Colorectal cancer occurs when polyps that form on the inner wall of the colon and rectum become malignant and develop into cancer. If you are recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer and will be undergoing treatment (chemotherapy or radiation therapy) soon, you will need to adopt a diet that can nourish and strengthen your body to fight the side effects of treatment.
Here are some dietary recommendations and tips you should take note of in your fight against colorectal cancer.
Tip 1: Eat small frequent meals throughout the day
After treatment, colorectal cancer patients will often experience side effects like nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Fulfil your daily nutritional needs by taking five to six small meals every few hours instead of three large main meals.
Tip 2: Choose protein-rich food
Protein is one of the most important nutrients that help us grow, repair and maintain cells in our body. As you undergo surgery or treatment for cancer, your body would require more nutrients. Include sources of protein in your meals and snacks and opt for lean meat with a rich source of protein.
Some examples of protein-rich products include fish, poultry and foods with low fats such as yoghurt, soya products, beans and nuts.
Tip 3: Choose healthy sources of dietary fats
Just like protein and carbohydrates, fat is a type of nutrient our body needs to protect important organs like our heart and brain. Foods with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as ‘good fats’ that can help lower the risk of heart diseases, stroke and even reduce inflammation. Opt for foods with healthy fat sources such as avocado, olive as well as foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids in fish (salmon, tuna etc), nuts and seeds.
Tip 4: Eat your fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins and they contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that can help you strengthen your body immune system. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your meals as part of your daily diet.
Tip 5: Opt for wholegrain food
Whole grains are a good source of carbohydrates that can provide your body with energy. Similar to fruits and vegetables, they are also rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
When eating, opt for wholegrain food such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and oats.
Tip 6: Make water your best friend
It is important to hydrate yourself and ensure your body has adequate fluid intake during cancer treatment. Avoid caffeinated beverages as excessive consumption may lead to dehydration. You should also monitor and increase fluid intake if you are suffering from treatment side effects such as diarrhoea or vomiting.
Everyone’s cancer journey may differ depending on the type of treatment received. If your treatment involves surgery, do heed your doctor’s advice as you may need more time to transit back to your regular diet. Avoid food and drinks high in sugars as they have little nutritional value. If you have poor appetite, unintentional weight loss or struggle with treatment side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, speak to your dietitian who will be able to help with your nutrition concerns during your treatment process.