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Food and Cancer: dealing with heartburn and constipation
Cancer and some cancer treatments can cause heartburn. If your symptoms persist, talk to your doctor.
- Avoid large meals: try having three small meals and three small snacks each day.
- Take a short break (e.g. 30 minutes) after eating before having a drink.
- Sit up for a while (e.g. 30 minutes) after eating.
- Avoid tight clothing, especially belts.
- Take time to enjoy meals and eat slowly.
- Try not to talk while chewing and swallowing.
Avoid these foods that may make heartburn worse:
- Coffee (including decaf), tea, cola drinks, soft drinks
- Peppermint, spearmint, mint
- Red capsicum
- High-fat food, e.g. fried food, pastries, cream, butter, oils
- Citrus fruits and juices: remember to eat vitamin C foods including fruits (strawberries, mango, rockmelon) and vegetables (broccoli)
- Tomato and tomato products.
Constipation may be caused by some medication, particularly strong painkillers, a diet low in fibre, lack of exercise, or not enough to drink. If you have a problem with constipation, these ideas may help:
- Drink plenty of fluids - at least six glasses a day; for example, water, fruit juice, weak tea, milk-based drinks or soup. A warm drink first thing in the morning may help.
- Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods such as wholemeal breads and high-fibre cereals, fruit and vegetables (especially raw and unpeeled).
- Snack on high-fibre food, such as fruit and nut mixes, sesame and nut bars, wholemeal biscuits.
- Try to do regular light exercise, such as walking.
- Talk to your doctor about using laxatives; they may help.
Pain medication and constipation
Constipation can be a side effect of some pain-relieving medications. In these cases, eating extra dietary fibre may not help and may make you feel overfull and uncomfortable. Medication to help maintain comfortable bowel function is generally given to people taking codeine and morphine preparations. Discuss this with your doctor.