Surviving Chemotherapy: Diet And Nutrition Guide

Following a certain chemotherapy diet may help you to counteract side effects that appear during or after such a treatment. These adverse reactions include, but do not resume to:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Mucositis
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Difficult swallowing
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue

Besides that, you may also experience taste and smell changes, and even the texture of the food may seem different. Because of these facts, foods that you once loved may not seem so good anymore. 

Adjusting Your Diet During Chemotherapy

Since chemotherapy affects your immune system, one of your main concerns should be to include plenty of vitamins and antioxidants in your meal plan. Basically, the chemotherapy foods should include:

Clear liquids such as:

  • Fruit juice
  • Gelatin
  • Broth
  • Popsicles
  • Coffee
  • Fruit ice
  • Tea

Full liquids such as:

  • Milk
  • Plain yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Sherbet
  • Strained cream soups
  • Milkshakes
  • Hot cereal
  • Pudding

Soft diet foods such as:

  • Fruit juice
  • White potatoes

Low lactose foods such as:

  • Cheddar cheese
  • Acidophilus mil
  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Low lactose milk

Things to Consider

These groups are not addressed to all people who go through chemotherapy. Instead, they focus on certain symptoms that may appear while following this treatment. For example, clear liquids are recommended if you experience vomiting and diarrhea, or after surgery. Full liquids, on the other side, should be consumed after ingesting clear liquids for awhile. If you experience difficulties while swallowing and are unable to eat solid foods, then a diet based on full liquids may be adequate for you. 

While consuming soft diet foods, you need to stay away from:

  • Raw fruits
  • Raw vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Grains

This type of diet is particularly recommended to people who have extreme constipation or a relatively increased risk of bowel obstruction. Most focus is on foods that leave minimum residues in the gut. 

If some of your symptoms include gas, cramping, bloating or diarrhea, then you are recommended to consume low lactose foods, and you need to avoid foods made from milk, such as:

  • Pudding
  • Custard
  • Ice cream
  • Sherbet
  • Cream soups
  • Cream sauces
  • Milkshakes

Before starting any of these diets, you need to ask for medical advice either from a dietician or from a health care provider, in order to determine which one is best for your condition and symptoms. As you can see, some of the groups, such as the full liquids and the low lactose foods, include contradictory items. This is because they address different stages of the treatment, as well as different symptoms. 

Improving Chemotherapy Nutrition

Weight loss is a typical issue if you have chemotherapy sessions. In order to avoid this, you are advised to increase the calorie intake. Hence, you need to focus on chemotherapy foods that are high in calories. More than that, you will need more proteins than usual, in order to maintain the following within acceptable limits:

  • Energy levels
  • Strength
  • Immune system
  • Skin integrity

Chemotherapy patients display lack of strength and low energy levels quite often, not to mention that this particular type of treatment weakens the immune system considerably. Therefore, you need to make sure that the food you consume is healthy and that it complies with the chemotherapy symptoms that you experience.

Keep in mind that protein and calorie intake need to be increased before, during, and after chemotherapy, in order to minimize the complications and to improve the symptoms. If the food you typically consume does not supply enough proteins, then you can rely on dietary supplements. 


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Posts By Sequoia
  • Deborah Jardine-Simpson

    My husband has lymphoma and is just about to have his second chemotherapy session. He has lost massive amounts of weight, has low energy, mouth sores, constipation, and is a diabetic. He currently has a good appetite but often can’t eat after he is served a meal due to changes in taste. He loves fruits but being diabetic, he must limit them. Any diet suggestions?

  • Anj

    My husband is due his second chemo next week. I try to make sure that I only use the freshest and best quality foods. So far we have eaten a lot of soups and casseroles that are better on his gums. Good Luck on your journey

  • Todd Walker

    My Father is having chemo for lung cancer and the only info he can provide me on diet is that he is NOT to eat fresh fruits or vegetables especially not melon cantalope in particular. I understand the concern with reduced immune system and possible contamination, but now he only eats carbs.