Brenda Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA
When going through treatment for your colon cancer, you may feel as though everything is out of your control. But the one thing that you can take charge of is what you eat. Making the right food choices may help prevent malnutrition, improve tolerance to treatment and promote well-being.
The ideal diet for colon cancer is low in saturated fat and salt and filled with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. To reduce saturated fat intake, eat less red meat and replace it with fish, which you should eat one to three times a week. Eating foods rich in omega-3s, such as salmon or tuna, may help inhibit the progression of your cancer, according to a 2014 article published in "Cancer Causes & Control." Reduce salt intake by not adding it to your dishes and by eating more fresh food and fewer processed foods such as canned ingredients, frozen meals, fast food and deli meats. Getting foods high in fiber is also important for colon health; choose cereal grains such as oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa. Fruits, vegetables and beans also help you get more fiber. The Johns Hopkins Colon Cancer Center suggests you get at least 25 grams of fiber a day.
Diet When Dealing With GI Distress
Colon cancer treatment, including surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, can cause gastrointestinal problems. Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea can affect nutritional intake. When dealing with nausea, eat bland foods, such as plain meats, buttered noodles or crackers. It also helps if you eat small, frequent meals and foods at room temperature or colder. If you're experiencing diarrhea, drink clear liquids such as water or broth, and eat foods low in fiber and fat like baked chicken and white rice.
What to Do When Nothing Tastes Good
Chemotherapy can make eating difficult by altering the way food tastes. Eating foods that are tart or sour, such as those cooked with lemon or vinegar, may be helpful. Adding greater amounts of herbs and spices may also improve taste and intake. If you're experiencing a metallic taste, the Johns Hopkins Colon Cancer Center suggests using plastic utensils and eating foods at room temperature.
After treatment, eat foods that help maintain good health and prevent cancer recurrence. Your colon cancer recovery diet should be filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy. For cancer prevention, Johns Hopkins recommends you get 10 servings of fruit, vegetables and whole grains a day, with one serving equal to one piece of fruit, 1/2 cup of chopped vegetables or one slice of whole-wheat bread. The antioxidants and phytochemicals found in these foods protect cells from damage and may help prevent tumor growth.
- Cancer Treatment Centers of America: Nutrition Therapy for Colorectal Cancer
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Colorectal Cancer: Nutrition and Colon Cancer
- Cancer Causes and Control: Cancer Incidence in a Cohort With High Fish Consumption
- International Journal of Cancer: Intake of Dietary Fiber, Especially From Cereal Foods, Especially From Cereal Grains, is Associated With Lower Incidence of Colon Cancer in the HELGA Cohort
- University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center: Guidelines for a Low Sodium Diet
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Counts as an Ounce Equivalent of Grains
- MedlinePlus: When You Have Diarrhea