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Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer is dedicated to raising awareness about stomach cancer, advancing funding for research, and providing education and support internationally to patients, families, and caregivers. DDF seeks as its ultimate goal to make the cure for stomach cancer a reality.
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Nutrition During Gastric Cancer Treatment

Gastric cancer and gastric cancer treatment can cause a variety of nutrition related side effects. Many of these can be managed with the proper nutrition including changes in diet, food selection, and preparation techniques A Registered Dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition (CSO) can recommend foods, beverages, meal plans and supplements that will provide adequate nutrients and calories for your specific metabolic and caloric needs and help manage your nutrition-related symptoms and side effects through diet.

Here are some helpful suggestions to start with:
• Eat frequent but small meals and snacks.
• Seek counseling from a registered dietitian (RD) who is a certified specialist in oncology nutrition. Dietitians can recommend foods, beverages, meal plans and supplements to improve your nutrition before, during and after cancer treatment. They can tailor this information to your individual needs, treatments and side effects.
• Get information from sources that rely on sound, scientific evidence.
• Avoid "miracle cures" and unknown dietary supplements, most of which do not have evidence to support their use or benefit during or after cancer treatment. If something sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.

Managing Specific Nutrition-Related Symptoms:

Gastric Cancer and Loss of Appetite

Changes in appetite are common with gastric cancer and gastric cancer treatment. People with appetite loss may eat less than usual, not feel hungry at all, or feel full after eating only a small amount. Although you may not feel like eating, keep in mind that getting adequate nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight are important parts of your recovery. Take advantage of the times when you have the most appetite and try to consume small frequent meals and snacks throughout the day. Eat in enjoyable surroundings, and make meals look less overwhelming by placing them on smaller plates rather than larger plates.

Gastric Cancer and Nausea/Vomiting

Nausea is sometimes described as an unsettling or queasy feeling in the stomach and can be experienced with or without vomiting. Having an empty stomach may make nausea and vomiting worse, so be sure to eat regular meals and snacks. Eat small frequent meals (5-6 times a day) instead of 3 large meals, and avoid greasy, spicy foods and food with strong odors. Eat foods such as crackers, toast, broth that may be easier on your stomach. Try ginger teas, ginger candies, ginger snaps/cookies, or ginger root in soups.

Gastric Cancer and Constipation

Constipation can be caused by certain chemotherapies, nausea and pain medications, as well as a change in diet or a decrease in your usual activity level. Be sure to stay hydrated. Drink a minimum of 8-10 8 oz. glasses of fluid per day. If allowed, consume foods rich in dietary fiber such as bran, whole grain breads, rice, cereal and pastas as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts.

Gastric Cancer and Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most common side effects experienced by patients receiving treatment for gastric cancer. It is usually described as feeling very weak, tired, or having lack of energy. Choose foods high in protein and calories, which provide lots of energy. Try nutritional supplements or liquid meal replacements if recommended by your physician and healthcare team. Include light exercise if your healthcare team approves as this can also help combat fatigue.

Gastric Cancer and Diarrhea

Diarrhea occurs when you are having frequent, loose, soft, or watery bowel movements, and can quickly lead to dehydration. Avoid foods high in fiber, greasy, fatty foods, raw vegetables, and caffeine. Be sure to stay hydrated. Drink a minimum of 8-10 8 oz. glasses of fluid per day, water, clear beverages like broth or juices, Gatorade, or decaffeinated tea. Consume foods rich in potassium such as fruit juices and nectars, bananas, and potatoes (without skin) to help replenish the potassium that can be depleted with diarrhea. Consume foods high in pectin and soluble such as applesauce, baked apples, bananas, and oatmeal. Consuming too much sugar in your diet may also contribute to diarrhea and loose bowel movements and it may be helpful to limit high sugar foods as well as added sugars.

Gastric Cancer and Changes in Your Taste

During gastric cancer treatment foods you usually prefer may become unappealing. You may also find that foods taste bland, bitter or metallic. Try rinsing with 1-2 oz of baking soda rinse before and after meals (recipe for baking soda rinse: 1 quart water, ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda). If red meats taste strange, try substituting other proteins such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, or tofu. Eat foods that smell and look good to you. Avoid using metal utensils; use plastic utensils instead. Avoid hot foods to reduce strong odors, serve food at room temperature.

Gastric Cancer and Hydration

It is important to drink at least (8) 8 oz glasses (64 oz) of fluids per day in order to maintain adequate hydration. Sources of fluids include water, decaffeinated tea, juice, broth, fruit ices, ice pops and gelatin. Some patients at high risk for dehydration may actually be sent home with intravenous hydration after surgery or treatment. Be sure to speak to your healthcare team if you are unable to maintain your fluid intake. Gastric

Cancer and Heartburn/Reflux

Heartburn can be an uncomfortable side effect of your treatment. It is helpful to avoid acidic foods, like tomatoes and citrus, as well as high-fat and spicy foods. Small frequent meals can minimize acid regurgitation and discomfort. If your heartburn is persistent, be sure to speak with your healthcare team as some patients may be prescribed over-the-counter or prescription heartburn medications by their health-care team.

By Jessica Iannotta MS, RD, CSO, CDN Meals to Heal

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