Chemotherapy

Eating and drinking your way through chemo

Posted by Sara Liyanage on 02 October 2017

We are not nutritionists, dieticians or experts on what to eat during your chemotherapy treatment, but here are our tips on eating and drinking throughout chemotherapy, from our experience of going through it:

1. Eating a healthy diet for basic good health

Eating a healthy diet for good health is clearly something that we should all be doing anyway, but it is particularly important while going through breast cancer treatment so that you maintain good energy levels, help boost your immunity and for general well being. We won’t harp on about what is a healthy diet (we’ll leave that to the nutritionists and dieticians) but we can direct you to some helpful info online via these excellent website pages on nutrition and cancer:

Breast Cancer Now

Penny Brohn

Macmillan

2. Eating and drinking do’s and don’ts during chemotherapy

· Eat a healthy diet.
· Wash fruit and vegetables carefully to avoid food poisoning.
· Avoid takeaways to avoid food poisoning.
· Avoid un-pasteurised dairy products to avoid food poisoning.
· Drink a lot of water. Sara was advised to drink 2 litres in the 24 hours following her chemo session and plenty of water throughout the course of chemo. She put a two litre jug of water in the fridge so she could track her fluid intake every day.
· Alcohol? The advice that Sara was given is that it is ok to have the occasional small drink, but always check with your oncologist or nurses at the start of your chemotherapy regime because the advice may depend upon which drugs you are being given.
· Check with your oncologist before taking any dietary supplements, even if you were taking them pre-BC.

DO NOT DRINK GRAPEFRUIT JUICE – we’ve have recently been told that grapefruit juice can interfere with some chemo drugs so it is best to avoid it – but check with your medical team.

3. Eating to help with the nausea from the chemo

· Eat little and often.
· Try ginger things like ginger tea, ginger biscuits or stem ginger.
· Don’t eat your favourite things during this period because you could go off them.
· Peppermint tea or mint sweets can help with the nausea (it was extra strong mints for Sara).
· It is often a case of trying and seeing what works for you in keeping the nausea at bay – go with what your tummy tells you.
· Try snacking on dry, plain food like plain crackers, water biscuits, dry toast.
· Boiled sweets can help with the nausea.
· Drink plenty of water.
· Helpful info online about this can be found on the Macmillan website.

4. Eating to help with a change in tastes and a furry, sore or metallic mouth

· Cut up a fresh pineapple and freeze the chunks in freezer bag – these are great to suck on when you have a horrible feeling in your mouth after chemo.
· Make fresh orange juice ice lollies using plastic or silicone lolly molds (available at supermarkets and on Amazon) – Sara made her way through loads of these during chemo.
· Use plastic or bamboo knives and forks if metal ones emphasis the metallic taste in your mouth.
· Avoid spicy food such as curry and chillies which might exacerbate any soreness in the mouth.
· Avoid hard textured foods like French bread.
· If you don’t fancy, or can’t eat solids, then have soups, smoothies, stews and juices.
· Ice cream or sorbet can be soothing for a sore mouth.
· Drink plenty of fluids – if water tastes horrid the try adding fresh fruit, a little squash or herbal teas.
· Helpful info online can be found on the Macmillan website.

SARA’S SNACKING LIST

(in case you are looking for inspiration)

· Apple cut into small slices
· Orange cut into small slices
· Fresh melon cut into small pieces
· Banana cut into small pieces
· Strawberries (actually all types of berries)
· Celery cut into bite size chunks and filled with either cream cheese or peanut butter
· Savoury crackers (water biscuits, marmite biscuits, cream crackers) with cheddar cheese
· Home made fresh orange juice ice lollies
· Fresh pineapple (cut into chunks and frozen)
· Biscuits: ginger biscuits and plain digestives
· Small slices of nice bread with butter and cheddar cheese
· Toasted sandwiches

Helpful resources and information

The Breast Cancer Now booklet on diet can be downloaded or ordered here. 

Nourish by Jane Clarke – a beautiful website from Jane Clarke (and her team) on eating during illness. It provides helpful advice about your diet during cancer, nutrition advice and also lots and lots of delicious looking recipes. We’ve tried the frozen blackberry and raspberry yogurt – you’ll find the recipe here. For some advice from Jane specifically about eating during chemo, see the Q&A that we did with Jane on this topic.

The World Cancer Research Fund have lots of booklets, recipes and posters that you can download from their site. Check out their “Eat Well During Cancer” section of the website and their “Recipes” section of the website.

The Royal Marsden Breast Cancer Cookbook – this book is full of easy, delicious recipes and lots of helpful information about eating a healthy diet during breast cancer treatment. Breast Cancer Now have published three of their favourite recipes if you’d like to try them out.

The Life Kitchen, Ryan Rylie – a great book of recipes specifically aimed at people going through chemo whose tastes have changed. We tried the Cauliflower Korma – see here for the recipe. Ryan also hosts cooking classes for those going through chemo – more information is available on his website.

Note: Sara’s number 1 tip for someone about to embark upon chemotherapy or already undergoing it is to get a copy of “Braving Chemo: What to Expect, How to Prepare and How to Get Through It” by Beverly A. Zavaleta MD (available from Amazon and other book stores). For my full review of this book see Breast Cancer Book Reviews.

The information and content provided on this page is intended for information and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice.

Reviewed August 2021

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Claire diagnosed in 2016
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