- 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.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
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.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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