Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment

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Diarrhea

Constipation

Pain medicines, changes in your eating habits, and being less active can cause your bowels to move less often and stools to become harder to pass (constipation). If you are constipated, try eating high-fiber foods. Also drink plenty of fluids during the day, eat at regular times, and try to increase your physical activity, if possible.

What to do

  • Try to eat at the same times each day.
  • Try to have a bowel movement at the same time each day.
  • Drink 8 to 10 cups of liquid each day, if it’s OK with your doctor. Try water, prune juice, warm juices, teas, and hot lemonade. (A hot beverage may help to stimulate a bowel movement.)
  • If you are prone to constipation, try to set up a regular bowel plan. This may include an over-the-counter stool softener or psyllium fiber. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what to use.
  • Use laxatives only as directed by your doctor. Contact your doctor or nurse if you have not had a bowel movement for 3 days or longer.
  • If it’s OK with your doctor, eat high-fiber and bulky foods, like whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables (raw and cooked with skins and peels on), and dried beans. Add these slowly to your diet to avoid bloating and gas.
  • Eat a breakfast that includes a hot drink and high-fiber foods.
  • Ask your dietitian to recommend a high-calorie, high-protein, fiber-containing liquid supplement if you need more calories, protein, and fiber.
  • Limit drinks and foods that cause gas if it becomes a problem. (See list below.)
  • To lessen the amount of air you swallow while eating, try not to talk much at meals and do not use straws to drink. Avoid chewing gum and carbonated beverages.

Foods that might cause gas

    Beans and peas, dried

    Rutabaga

    Avocado

    String beans

    Broccoli

    Nuts

    Brussels sprouts

    Cabbage

    Sauerkraut

    Turnip greens

    Radishes

    Cauliflower

    Milk

    Melons

    Spinach

    Mushrooms

    Beer

    Apples (raw), apple juice

    Cucumbers

    Eggs

    Fish

    Peppers

    Corn

    Asparagus

    Pickles

    Onions, leeks, scallions

    Sweet potatoes

    Strong cheese

    Mustard

    Spicy foods

    Kohlrabi

    Collards

    Lentils

Gas might also be caused by:

  • Chewing gum
  • Not taking in enough fluids
  • Drinking carbonated or fizzy drinks
  • Not getting exercise
  • Chewing with your mouth open
  • Constipation
  • Eating a lot of high-fiber foods
  • Eating foods and candies, chewing gum, and having drinks with sugar alcohols such as maltitol, mannitol, and xylitol (These products are often labeled “sugar free” or “no sugar added.”)

    High-fiber foods to
    choose more often
    *

    Serving size

    Dietary fiber (in grams)

    Breads and cereals

   

    Bran cereals
    Popcorn
    Brown rice
    Whole-wheat bread
    Whole-wheat pasta
    Wheat bran, raw

    ½ cup
    2 cups
    ½ cup
    1 slice
    ¼ cup
    ¼ cup

    3-13
    5
    6
    1-2
    6
    6

Legumes

   

    Kidney beans
    Navy beans
    Nuts

    ½ cup
    ½ cup
    1 ounce

    8
    9
    3

Vegetables

   

    Broccoli
    Brussels sprouts
    Carrots
    Corn
    Green peas
    Potato with skin

    ½ cup
    ½ cup
    ½ cup
    ½ cup
    ½ cup
    1 medium

    4
    3
    2
    5
    3
    3

Fruits

   

    Apple with peel
    Banana
    Blueberries
    Pear with skin
    Prunes
    Orange
    Raisins
    Strawberries

    1 medium
    1 medium
    ½ cup
    1 medium
    3
    1 medium
    ¼ cup
    1 cup

    4
    2
    2
    5
    3
    3
    3
    3

*Adapted from Eldridge B, and Hamilton KK, Editors, Management of Nutrition Impact Symptoms in Cancer and Educational Handouts. Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association; 2004.


Last Medical Review: 06/09/2014
Last Revised: 06/09/2014