Eating & Drinking


As you move from diagnosis to treatment and surgery, your dietary needs will change. After surgery, you will be on a “low residue” diet which means a diet low in fiber to minimize the amount of work your colon and rectum do. Think white bread, not whole wheat! It might take your colon several weeks or longer to start working normally. It’s not uncommon to experience problems with diarrhea as your body heals.

Tips for Eating After Surgery

Tips for Eating & Drinking During Treatment

During treatment, you may not feel like eating or drinking, but you need to stay strong. Foods may taste different, and side effects like mouth sores or cold sensitivity might make it hard to eat.

Drinking enough fluids is critical to help your body work efficiently. If you’re not taking in enough fluids, or if you have problems with vomiting and diarrhea, you’re at increased risk for dehydration. Dehydration is serious, so pay attention to how you feel and if you’re concerned, call your health care team.

Symptoms of dehydration

    • Dry, sticky mouth
    • Sleepiness or tiredness
    • Unquenched thirst
    • Decreased urine output — eight hours or more without urination
    • Dry skin
    • Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Constipation

Tips for eating when you don’t want to

    • Eat small meals
    • If you’re not on FOLFOX, suck on ice chips or sip fruit smoothies all day long to avoid dehydration. If you are on FOLFOX, stay away from cold drinks and stick to room temperature beverages.
    • Talk to a nurse if you are too nauseated to eat or drink. Medications to curb your nausea may be available.
    • If people offer to cook for you, say YES and give them some ideas of what you can eat
    • Try different things. If you get an urge for a certain food, go for it

For personal help or advice, get a referral to a nutritionist, or find a Registered Dietician who has worked with cancer patients. To find a Registered Dietician with certification in Oncology, search the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


Content medically-reviewed by members of the Fight Colorectal Cancer Medical Advisory Board, February 2014

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