Chemo with a side of bananas

- Fri., Oct. 21, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Her mouth burning and her sense of smell acute, swallowing medications was a trial for Shari Ichelson Silverman. To ease the discomfort, Silverman was advised to tuck the pills inside banana chunks, which are slippery and go down easily. “To this day, the smell of a banana makes me throw up,” says Silverman, an Ontario resident, who was diagnosed and treated for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) less than two years ago.

You may be fortunate to not have a reaction like Silverman’s during your diagnosis or treatment for cancer. However, you may lose your appetite or be in too much pain to eat. In addition, certain aromas or flavors can be unpleasant.

Regardless of your unique circumstances, your goal should be to stick with a healthful diet to the extent you can. Protein foods and plant foods, along with adequate calories and fluids, all play a role in the healing process, say health experts.

When thinking of foods to incorporate into your meals, start with protein, which your body needs to grow tissues and muscles.
Skimp on the protein, and you may feel weak and have muscle wasting, according to Karen Collins, MS, registered dietitian, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). “A lack of protein can play out in problems healing,” Collins says.
You can get protein from simple, easy-to-eat foods like cottage cheese, hard-cooked eggs, nuts and peanut butter, says Kristina Ratley, registered dietitian with the Dietitians on Call program, American Cancer Society’s South Atlantic Division.

Take simple steps to add protein to foods you enjoy. “Add cheese to toast, crackers, sandwiches and soup. Add [diced] turkey to canned soup,” says Dee Sandquist, registered dietitian in Fairfield, Ia., and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
The John A. DeQuattro Cancer Center in Manchester offers occasional classes focusing on how food can impact breast health. In the classes, a registered dietitian discusses the nutritional recommendations to help reduce breast cancer risk or recurrence. These foods include soy, green tea and omega-3 oils.

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