Foods to Avoid During Chemotherapy

Updated March 23, 2017

Chemotherapy treatments pose unique challenges to patients. Most people are familiar with the common, visual side effects of chemotherapy treatments, including hair loss and a frail appearance. Unfortunately, many people do not realise the other lifestyle changes that accompany these treatments.

For individuals undergoing chemotherapy, nutritional foods are very important to restore strength, energy and health to the body. Patients must adhere strictly to sweeping dietary restrictions to avoid unwanted side effects and additional discomfort.

Hot or Spicy Foods

Depending on the type of chemotherapy treatment being received, patients may be particularly susceptible to mouth sores or similar problems. Hot or spicy foods can aggravate sensitive tissues in the mouth and result in mouth sores, dry mouth, a sore throat or additional dental and gum problems.

Acid reflux and abdominal pain are also common side effects of hot or spicy foods in any individual, but are particularly torturous for chemotherapy patients who are already weak and experiencing body pain.

Greasy or Fried Foods

Eating extremely fatty foods is not recommended during chemotherapy. These foods, which are often greasy or fried, negatively affect the body's metabolism. Patients who are already struggling to glean enough calories and protein from their diet suffer immensely from the lack of nutritional content in these foods. Greasy or fried foods can also result in dramatic weight changes and frequent constipation.

Sugary Foods

Similar to greasy or fried foods, very sweet or sugary foods contain very little nutritional content. Because of the chemical effect of treatment, many foods may seem bland or tasteless. Patients should avoid the urge to eat sweet foods, however, because they can enhance nausea and increase the likelihood of vomiting. High quantities of sugar also negatively affect the body's metabolism and sap the body of energy. This results in fatigue and weight gain.

Large Meals

Even nutritional meals should not be eaten in large quantities. Despite the generous portions that patients may have enjoyed before treatment, chemotherapy may make the patients unable to keep large quantities of food in their stomach without vomiting.

Many chemotherapy patients experience a loss of appetite. Despite the need for nutrition, it is not wise to force food into the body when the body is not hungry for it. This can do great damage and cause additional side effects, including diarrhoea.

Strong Flavors

Foods with strong smells or tastes can cause unnecessary misery in chemo patients. Nausea and vomiting are common and can be triggered by particularly strong aromas. Flavours register differently during chemotherapy, and it is common for strong flavours to taste bitter or metallic. Diarrhoea or constipation may also result from strongly flavoured foods.

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About the Author

Nicole Thelin has more than a decade of professional writing experience. She has contributed to newspapers such as the "Daily Herald" of Provo, Utah, and now writes for several online publications. Thelin is pursuing a bachelor's degree in education from Western Governors University.