If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumour, a balanced diet could help you keep your strength and energy up, lower your risk of infection and help you recover well from treatment.
Diet and nutrition is of great interest to the scientific community and those affected by all types of cancer, not just brain tumours. While the medicinal properties of different foods and micro nutrients are still being investigated, the most important thing for any patient is to make sure that their diet is sufficient and balanced enough to help them and their bodies pull through treatment and recovery.
The information we provide is meant to help you understand what a balanced diet should be like, it gives practical advice for when treatment makes it difficult to eat and it addresses related topics such as the ketogenic diet.
Managing your diet when recovering from treatment
The side-effects of brain tumour treatments can make it very hard for you to prepare and eat the necessary amount or variety of food that would aid your body in it's recovery. It is important to try and supply the body with sufficient nutrition.
Below is a list of diet-related side-effects of cancer treatments and some common suggestions on how to manage these side-effects. This list is not exhaustive, if you are experiencing other food related side-effects, discuss them with your doctor or dietitian who can assist you further.
If you are too tired to cook or eat you could:
- try having six smaller meals per day rather than three larger ones.
- use snacks, ready made meals and puddings to reduce the burden of cooking.
- ask friends or family members to cook dishes in bulk and freeze portions so you can have them ready to defrost whenever you need to.
- ask your doctor or dietitian to recommend nutritious food supplements such as shakes
Chemotherapy or radiotherapy can cause nausea as a side-effect. Your doctor can give you anti-emetic medication which can help you manage this. If you are having trouble eating because of nausea, you can try to:
- eat smaller meals more often, rather than large meals further apart
- eat dry foods, like crackers, toast, dry cereals or bread sticks, when you wake up and every few hours during the day
- avoid foods or rooms with strong odours
- avoid hot or spicy foods
- avoid foods that are overly sweet, greasy or fried
- remain seated upright for at least an hour after eating
- sip clear liquids frequently between meals to prevent dehydration, but avoid drinking with meals
- eat bland, soft, easy-to-digest foods on treatment days such as egg custards and soup with crackers.
- avoid eating your favourite foods until you feel well enough to enjoy them
These are some common suggestions for how to ease or prevent constipation:
- eating foods which are high in fibre (e.g. wholegrain food, fresh fruit
- drink plenty of water
- try to do some gentle exercise
If you are experiencing constipation due to medicines, such as painkillers or anti-sickness drugs, your doctor may have to prescribe laxatives.
Treatments such as chemotherapy can sometimes affect your senses of taste and smell. People have often described a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth. Below are some suggestions on how to make your eating experience more enjoyable:
- rinsing your mouth and brushing your teeth frequently
- using plastic cutlery helps to deal with the metallic sensation
- eating fresh fruit and vegetables instead of tinned
- seasoning foods with flavours such as lemon, vinegar, and pickles. (Be cautious if you have a sore mouth)
- adding herbs and spices, such as garlic, chilli, basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, coriander or mint to your dishes
- some people find that serving foods cold or at room temperature helps them taste better
A side-effect of steroids is to increase appetite significantly, and maintaining a healthy weight might become more difficult.
- eating foods which are high in protein and fibre can keep you fuller for longer
- avoid foods which are high in saturated fats or trans-fatty acids as much as possible
The list of food related side-effects addressed above is not exhaustive. If these side-effects get worse or if you are experiencing other food related side-effects of treatment, discuss them with your doctor or a registered dietitian who can assist you further.
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