Should I take supplements during chemotherapy or radiation therapy?
It depends on the vitamin and herb. Some vitamins and herbs have been found to interact with medications, cause toxicity to organs and decrease the effectiveness of chemotherapy and/or radiation. Therefore, it is important to discuss with your physician, pharmacist or dietitian the types of herbs and vitamins you are taking.
Is there a special diet I should follow when I have decreased immunity?
Yes, there is a special diet which is called the Immunosuppressed diet. The purpose of the diet is to protect you from certain types of bacteria found in some foods that may be harmful when the immune system is decreased. To see a copy of the Immunosuppressed diet, click here.
Does sugar "feed" cancer?
No, eating sugar does not directly increase the risk of getting cancer or having it get worse. Foods that contain high amounts of sugar, including soft drinks, cookies, cakes and candy can add a lot of extra calories to the diet that can lead to weight gain. Research has shown a clear link between being overweight and an increased risk of getting cancer.
Sugar sweetened foods tend to be high in calories. These types of foods may be suggested to those who are trying to gain weight. Reducing intake of sugar sweetened foods may be helpful for individuals trying to lose weight. It is important to evaluate sugar sweetened foods in the context of the entire diet and goals for weight control. Every food has a place in a well balanced diet.
For more information click here to read our handout titled “Does Sugar Feed Cancer?”
How can I change my diet to prevent cancer?
The most comprehensive guidelines for diet and cancer prevention come from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). AICR is the nation's leading charity in the field of diet, physical activity and weight management as it relates to cancer prevention. AICR published the Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, which is the largest study of its kind ever published and its recommendations are based on the most up-to-date research available. It is a compilation of all research done on cancer and diet.
The main recommendations are as follows:
- Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fiber, or high in fat).
- Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
- Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) to 18 ounces or less per week and avoid processed meats.
- If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
- Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
- Don't use supplements to protect against cancer.
I have been diagnosed with breast cancer, can I eat soy?
The Moffitt Nutrition Department has established the following best practice guidelines regarding eating soy for cancer patients during and after treatment.
- If you would like to consume soy foods as part of a balanced “plant based” diet there is no evidence that this is harmful for you. Most studies of women who consume soy foods show that it protects against breast cancer. Several studies have shown that breast cancer survivors who consume soy as part of their daily diet (not as a supplement) have a lower rate of cancer recurrence when compared to those who did not eat soy foods. We do feel that it is safe to eat a moderate amount if you enjoy eating soy foods. If you do not like soy, there are many other plant foods that offer a protective effect as well such as fruits, vegetables, grains and beans. A moderate amount is defined as 3 servings per day, and is comparable to the amount consumed in a traditional Asian diet. One serving is defined as 4 oz for tofu, 1 cup for soy milk and 1/2 cup for soy beans (out of the pod).
- High doses of concentrated sources of soy such as that found in soy powders and isoflavone supplements are not recommended due to the lack of safety data.
I am going to be in the hospital for awhile, can I have foods from outside of Moffitt?
To help ensure food safety, the preferred source of food for patients is the hospital food service. In special situations, you or your caregivers may desire foods brought in from outside the hospital. When this occurs, non-perishable items are preferred over perishable foods. To see a copy of the guidelines for outside food, click here.
I just don’t feel like eating, nothing sounds good - what should I do?
This is one of the most common complaints among lung cancer patients. There are many reasons for poor appetite. Poor appetite can be due to the treatments or by the cancer itself. Treatment can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, or changes in food's taste or smell. Fear or depression can also take away a person's appetite. Ask a nurse or social worker about ways to help with these emotional difficulties. Tell your doctor or nurse to help with these side effects. Getting the side effects under better control and help improve your appetite. For some patients medicine to help increase appetite may be recommended so ask if these medicines are right for you.
If three large meals are not possible, try eating 6 mini meals or snacks. Some people like to drink liquid nutritional supplements instead of one of these mini-meals. You can also try smoothies or milkshakes. Keep items on hand that are easy to prepare quickly such as: cooked pasta, rice or noodles; small cans of tuna or chicken, canned soups (creamed soups are higher calorie); yogurt, cheeses (cubes, string or shredded); ice cream and frozen sweet treats; nuts/trail mix/dried fruit; pudding or gelatin; crackers/cookies/cheese crackers. Check the freezer section for side dishes or easy to prepare snacks such as egg rolls, sandwiches, French fries or croissant.
I feel nauseous, what should I eat?
Ideas for foods to eat when you are nauseous include lower fat foods, low aroma foods including saltine crackers, mashed potatoes, broth and popsicles. It may also help to eat small amounts more often. Dehydration can also contribute to feeling nauseated and fatigued so try to make sure that you are taking in enough fluids. See more information under Nutrition for Symptom Management. As always, ask your medical team if there is medication that might help with this symptom.
My doctor told me to drink more fluids. What is considered a fluid and what’s the best fluid to drink?
Most items that are liquid at room temperature are high in water content. Juices, tea, coffee, sodas, fruit drinks and punches, sports drinks, Jell-O, broth, milk, popsicles and fruit ices are several ways to get fluid. Eating fruits can also add to your total fluid intake due to their high water content; try watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, berries, peaches, pears, apples and oranges.
What should I eat if I want to gain weight?
Gaining weight can be a challenge for many patients. Try adding a bedtime snack to your nightly routine. This is a common concern with many patients. During treatment, try to optimize the times of day when your appetite is the strongest. Liquids and foods with a low aroma may be more appealing to you. Make every bite count with foods that are packed with calories. Suggestions to eat high calorie foods high in fat may seem to be the opposite of what is usually suggested. These recommendations are different because they are designed to help build up your strength withstand the effects of your cancer treatment.
Ask your nurse or doctor for a nutrition consultation with a Registered Dietitian who can work with you to create a plan to help stop or slow down your weight loss.
My taste buds are off, nothing tastes right-can you help with this?
Chemotherapy and other medications can cause taste changes. Patients report foods tasting metallic, extremely salty or sweet or having no taste at all. First, make sure your mouth is clean. Strong mouthwashes that contain alcohol can dry out your mouth. Instead use a mixture of baking soda and table salt mixed with water to rinse with before you eat (1-quart water, ¾-teaspoon salt and 1-teaspoon baking soda). Rinse your mouth regularly with this solution and gently brush your tongue to help stimulate your taste buds. These tips can help your food taste more “normal”.
Adding lemon flavoring or other spices may also help as long as you do not have sore spots in your mouth. Experiment with different flavors to see what works best for you. Don’t give up trying – you may discover a preference for a new flavor that you have not tried before.