Diet During Chemotherapy

I always thought I had fairly healthy eating habits. However, when I went for my first chemotherapy treatment, I met with a Nutritionist who went over what I should have in my diet during treatment and then beyond. One of the first things I was told was to maintain my current weight. Chemotherapy drugs are given to you based on your body weight and if your weight fluctuates during the course of the treatment, then it can change the effects of the medicine. So if you were thinking of going on a diet to lose weight, you’ll have to put that on hold until after your treatment is completed. You may even be surprised that you may gain weight because of the foods you eat due to the change in your taste buds. More about that later.

Next, we discussed me eating foods that had a high source of Iron, protein and calcium as well as eating lots of fruits and vegetables. See index for list of foods high in Iron and calcium. Keep in mind that while we had this conversation prior to starting the chemo, all the suggestions I received about what foods to eat was put on the back burner because one of the side effects of the chemo is that it alters your taste buds considerably. So, just know what you should eat may not be what you actually end up eating because your food just doesn’t taste “normal”.

Be sure to make a list of your favorite foods and try not to eat them during your treatment because you will be disappointed in the taste. So what does your food taste like after you’ve had a treatment? My mouth had a metal taste in it and all my food tasted like someone sprinkled sawdust all over my plate. My tongue also felt like it grew slightly in size. Don’t be surprised if you favorite foods become peanut butter and jelly or other foods that have a strong taste to them. Peanut butter and jelly was a comfort food for me and it actually tasted like PB&J. Another food that actually broke through my taste buds was salmon teriyaki, I guess because the teriyaki sauce can be a bit strong. Foods that had a strong taste were best because there was a better chance that they would actually taste good.

Your diet during chemotherapy will fluctuate and that’s ok. It’s best to eat although at times, you may not have an appetite. The most important thing is to eat what will taste good to you and know that once your treatment is over, your taste buds will return to normal.

It’s also important to keep you body hydrated during treatment, especially for the first 24-48 hours after a treatment. Fluids will help to flush your system. I found seltzer or sparkling water to be quite tasty. I would add it to my cranberry juice or lemonade. The bubbles from the seltzer and sparkling water actually felt good in my mouth and helped to spruce up my drink. Now for those of you who drink alcohol, you’ll find that your intake of it will be extremely limited if not eliminated altogether.

When I met with my Nutritionist, she also asked me about my alcohol intake. I am a wine drinker (at least I was before this whole experience), so when she asked me how much I drink, I said about 1-2 glasses of white wine (with ice) per night. Well, I was told that-that was too much and to cut that back to 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer 3-4 times per week. Now, I have to tell you that I really enjoyed my end of the day drink, so this news wasn’t good as far as I was concerned. After I got over my shock of reducing my alcohol intake, I understood that alcohol actually plays a role in breast cancer recurrence (not to mention it’s full of calories) and since I don’t particularly care to see cancer again, I did what I was told.

So, for those of you who may experience the shock that I did, I will tell you that it was rather easy to significantly reduce my alcohol intake during treatment and now beyond. Reducing my intake during treatment was easy. First of all, my taste buds were off, so I had no desire for it and when I did taste it, it just didn’t taste right. Second, it just didn’t feel right putting that into my system when my body was in the process of being flushed with toxic drugs to remove any stray cell that wasn’t removed during surgery.