Tips to manage nutrition-related problems because of cancer
Children living with cancer face numerous challenges to eat a balanced diet. These may be caused by the disease itself and/or the side effects of its treatment.
Some of the most common nutrition-related problems include:
n Loss of appetite
n Sore mouth and throat
n Nausea and vomiting
n Weight loss
MANAGING LOSS OF APPETITE
Poor appetite may lead to serious complications, such as weight loss in the form of body mass and muscle tissue.
Here are some suggestions that may help:
- Eat five to six small meals per day, including two to three snacks.
- Do not limit how much the child eats.
- Determine which time of day the child is the hungriest and provide larger portions of food at that time.
- Offer nutritious snacks that are high in calories and protein, for example, dried fruits, nuts, yogurt, cheeses, eggs and milkshakes.
- Keep favourite foods on hand for snacking.
- Increase the calories and protein in foods by adding sauces, gravy, butter, cheese or sour cream.
- Drink fluids between meals, rather than with meals, which may cause a feeling of being full too quickly.
The following advice may help to prevent and treat constipation:
- Drink plenty liquids, for example, water, fruit juice, soup.
- Increase fibre intake by eating more of the following:
- Fruits: such as raisins, prunes, and apples.
- Vegetables: such as, broccoli, carrot and celery.
- Wholegrain cereals, wholegrain breads and bran.
- Eat meals at the same time each day. This can help to make the bowel motions more regular.
- Increase physical activity, if possible.
The following tips are suggested:
- Eat small frequent meals and avoid the following foods:
- Dairy products
- spicy foods.
- Foods and beverages that contain caffeine.
- Orange or prune juice.
- Foods high in fibre and fat.
- Drink more clear liquids, such as water, coconut water, clear broth and ice pops.
- A diet of bananas, rice, apples, and toast may help mild diarrhoea.
- Probiotics, beneficial bacteria found in yogurt and dietary supplements may help restore normal digestion.
MANAGING SORE MOUTH AND THROAT
Sore mouth and throat can be very painful and can lead to dehydration, poor eating, and weight loss.
The following tips may help to deal with mouth sores:
- Offer foods that require little or no chewing.
- Eat chilled foods and fluids (such as popsicle, ice chips, frozen yogurt, or ice cream).
- Prepare soft, moist foods that are easy to swallow.
- Eat small, frequent meals of bland, moist, non-spicy foods.
- Avoid raw vegetables and fruits, and other hard, dry, or crusty foods, such as chips.
- Avoid salty, spicy, or sugary foods.
- Avoid acidic fruits and juices, such as tomato, orange, grapefruit, lime and lemon.
- Avoid fizzy drinks.
MANAGING NAUSEA AND VOMITING
The following tips may help to control nausea and vomiting:
- Eat foods that are bland, soft, and easy to digest, rather than heavy or spicy meals.
- Eat small meals several times a day.
- Eat dry foods such as crackers, bread sticks, or toast throughout the day.
- Slowly sip fluids throughout the day.
- Suck on hard candies such as peppermints if the mouth has a bad taste.
Some tips to avoid or treat dehydration are:
- Drink fluids. Sometimes iced fluids are easier.
- Eat moist foods such as fruits, vegetables, soups, gelatins, and popsicles.
- Suck ice chips to relieve dry mouth if you can't drink enough liquid.
- Try to get rid of the cause of dehydration, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, or fever.
WEIGHT LOSS AND CANCER
These tips may assist in controlling weight loss:
- Consult with a registered dietitian for nutrition counselling.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Plan to eat six to eight times per day, including snacks in between meals.
- Eat calorie-rich, nutrient-dense foods and try not to consume foods or liquids with little nutritional value, such as soft drinks.
- Restrict or avoid any foods that may cause or worsen diarrhoea.
- Use nutritional supplement drinks, such as Pediasure and Carnation Essentials, as snacks or drink with medications that can be taken with food.
- Maintain adequate hydration.
- Incorporate light physical activity daily as it supports lean body mass, may enhance appetite, and may decrease fatigue:
- Aim for a total of 30 minutes per day of activity, such as walking.
- Break activity into small increments of five to 10 minutes, totalling 30 minutes per day
- Kayon Wolfe is a registered dietitian. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org