Managing the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment with a Better Diet

The side effects of cancer are wide-ranging and can vary depending on the patient, treatment, and prognosis. While certain medications and holistic remedies can ease some symptoms, a special diet for cancer patients is another way that many choose to alleviate the discomfort. Below are a few common side effects, along with recommendations that should be included in a diet for cancer patients experiencing those symptoms.


This is one of the most commonly reported side effects of both chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Smaller meals eaten slowly can provide some relief, as can plenty of liquids, especially clear beverages. If you’re putting together a diet for cancer patients with nausea, it should focus on low-fat, bland foods. The following foods have all been shown to help reduce nausea:

  • Cold cereal
  • Crackers
  • Baked chicken

Mouth tenderness

Many cancer patients experience mouth sores and general tenderness that can make eating comfortably a challenge. However, keeping up energy and stamina to help the body fight off the disease is incredibly important, so patients must continue to take in nourishing foods. For patients with painful mouth side effects, experts recommend cool, soft foods, such as:

  • Applesauce
  • Soup
  • Pudding


Any diet for cancer patients should take into account the effect of the cancer and the treatment on the digestive system. Many patients report constipation, especially after chemo or when using certain medications. To reduce that risk, they should incorporate plenty of high-fiber foods:

  • Beans
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Chickpeas


Cancer patients may develop a hypersensitive reaction to smells, which can prompt nausea and vomiting, which are also sometimes caused by certain treatments. Mindfulness strategies can help patients reduce their risk for vomiting, as can certain types of foods, eaten only when the patient is feeling better. Bland, soft foods are best, including:

  • Rice
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Yogurt

There is not one definitive diet for cancer patients, as each person needs a tailored, individualized meal plan; however, with these recommendations, patients can assess their own symptoms and strategize for ways to use food and drink to reduce their discomfort. A smart, healthy diet is essential for patients to maintain their health and put all of their energy into defeating cancer.

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