetite related side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, constipation, diarrhea, mouth sores, dry mouth and weight loss. With your gut and intestinal tract being under strain, it’s important to select foods that don’t further agitate.
“Stay as far away from any processed foods as possible,” said Registered Dietician Sarah Bingham, founder and executive director of Fast Food Healing, LLC, in Tampa, Florida.
“Because they create an acidic condition in your body making everything worse. Many of these foods contain sugars, which we’ve been lead to believe are comfort foods. They are in fact the opposite. Sugar suppresses the immune system by 50 percent for five hours after you eat it.”
When waves of nausea overcome you try nibbling on subtle snacks like rice, dry toast, dry cereal, pretzels, plain popcorn, bananas or apples. Consider choosing a diet full of organic vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, bone broth and miso soup.
“Aloe Vera juice is another soothing drink,” said Bingham. “Given that the gut is being burnt out in some respects by radiation or chemo. ”
Instead, Bingham encourages choosing a diet full of organic vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, bone broth and miso soup. All of these selections are great comfort foods because they are packed with probiotics and very soothing to the gut.
As well as processed sugars, it’s also wise to avoid fats, salt, smoked or pickled products.
Focusing on a more bland diet settles the stomach. When waves of nausea overcome you try nibbling on subtle snacks like rice, dry toast, dry cereal, pretzels, plain popcorn, bananas or apples.
Hydration is important as dry mouth and vomiting can leave you fatigued and dehydrated. Alongside plenty of water, tea is wonderful option. Caffeine-free chamomile, ginger and peppermint teas are soothing both to your tummy and your senses. Even sucking on ginger candy or peppermints can have the same effects.
“Aloe Vera juice is another soothing drink,” said Bingham. “Given that the gut is being burnt out in some respects by radiation or chemo. If you know what aloe feels like on a burn on your skin, it has the same cooling and calming effects on the inside.”
If you experience consistent dry mouth or sores some soft foods to consider are custards, puddings, porridge, soups and even low or no sugar popsicles.
The overall goal is to make your diet related symptoms as minor as possible, Bingham has found a unique solution.
“One thing I recommend for [patients going through] chemo is to take a solution of bentonite clay,” said Bingham. “It’s clay in a liquid form. You take an ounce before each meal. You want chemo to work, but it causes a lot of grief in the gut. The clay though absorbs toxins and pulls them out. Taking clay has helped a lot of patients get through chemo with very few side effects.”
Another piece of advice for comfort? You shouldn’t feel that you need to eat three large meals a day, instead opt for smaller meals or consistent snacks throughout.
These comfort foods are meant to heal you and assist in decreasing the symptoms of radiation and chemo, but if the day comes along that you feel well and have a hankering for your actual favorite comfort food, don’t deny yourself that joy.