Nutritional Management of Chewing and Swallowing Difficulties During Cancer Treatment
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
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
Nutritional management of chewing and swallowing difficulties
Cancer treatments target fast-growing cancer cells in your body. Healthy cells that
are fast growing can also be damaged. Examples of fast-growing cells include cells
in the mouth, digestive tract, and hair. These may be affected by cancer treatment
and can cause problems, such as your hair falling out, nausea and vomiting, or a metallic
taste in your mouth. Eating well from the beginning of cancer therapy has been found
to help prevent mouth problems.
Stomatitis, or mucositis, is the presence of sores in the mouth caused by some anticancer
drugs. In addition to being painful, mouth sores can become infected by the many germs
that normally live in the mouth. They can make it hard to swallow and chew as well.
If you develop sores in your mouth, tell your healthcare provider. You may need medicine
if the sores become painful or prevent you from eating. It may be helpful to eat small,
The following suggestions may help if you have mouth problems:
Eat the following soft, soothing foods (cold or at room temperature), and puree cooked
foods in a blender to make them smoother and easier to eat:
Try to avoid irritating, acidic foods and juices, hot foods, spicy or salty foods,
and rough or coarse foods, such as:
For mouth dryness:
Drink plenty of liquids.
Ask your healthcare provider if you can suck on ice chips, ice pops, or sugar-free
hard candy. You can also chew sugar-free gum. (Sorbitol, a sugar substitute that is
in many sugar-free foods, can cause diarrhea in many people. If diarrhea is a problem
for you, check the labels of sugar-free foods before you buy them, and limit your
use of them.)
Moisten dry foods with butter, margarine, gravy, sauces, or broth.
Soften crisp, dry foods in mild liquids.
Eat soft and pureed foods.
Use lip balm or petroleum jelly if your lips become dry.
Carry a water bottle with you to sip from often.