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Question: How to maintain a healthy weight during cancer treatment?

When you are undergoing cancer treatment, it is especially important to work to keep your body strong and healthy, get adequate nutrition, and stay at your normal weight. Everyone responds to treatment differently and there are many symptoms that play a role in how your weight will be affected. Avoiding weight loss can be challenging due to the variety of symptoms you may have, but understanding them can be the first step in battling weight loss.

Eat nutrient-rich, calorie-dense foods. During treatment, your body requires more energy than usual. Eat foods that are higher in calories to help increase the amount of nutrition your body gets. Nutrient-rich foods contain plentiful amounts of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and lean protein. Examples of foods that are high in both calories and nutrients include avocados, beans, full fat Greek yogurt, nuts and nut butters, quinoa, salmon and oily fish, and sweet potatoes.

Eat smaller more frequent meals. If you find yourself becoming easily full, try eating five to six smaller meals throughout the day.

Eat when you’re hungry. Make sure to eat more when you have the best appetite. This may be in the morning hours after waking up.

Avoid fluids during meals. Fluids often fill you up quickly. Drink fluids in between meals to ensure you get adequate calories.

Managing Digestive Symptoms

Nausea

Strong flavors, odors, and warm temperatures can upset your stomach. Try soft, bland, and easy-to-digest foods to help your stomach settle. Consider the environment and avoid eating in a warmer room or areas with strong cooking odors.

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Dry Mouth

Lack of saliva production can make chewing and swallowing more difficult. Eating foods that are moist and soft can help combat dry mouth. Dehydration can make these symptoms worse, so remember to drink eight to ten cups of liquid each day.

Constipation

Constipation can cause a lot of discomfort. Increasing your intake of fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes may help. Eating at regular intervals may encourage better regularity.

Diarrhea

To replace fluids lost with diarrhea, drink at least 1 cup of liquid after each loose bowel movement. Drink and eat foods that provide sodium and potassium (such as broths, sports drinks, bananas, pretzels, etc.) Limit greasy, high-fat foods and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Limit high fiber foods (such as popcorn, beans, whole grains, cabbage) until diarrhea ends, then slowly reintroduce.

For more ways to manage symptoms during treatment, please call 805-219-4673 and make a reservation to join us for the Healthy Eating and Activity for Living (HEAL) Class or schedule a one-on-one consultation with Mission Hope’s Registered Dietitian, Colleen Seung.

HAVE A QUESTION? This weekly column produced by Marion Regional Medical Center Cancer Program invites you to submit your questions to “Your Cancer Answers” at the following email address: mariancncercare@dignityhealth.org

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