Along with regular exercise, a healthy, nutritious diet that includes a wide range of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, pulses, good quality protein and essential oils is an integral part of recovery from bowel cancer.
But what happens when the side-effects of the treatment designed to return a person to health make them feel so terrible, they can’t or won’t eat?
Our Bowel Care Nurses offer their top tips. . .
1. Fluids are much more important than solids.
Small, frequent sips of high-calorie drinks that are not too acidic – ginger ale, soda water and lemonade are ideal.
Ice cubes made up with fruit juice or frozen slices of fruit can also be very refreshing.
To keep stools soft and prevent constipation and dehydration, drinking around two litres of water daily can help.
Tea, coffee and other caffeine-based drinks can increase bowel activity, causing cramps and discomfort and fizzy drinks and some alcohol can irritate the lining of the bowel, causing bloating and sometimes diarrhoea, so they should be consumed in moderation if at all.
2. Being faced with large portions of food can be quite off-putting to someone recovering from cancer treatment.
Keep things simple, with plain foods like toast, crackers, ginger biscuits, tinned fruit, jelly, yoghurt and ice cream.
You can also try a scoop of mashed potato with a little gravy or some sweetened porridge.
Child-sized lunchbox treats such as a mini cheese portion or cream cheese with bread stick dippers are often enough to temp the palate without creating too much waste.
Smaller portions eaten as lighter meals or snacks throughout the day may suit better than the more traditional three big meals, especially if unpredictable bowel pattern or poor appetite are an issue.
3. Healthy bacteria in the gut can be affected by surgery, radiotherapy, antibiotics and other medicines, leading to an overgrowth of organisms in the digestive system that can cause symptoms of indigestion, discomfort and changing bowel habit.
For this reason, many enhanced recovery programs now include probiotic supplements to help restore a natural balance of the good bacteria and reduce symptoms.
4. If nausea and/or vomiting are a problem, the medical team may need to review the medication being prescribed.
5. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
For more information about ways to eat well with bowel cancer, check out our Eating Well: Living with bowel cancer booklet and if you’d like to try out some popular recipes made easy, check out our Healthy Entertaining booklet. Both of the resources are free to download online or order by calling 1800 555 494 during business hours.
You can also find an array of high and low fibre recipes on our website.