Cancer Healthy – Managing Loss of Appetite & Nausea During Treatment | El Camino Health


I’m Charis Spielman, certified
specialists in oncology nutrition at the El Camino Hospital Cancer Center. Side
effects for cancer treatment can make it challenging to meet your nutrition goals.
A change in appetite and/or nausea can occur. A change in appetite may occur
because the cancer process itself or the chemotherapy drugs. Feelings of stress or
anxiety and pain can all decrease your appetite. I’d like to encourage you to eat
intentionally. That means eating according to the clock instead of
relying on hunger cues. An awareness exercise is keeping an intentional
eating chart. It’s a piece of paper with the days of the week across the top:
breakfast, lunch, dinner, mid-morning, mid-afternoon snack and the box where
you just put a checkmark when you’re able to eat or drink something that has
calories and protein. You can identify times during the day when it’s very
challenging for you to eat. That’s when I’d like to encourage you to have something
easy to grab that doesn’t require much preparation. So stock your pantry with
granola bars, nuts, raisins, instant hot cereals, individual cottage cheese,
yogurts, fruit cups, string cheese. All of these help you meet your goals
of adequate calories and adequate protein. Calorie and protein drinks are
an option as well to meet your nutrition goals. Secondly, try five more bites.
You’re not able to rely on your hunger cues, nor can you always rely on your
feelings of satisfaction or fullness, so eating five more bites when you feel
like you’re full can help you break down that barrier that’s preventing you from
eating adequately. Exercise has been shown to help improve appetite during cancer
treatment. So anything you can do, a walk around the house, down the block,
will be helpful. The next side effect is nausea. We like to say, at the Cancer
Center, that nausea is not an option. Your healthcare provider will help you with
medication management for nausea. But there are nutrition tips as well. When
you’ve taken your anti-nausea medication, you might want to try some salty, dry
foods, cold cereal, just taking a handful, some pretzels. You hear about toast and
crackers. Eating just a few bites of this will help settle your stomach and then
you can approach your meal. And remember that every bite counts. So just putting
together two food groups, remembering your protein like Greek
yogurt and some blueberries can get you a step closer to meeting your nutrition
goals. Or a couple of crackers with some nut butters. Just an example of ways to make
every bite count. Small frequent meals will help with nausea and decreased
appetite. And I encourage you to sip your fluids between meals. So choose water.
Broth based soups will help with nausea, and bone broth has protein in it. And the
natural ingredients are things like ginger, so sipping ginger ale, using
ginger tea or even sucking on some ginger candies can help with nausea.
Using these nutrition management tips when you have a decreased appetite
and/or nausea, will help you to eat your best and feel your best during treatment
for cancer. I’m Charis Spielman, certified specialists in oncology nutrition at the
El Camino Hospital Cancer Center.

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