Nutrition and Cancer

Diet and active colon cancer treatment

May 31, 2023 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Meagan Atcheson expands on diet and active colon cancer treatment.

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When you are faced with a colorectal cancer diagnosis, nutrition can be an important part of your journey. Eating a well-balanced diet during and after cancer treatment can help you feel better, maintain strength, and speed your recovery.

Treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery for colorectal cancer can often contribute to unintentional weight loss. It’s important to avoid excess weight loss during treatment as poor nutrition status can decrease the body’s ability to fight infection.

Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day 

Eating frequent small meals will ensure your body is getting enough calories, protein, and nutrients to tolerate treatment. Smaller meals may also help to reduce treatment-related side effects such as nausea. Try eating five to six small meals or mini meals about every three hours.

Choose protein-rich foods

Protein helps the body to repair cells and tissues. It also helps your immune system recover from illness. Include a source of lean protein at all meals and snacks. Good sources of lean protein include:

  • Lean meats such as chicken, fish, or turkey
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese or dairy substitutes
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Beans
  • Soya foods

Include whole grains 

Whole grains provide a good source of carbohydrate and fibre, which help keep your energy levels up. Good sources of whole grains include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat breads
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain pastas

Note: You may be asked by your doctor to avoid whole grain and high-fibre foods if you have an ostomy or diarrhoea because these foods can increase output.

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day 

Fruits and vegetables offer the body antioxidants which can help fight against cancer. Choose a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables to get the greatest benefit. Aim to eat a minimum of five servings of whole fruits and vegetables daily.

Choose sources of healthy fat

Avoid fried, greasy, and fatty foods. Choose baked, boiled, or grilled foods instead. Healthy fats include:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Limit sweets and added sugars

Foods high in added sugars like desserts and sweets provide little nutritional benefit and often take the place of other foods that are better for you.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough fluids during cancer treatment is important for preventing dehydration. Avoid drinking large amounts of caffeinated beverages. Too much caffeine can lead to dehydration.

Be observant of changes in bowel habits

Colorectal cancer and treatments can often lead to changes in bowel habits including diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, and gas. It’s important for you to communicate with your healthcare team of any changes in your bowel habits. Changes in your diet or medications may be necessary to manage these side effects.

Practise good food safety

Wash your hands often while preparing food. Use different knives and cutting boards for raw meat and raw vegetables. Be sure to cook all foods to their proper temperature and refrigerate leftovers right away. 

Consult your healthcare team before taking any vitamins or supplements

Some medications and cancer treatments may interact with vitamins and supplements. Choose food first as the main source for nutrients.

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol may contribute to dehydration, can lower the abilities of your immune system, and provides no beneficial nutrients.

If treatment includes surgery, follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully. 

Allow time for your colon to heal by slowly transitioning back to a regular diet after surgery.  

Your journey is unique

Most importantly, know that your cancer journey is unique to you and your treatment. 

You may experience side effects that affect your ability to follow these suggestions. 

If you’re struggling with any side effects, such as loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, or any other nutrition concerns, your needs may be different. Keep updating your medical team and dietitian with your side effects.  

Meagan Atcheson is a registered dietitian with a focus in oncology. She is a plant centric foodie who promotes a nourishing approach to health and wellness using evidence-based research and guidelines only.

MEET THE EXPERT – Meagan Atcheson

Meagan Atcheson is a registered dietitian who focuses specifically in oncology. She is a plant-centric foodie who promotes a nourishing approach to health and wellness using evidence-based research and guidelines only.

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