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‘No I mustn’t … I’m on a diet … I’m trying to be healthy … I’m having a
Yep, we’ve all said it. And most of us probably haven’t exactly
succeeded. But if you’ve been affected by cancer, you could be even more
worried about what you eat. Here’s a medley of diet facts and tips from our
cancer information team – although before making any changes to your diet, you
should talk to your dietitian, cancer
specialist or GP.
Got milk? Eating healthily
Ask for a dietitian
If you have any
problems with your diet, ask your doctor at the hospital to refer you to a
dietitian, or if you’re not in hospital, ask your GP. Qualified dietitians are
experts in assessing your food needs and any specialist requirements.
Make changes to your diet gradually
At your own pace and budget, you could set yourself small, realistic
goals. For example, if you’ve never had fruit with breakfast; try adding some, or
have a glass of fruit juice. For snacks, you could try swapping chocolate with
a small portion of dried fruit and nuts.
A healthy view on food
Food doesn’t just keep
our bodies going. It’s often a social thing. Everyone enjoys having a treat or
a meal out with friends. You could just try having a smaller portion than normal.
And remember, if you’re eating well most of the time, allow yourself less
healthy foods occasionally!
There are lots more tips
on healthy eating in our booklet Healthy
eating and cancer.
Specific eating problems
after treatment for cancer, many people experience eating problems. It could be
related to the cancer itself, or the side effects of treatment.
treatments may cause damage to the cells lining the mouth or throat, which can
be painful. Try drinking plenty of fluids, having cold foods and drinks,
sucking on ice, and avoiding rough-textured, salty or spicy foods. Tell your
doctor too – they can prescribe mouthwashes and soothing or antiseptic lotions
or sprays for you.
Frequent drinks or sips can help keep your mouth moist. You may find
fizzy drinks the most refreshing. Keep your food moist with sauces and gravies,
and avoid chocolate and pastry, which stick to the roof of your mouth. Remember
to tell your doctor about your dry mouth – they can prescribe mouthwashes,
lozenges, artificial saliva sprays or gels, which could help.
Too tired to cook or eat
If you know in advance when you’re likely to
feel tired, for example after radiotherapy treatment, try to plan ahead. Prepare
food while you’re feeling okay and freeze it for when you’re tired. Or stock up
on convenience foods. This is also a good opportunity to let family and friends
help by doing some shopping or cooking. If you really can’t face eating, try a
nourishing drink like a smoothie.
Our booklet Eating
problems and cancer includes tips for dealing with lots of other eating
problems, including taste changes, difficulty chewing or swallowing, bowel
problems and appetite changes.
If you’re losing weight
During and after cancer
treatment, many people find it difficult to eat enough to maintain their weight.
Here are some ways you can boost your energy and protein if you’re really
struggling to keep your weight up:
If you have low immunity
Make sure that eggs are
well-cooked, and use shop-bought, not home-made mayonnaise. Avoid paté, raw
eggs, live bacterial yoghurt and cheeses made from unpasteurised milk (Brie and
blue cheeses) as they may contain harmful bacteria. If you’re on high-dose
chemotherapy, your healthcare team may suggest that you avoid other foods – ask
them for advice.
Do anti-cancer diets work?
There has been a lot of
publicity about alternative diets for treating cancer over the past few years.
Many dramatic claims for cures have been made. It’s understandable that people
may be attracted to diets that seem to offer the hope of a cure. However, there
isn’t good evidence that these diets can make a cancer shrink, increase a
person’s chance of survival, or cure the disease. Most doctors and specialist
nurses recommend a well-balanced and enjoyable diet.
As I type, my team are finishing our updated booklet Recipes for people affected by cancer.
It’s crammed full of delicious recipes designed with people with cancer in
mind. Many of them have been chosen because they’re simple and quick to
prepare, or because we hope they’ll be appetising when you don’t really feel
like eating. It should be available to order from Be.mac
by the end of September.
We hope you found this
blog helpful. And don’t forget – you can also see all our information about
diet and cancer on the eating
well section of our website.
This is the last post the cancer information team will be writing on
the Community News Blog. We’ll now be posting on Macmillan’s
cancer information blog – so please subscribe to us there!
If you have any questions about our organisation our Macmillan team would love to hear from you
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2010
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