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Nutritional Therapy & Chemotherapy: Supporting Stronger Recoveries


Many, many cancer patients struggle with gastrointestinal symptoms during their treatment. Chemotherapy can be exceedingly hard on the body, and often the associated gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, loss of appetite, constipation, and vomiting, can cause significant harm to patients. These symptoms can lead to malnutrition, at a time when it is incredibly critical for their healing to remain well-nourished.

What Is Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional therapy is one way that many healthcare providers are trying to combat the effects of chemotherapy and to help patients feel stronger and healthier throughout their recovery. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, many chemotherapy patients benefit from nutritional therapy as a part of their treatment plan. There are a few different forms of nutritional therapy in use to support chemotherapy patients.

One form of nutritional therapy is by approaching the nutritional needs of a patient through their diet. Dieticians can work with oncologists to make the necessary modifications to your dietary plans and ensure that your nutrition needs are fully met, and that your treatment won’t be interrupted by gastrointestinal problems or malnutrition. Your dietician will identify your nutrient goals and work with you and our doctors to develop a unique dietary plan that is personalized to your needs.

Another way that your treatment team may support your nutritional needs is with supplements or IV nutritional therapy. For patients who struggle with gastrointestinal symptoms caused by life-saving chemotherapy treatments, IV nutritional therapy can provide important micronutrients that may not be properly absorbed through the patient’s diet. Nutritional therapy infusions often include Vitamin B, Magnesium, Vitamin C, and Phospholipids, which support immune functioning and promote tissue regeneration.

The Benefits of Nutritional Therapy

Considerable research supports nutritional therapy and its role in encouraging healing. According to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, some of the benefits of nutritional therapy for chemotherapy patients include:

  • Maintaining strength and energy during recovery by addressing the body’s caloric and nutrient needs
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Preventing treatment-related side-effects
  • Lowering the risk of infection
  • Encouraging a faster, more complete recovery

What Nutritional Challenges Do Chemotherapy Patients Face?

Chemotherapy can be a challenging course of treatment for many patients. The American Cancer Society notes that chemotherapy treatment is often accompanied by serious side effects that can make it a challenge for patients to eat, including:

  • Mouth sores and sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Dental and gum sensitivity
  • Changes in sense of taste or smell
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

It can be difficult for patients to find foods that are palatable and meet their full nutritional needs. This is why oncologists may recommend IV nutritional therapy to supplement the patient’s diet.

What Nutrients Are Needed for Recovery?

Your body is a complex system, and you require many different nutrients to function optimally. A well-rounded nutritional plan will evaluate your unique needs and make sure that your needs are met completely every day.

The American Cancer Society explains how different types of nutrients affect your recovery. These nutrients include:

  • Protein: Used in building tissues, protein is used in maintaining your immune system, growth, and rebuilding muscles. When you don’t get enough protein, your body will begin to break down muscles to get it. After chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery, protein is necessary to heal damaged tissues. Poultry, lean red meat, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products, and nuts are excellent sources of protein.
  • Fats: Fats make a rich energy source for your body. Fats also insulate the body, store energy, and transport fat-soluble vitamins throughout the body. Vegetable oils such as sunflower and olive oil are good sources of unsaturated fats, while meat and dairy products can provide saturated fats. The majority of your fat intake should be in the form of unsaturated fats.
  • Carbohydrates: These nutrients are the main form of your body’s energy. Carbohydrates are fast energy for the body and often are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These sources of carbohydrates also are excellent sources of vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
  • Water: All cells in your body require water to function, but many cancer patients struggle with dehydration. Vomiting and diarrhea can make it challenging to drink enough water. It is important to try and drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water, but every liquid you consume, including broth, soup, and gelatin, count towards your liquid goals. Electrolytes also can become necessary if you lose significant amounts of fluid.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, serve countless functions in the body. There are micronutrients responsible for nerve signaling, digestion, bone growth, immune functioning, muscle contraction, and much more. Much of your mineral and vitamin needs should be met with whole-food sources, but your dietitian may recommend supplements or a multivitamin if you are suffering from deficiencies.
  • Antioxidants: Some vitamins, such as vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals like selenium and zinc are considered antioxidants. This means they attach to cancer-causing free radicals and prevent these cells from attacking healthy cells. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants.

Nutritional Safety

If you’re currently being treated for cancer, you may wish to discuss your nutritional needs with our doctors. Self-treating your nutritional needs with supplements can be dangerous, but our experienced alternative cancer treatment team can help you safely use nutrition as a part of your healing process. Our team is here to provide you with accurate, reliable information and help you make the best possible choices for your own health.

Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with our team at Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine to learn more! Our team is dedicated to your health and wellbeing, which is why we blend the best of traditional and alternative medicine for a holistic approach that treats the entire patient—not just the symptoms. Discover our Scottsdale integrative medicine center for yourself!

Contact our team now by calling (480) 240-2600.