Undergoing cancer treatment is tough on your body and can even change and limit your interest in food.

Valerie Butram, a registered dietitian and oncology education coordinator with Lee Health, says the sight, smell, and even taste of food can be difficult for patients going through chemotherapy or radiation. “That’s where sometimes patients can get really frustrated and say, oh it doesn’t make a difference I can’t taste it so I’m just going to skip it.”

But not eating is not an option. “You cannot skip that nourishment. Nourishment is very important,” said Butram.

She says finding snacks and meals that the patient enjoys during treatment are key, and often one of the biggest hurdles. “If a patient is just getting acclimated to treatment and all of a sudden they see now that as the chemo is exiting their body that they just don’t have that energy or that appetite, we normally recommend smaller more frequent meals is a good way to go,” said Butram.

She recommends whole foods with fiber or lean protein and avoiding snacks and processed meals. It’s also important to drink plenty of water in between meals and throughout the day. “They have to nourish and hydrate themselves. It helps your medication work more effectively. It flushes the chemo and treatment plan through you more effectively. And it really does make a difference with taste.”

A high protein diet is strongly encouraged for growth and replacement of cells during and after cancer treatment. “It’s important for them to be able to also understand that these recommendations should be used after your treatment plan to maintain your survivorship and reduce the chance for reoccurrence,” said Butram.

After treatment patients typically regain their normal taste for food.

View More Health Matters video segments at LeeHealth.org/Healthmatters/

Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health – Caring People. Inspiring Care.

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