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Managing Symptoms during Chemotherapy Treatment

  • Eating well during chemotherapy treatment can be a challenge. Chemotherapy can affect both appetite and flavor preference. Foods may start to taste strange or take on a metallic taste. In addition, there are many other symptoms that may affect your ability to keep yourself well-nourished. Fatigue, bowel changes (diarrhea or constipation), mouth sores and nausea are common.

    Finding nutritious foods that taste good while experiencing chemo-related side effects may present challenges. But don't despair. There are many ways to keep your body healthy and your immune system supported during treatment. Here are some of the most common symptoms and ways you can address them through your diet:

    • Taste changes: Try eating or seasoning foods with tart or sour flavors such as pomegranates, citrus fruits, apples, and ginger; also try using spices such as mint, oregano, and rosemary.
    • Fatigue: Try to eat a healthy protein food with every meal/snack, drink plenty of fluids, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Eat often throughout the day in small amounts. Try to get in some light physical activity.
    • Nausea: Drink lemon/ginger tea, avoid spicy/strong smelling foods, and eat small frequent meals.
    • Mouth sores: Eat soft foods, drink smoothies, and avoid spicy or acidic foods. Eat lukewarm soups and stews.
    • Constipation: Make sure you are getting adequate fluid and fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Drink warm liquids like herbal tea, and drink 100% prune juice.
    • Diarrhea: Eat small, frequent meals and snacks, separating liquids from solids. Make sure you are adequately hydrated with electrolyte-rich fluids like broth, coconut water, and healthy sports drinks. Avoid high fiber, high fat, and high sugar foods.

    Tip — Stay Hydrated with Fresh Juice

    Adequate hydration is especially important for anyone going through cancer treatment. A fresh juice is a great way to stay hydrated while providing many servings of fruits and vegetables, which in turn, will help to boost your energy level and support your immune system. Watch a demonstration of how to make your own fresh juice.

    Learn more about nutrition services at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and how you can eat well during cancer treatment.

    Try a sampling of some healthy recipes to help manage symptoms during cancer treatment:

    View more "Eating Well During Cancer" videos.

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  • Chemotherapy
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  • Nutrition Resources

    fresh fruit and vegetables

    Nutrition Services

    Our nutrition experts help patients follow a healthy diet during and after cancer treatment.

    Dana-Farber Nutrition Team

    Meet Our Nutritionists

    Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center has one of the largest outpatient oncology nutrition departments in the United States. Our team is a diverse set of professionals, each with a specialized area of expertise.

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    Delicious and Nutritious Recipes

    Our recipes are developed by Dana-Farber's staff of registered and board-certified dieticians. They feature a varied selection of dishes – including a few sweet treats you don't need to feel guilty about.