Getting proper nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge for cancer patients. Here we list several tips and recipes that we have found helpful in maintaining weight and good nutrition, but the most important rule is, "If they can keep it down, let them eat it." Just be sure to ask your spouse's doctor if he or she has any particular dietary restrictions (no raw veggies due to low white cells, must have low amounts of a particular nutrient, etc.).
Chemotherapy will affect your spouse's sense of taste. Things will not taste right, which will not help his/her motivation to eat. Even foods that were favorites can taste different during chemo and could end up having bad associations for your spouse following treatment.
How to deal
In addition to the drugs mentioned in the digestive section of the site, there are some practical measures you can try to help alleviate your spouse's nausea and help him or her eat. Alternative nausea treatments include:
Food and diet tips
Diet and food intake can aid in managing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Too much food in the stomach can promote vomiting. But an empty stomach can also cause nausea and dry heaves. Bland crackers are handy for keeping a small amount of food to "settle" the stomach.
Avoid spicy and greasy foods, as well as rich foods, like whole milk and ice cream, if they seem to make the nausea worse.
If you notice that one class of foods, such as sweet foods, makes your spouse particularly ill, mention it to the doctor - there could be other medical factors causing the problem.
It makes sense to listen when your spouse is craving something in particular, since he/she may need the nutrients in that particular food. YCS board member Karen's husband Mark would sometimes wake her up in the morning wanting to know if they could have beef for dinner! They figured out pretty quickly that when he was insistent like that, his body was often fighting to make red blood cells.
Let your spouse eat whatever sounds good and will stay down, with the above exceptions.
Be inventive. A friend of YCS concocted this 1200+ calorie shake for her husband:
Note: A naturopath the couple consulted with recommended adding whey protein powder to beverages or food to help with weight gain.ÚYou can get it at the health-food store.
There's no accounting for taste: our inventive friend¡s husband ended up finding Little Debbie nutty bars more to his liking, as well as Hot Pockets, Uncrustables and lots of pasta to deal with weight loss and nausea.
One friend of YCS warns that her doctor cautioned her husband against antioxidants for chemo patients. As their action is to rid the body of poisons, antioxidants may prevent chemo from being as effective.
Let your spouse eat whatever sounds good and will stay down, with the above exceptions. There°s no accounting for taste: one YCS member°s husband ended up finding Little Debbie nutty bars more to his liking, as well as Hot Pockets and Uncrustables. He also ate plenty of pasta to help deal with weight loss and nausea.
A high-calorie smoothie can be an effective way to help your spouse get the energy and nutrients they need. You can make them yourself, with or without the weight-gain powder available at health-food stores. Or simply buy them from Jamba Juice or another local smoothie place.
YCS board member Matt suggests pre-made protein shakes like Boost Plus for a high-calorie content and 10mEq of potassium. If vomiting is a problem, set small goals of one 8 oz shake per day. Don°t try to consume the whole thing in one sitting or even take large swallows.
And don°t be afraid to be inventive! A friend of YCS concocted this 1200+ calorie shake for her husband:
Note: A naturopath the couple consulted with recommended adding whey protein powder to beverages or food to help with weight gain. You can get it at the health-food store.
At one time, Karen°s husband Mark had both severe mouth sores and nausea. It was often very difficult to get him to eat anything at all, especially since he didn°t like soups, or anything ¿squishyî like oatmeal or pudding. He would eat small snack-sized containers of Ramen noodles, since he could more or less swallow the noodles whole. She would also make him what she called confetti risotto: a basic baked risotto, very mild, with finely-chopped-up bell peppers for some nutritional content. He could handle eating that when other things were totally unpalatable or too painful to eat.
Karen would also carry homemade food into the hospital for Mark; otherwise, he would sometimes refuse to eat. She would freeze food in small, single-serving containers, and defrost them whenever he was hungry. She would also bake pound cakes and banana breads, slice them thinly and freeze them between strips of wax paper or tin foil. They would thaw pretty quickly for an easy snack, plain or with toppings.