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Cancer Health Library : Oncology


Nutrition and Cancer: Nutritional Management of Constipation

Nutritional management of treatment side effects

There is more to nutrition during cancer and cancer therapy than getting enough calories and protein. The foods you choose also help you cope with side effects, such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chewing and swallowing difficulties, and taste changes.

As each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his or her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

Nutritional management of constipation

Some anticancer medications, pain medications, and other medications cause constipation, a condition in which the stool becomes hard and dry, making it difficult to pass. Waste matter that stays too long in the bowels so that too much water is absorbed from the stools will initiate constipation. The following suggestions may help to prevent or alleviate constipation:

  • Drink plenty of liquids, especially water at least eight cups every day.
  • Drink a hot drink, such as hot tea, about one-half hour before your usual time for a bowel movement.
  • Check with your doctor to see if you can increase the fiber in your diet. If you can, try foods like: whole-grain breads and cereals, dried fruits, wheat bran, and wheat germ; fresh fruits and vegetables; dried beans and peas; and brown rice. Eat the skin on potatoes.
  • Try to get some exercise every day to help prevent constipation.

If you have not had a bowel movement for two days, call your doctor, who may suggest taking a laxative or stool softener. High-fiber foods will help constipation, but check with your doctor or registered dietitian before you eat these foods because there are certain types of cancer for which a high-fiber diet is not recommended.

 

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