While every patient experience is different, there are four common side effects of chemotherapy – dehydration, pain, fatigue, and changes in appetite. Below are specific strategies to help you cope with dehydration and appetite changes while you’re undergoing chemotherapy.
Staying hydrated is critical. Maintaining adequate hydration will help prevent nausea, constipation, and diarrhea, in addition to providing relief for a sore, dry mouth. Finally, fluids can add nutrients, especially if you can’t keep down solid foods.
Strategies to staying hydrated:
- Try sipping small amounts of room temperature or slightly warm water frequently. Set a timer and sip on the hour or half hour. Fluid recommendations vary — one recommendation is to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces. (For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you would try to consume 75 oz of non-caffeinated fluid daily). However, the best indicator of hydration is very pale, odorless urine. If you don’t drink enough fluid currently, take it slow – too much at one time may increase nausea.
- Although warm water is less likely to cause stomach upset, if sips of water are hard to tolerate, try sucking ice chips every few minutes, throughout the day. One ten-ounce cup of ice chips is about six fluid ounces, so try to eat at least ten ten-ounce cups of ice chips.
- Add fresh lemon, lime, ginger, peppermint leaves, cucumber, or a splash of juice to your water, not only to make it more palatable, but also to relieve nausea. You can make a ginger tea by adding hot water to a cup with a quarter-sized slice of peeled ginger root. Let it steep for several minutes, remove the ginger and cool to warm. If you do not have access to fresh ginger root, there are organic ginger teas available in most supermarkets.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and carbonated sodas. These liquids may dehydrate the body.
- Make a Magic Mineral Broth from the cookbook, The Cancer Fighting Kitchen. This broth is a nutrient dense broth/soup that will hydrate and add valuable minerals to your body, (see the recipe at the end of this article). If you’re too tired to do almost anything, ask your companion or a friend to help out and make a large batch so you’ll have it on hand.
When going through chemo, food may not taste the same. Many patients say that everything tastes metallic or too salty. You’re likely to experience nausea, indigestion or heartburn, which makes eating almost impossible. The result is weight loss, and some people become malnourished, which can affect your ability to heal. You may crave empty calories, leading to weight gain. Obesity in breast cancer patients is linked to recurrence! Maintaining a nutrient rich diet and an optimal weight are keys to survival.
- For altered taste, try using a saltwater rinse prior to eating. Try using bamboo or plastic forks and spoons. Use sea salt, not regular table salt. Sea salt contains 80 minerals essential to the body.
- Citrus (lime and lemon) stimulate the taste buds, but do not use citrus if you have mouth sores.
- Add tart foods to your diet (anything that makes your mouth pucker) to improve saliva flow and stimulate a different taste sensation. If foods taste too sweet or salty try adding drops of lemon juice until the food tastes better.
- If foods tastes bitter or metallic, eat plant-based proteins and add sweeteners like real maple syrup, honey or dried fruit. For example, add dried cherries to cooked quinoa or try some cooked oatmeal with a tablespoon of maple syrup.
- Chemo does not affect the bitter taste buds as much as the other taste sensations so try incorporating healthy bitter vegetables like kale, cabbage and other greens to see if they appeal to you.
- See an acupuncturist. Acupuncture helps promote saliva production which improves the function of taste buds to improve taste.
Nausea or indigestion
- Eat small meals, every 1-2 hours rather than three large meals per day.
- Cut out greasy, high fat or fried foods. Opt for nutrient-dense soups and broths. (Again, see the Magic Mineral Broth recipe at the end of this article.)
- Some alternative therapies may also help control nausea and vomiting, especially in addition to anti-nausea drugs. These therapies include acupuncture, acupressure and guided imagery.
- Use the methods discussed under staying hydrated listed above.
- Stay active as much as possible. Exercise will help to stimulate your appetite, and help control the craving for empty calories and help control nausea.
- When we don’t sleep or eat well, we crave empty calories. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep per night and eat regularly throughout the day. Support your health with nutrient dense foods and limit empty calories.
- Some studies are showing that certain vegetables, spices and herbs have the ability to block cancer’s ability to send out signals by which it builds a blood supply for energy and food it needs to grow. According to Dr. Li of the Angiogenesis Foundation, these include green tea, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, oranges, lemons, apples, cherries, red grapes, bok choy, kale, Asian mushrooms (particularly, maitake mushrooms), licorice, turmeric, nutmeg, artichokes, pumpkin, parsley, garlic, tomato, olive oil, grape seed oil, dark chocolate, and pomegranate.*
- Try to choose organic foods, especially important for meals. Your body is already dealing with toxins from treatment so clean foods provide less toxicity and usually a fresher and more concentrated taste. Try the Environmental Working Group’s (ewg.org) Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists to help guide you when it comes to produce shopping.
- Keep a variety of healthful foods on hand so that you can choose what appeals to you. If the empty calories aren’t sitting around the house, you’ll choose the healthier available snack. Try to incorporate the list of foods above into your daily dietary intake. You will feel so much better emotionally and physically after eating healthful foods that you will begin to love them and crave them.
MAGIC MINERAL BROTH The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz
MAKES 6 QUARTS
- 6 unpeeled carrots, cut into thirds
- 2 unpeeled yellow onions, cut into chunks
- 1 leek, white and green parts, cut into thirds
- 1 bunch celery, including the heart, cut into thirds
- 4 unpeeled red potatoes, quartered
- 2 unpeeled Japanese or regular sweet potatoes, quartered
- 1 unpeeled garnet yam, quartered
- 5 unpeeled cloves garlic, halved
- ½ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 8-inch strip kombu
- 12 black peppercorns
- 4 whole allspice or juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Rinse all of the vegetables well, including the kombu. In a 12-quart or larger stockpot, combine the carrots, onions, leek, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, garlic, parsley, kombu, peppercorns, allspice berries, and bay leaves. Fill the pot with the water to 2 inches below the rim, cover and bring to a boil.
- Remove the lid, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for at least 2 hours. As the broth simmers, some of the water will evaporate; add more if the vegetables begin to peek out. Simmer until the full richness of the vegetables can be tasted.
- Strain the broth through a large, coarse-mesh sieve (remember to use a heat-resistant container underneath), then add salt to taste. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 to 4 Hours
Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days or in the freezer for 4 months.
Per Serving: Calories: 45; Total Fat: 0g (0g saturated, 0g monounsaturated); Carbohydrates: 11g; Protein: 1g; Fiber: 2g; Sodium: 140mg