Nutritional Management of Constipation During Cancer Treatment

Nutritional management of treatment side effects

There is more to nutrition during cancer and cancer therapy than getting enough calories and protein. The foods you choose also help you cope with side effects. These include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chewing and swallowing difficulties, and taste changes.

As each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his or her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

Nutritional management of constipation

Some anticancer medicines, pain medicines, and other medicines cause constipation. This is a condition in which the stool becomes hard and dry, making it difficult to pass. When waste matter remains too long in the bowels, water is absorbed. This leads to hard stools and constipation. The following suggestions may help to prevent or alleviate constipation:

  • Drink plenty of liquids, especially water—at least 8 cups every day.

  • Drink a hot liquid such as hot tea, about one-half hour before your usual time for a bowel movement.

  • Check with your healthcare provider to see if you can increase the fiber in your diet. If you can, try foods such as whole-grain breads and cereals, dried fruits, wheat bran, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes such as dried beans and peas, and brown rice. Eat the skin on potatoes.

  • Try to get some exercise every day to help prevent constipation.

If you have not had a bowel movement for two days, call your healthcare provider. He or she may suggest taking a laxative or stool softener. High-fiber foods will help constipation, but check with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian before you eat these foods. There are certain types of cancer for which a high-fiber diet is not recommended.