- Bowel cancer
- Life after treatment
- Managing bowel and dietary changes
- Coping with dietary issues
Coping with dietary issues
Here are some ways to cope with the dietary issues that you may face after treatment for bowel cancer.
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- Everyone responds to food differently.
- Try different foods more than once to see how you react. If a food doesn’t cause you any problems, you don’t need to avoid it.
- If you have ongoing problems with food and eating, talk to your treatment team.
- You may be able to see a dietitian at your cancer treatment centre – check with your cancer care coordinator.
- You can also ask your GP for a referral to a dietitian who specialises in cancer. To find an Accredited Practising Dietitian in your area, call 1800 812 942 or see the Dietitians Association of Australia.
- Eat low-fibre foods, such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, rice-based cereal, potatoes, fish and lean meat.
- Well-cooked vegetables without seeds, husks or skin, such as carrots, potato and pumpkin, are good choices.
- Eat three small meals a day and snack often.
- If you suspect that a food causes diarrhoea, avoid it for 2–3 weeks. Reintroduce one food at a time. If the diarrhoea flares up again, you may want to avoid that food.
- Avoid foods that increase bowel activity, e.g. caffeine; alcohol; spicy, fatty or oily foods; or artificial sweeteners.
- Don’t eat too many raw fruits and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, or legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas), as they may make diarrhoea worse.
- Avoid dairy foods if they cause problems, or try low lactose or soy-based dairy products.
- Try chewing charcoal tablets, eating natural yoghurt and/or drinking peppermint tea.
- Cut food into small, bite- sized pieces.
- Chew your food slowly and thoroughly.
- When you have a drink, take small sips.
- Talk to your doctor about doing light exercise to relieve bloating and gas.
- Avoid foods that increase gas, e.g. eggs, legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, large serves of dairy products, and fizzy drinks.
- Don’t eat too many raw fruits and vegetables.
- Eat regular meals.
- Try to maintain a balanced diet so your body is well nourished.
- Drink up to eight glasses of fluid a day so you stay well hydrated.
- Cut food into small, bite- sized pieces, and chew slowly and thoroughly.
- If you have trouble eating a certain food, talk to a dietitian about alternatives.
- You may find cooked food easier to digest.
- Some foods are more likely to cause blockages in some people. These include high-fibre foods, raw vegetables, fruit and vegetable skins, nuts, seeds, kernels (e.g. corn, popcorn), and sausage skins.
- Try small amounts of a new food. If it’s okay, try more next time.
For more information on eating well during and after cancer treatment, see Nutrition and cancer.
A/Prof Craig Lynch, Colorectal Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Prof Tim Price, Medical Oncologist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide, and Clinical Professor, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, SA; Department of Dietetics, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Dr Hooi Ee, Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Debra Furniss, Radiation Oncologist, Genesis CancerCare, QLD; Jocelyn Head, Consumer; Jackie Johnston, Palliative Care and Stomal Therapy Clinical Nurse Consultant, St Vincent’s Private Hospital, NSW; Zeinah Keen, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Dr Elizabeth Murphy, Head, Colorectal Surgical Unit, Lyell McEwin Hospital, SA. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions.
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