Diet and Nutrition

What you eat and drink are important not only for prevention, but also during your fight against colorectal cancer and into your survivorship.

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Eating and drinking for prevention

While there is no “magic bullet” diet, research has proven that diets including the following foods and food groups may aid in your efforts to prevent colorectal cancer. The following diet tips have been proven to reduce chronic inflammation in the body, which lowers cancer risk.

  • High fiber intake from whole grains, nuts/seeds, and legumes (peas, lentils, chickpeas and dry beans). Try to build up to eating 30 grams each day. Brown rice and rice bran have been studied and shown to reduce polyp formation and inflammation.
  • Consume plenty of unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Try to eat at least five servings a day. Eat the rainbow!
  • Reduce red meat consumption to no more than 18oz. per week.
  • Avoid alcohol, as it’s shown to increase cancer risk.
  • Limit sugary drinks.
  • Skip the processed meats.
  • Eat more dairy.

What to eat as a colorectal cancer patient

As you move from diagnosis to treatment and surgery, your dietary needs will change. After surgery, you will be on a “low residue” diet. This is a diet low in fiber. It will minimize the amount of work for your colon and rectum. Think “white bread and white rice, not whole grain bread and brown rice,” and avoid foods like raw vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grain products, beans, and fried meats. This is a short-term diet to be used following surgery and under the guidance of a medical professional.

For a more detailed list of what to eat and what not to eat, visit the American Cancer Society.

You may not feel like eating or drinking during treatment. Foods may taste differently, and side effects like mouth sores or cold sensitivity might make it hard to eat. It’s important to make sure you get proper nutrients and combat unwanted weight loss.

Tips for Eating After Surgery

  • Request a consultation with the hospital’s nutrition team. Or find a Registered Dietitian with certification in Oncology by searching the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • Talk to your nurse before leaving the hospital and request a list of what you can and cannot eat.

Tips for Eating if You Don’t Feel Like It

  • Eat small meals.
  • Talk to a nurse if you are too nauseated to eat. Medications to curb nausea may be available.
  • If people offer to cook for you, say “YES!” and give them some ideas of what you can eat.

Drinking enough fluids is critical to helping your body work efficiently. Dehydration is a serious, potentially life-threatening side effect. Here are a few tips for staying hydrated:

  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water.
  • Suck on ice chips and sip smoothies throughout the day.
  • Keep room-temperature water nearby at all times.
  • Eat foods that are high in water content.

*If you are on FOLFOX, stay away from cold drinks and stick to room temperature beverages.

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