The Importance of Nutrition in the Stomach Cancer Journey

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african-american-woman-with-grown-daugherNutrition is an important part of any cancer journey. Eating a well-balanced diet before, during and after cancer treatment can help patients feel healthier, maintain strength and speed up recovery.

With stomach cancer, nutrition is even more important to monitor and control.

Food intake plays a significant role in recovery for those who have had or will have a gastrectomy. A gastrectomy is the removal of some or all of the stomach, which holds food at the beginning of digestion. After surgery, the stomach will hold much less food than it did previously. Food also passes through the body faster, causing the need to use the restroom more frequently.

Patients may also experience dumping syndrome – a condition where food leaves the stomach too quickly, causing food to “dump” into your small intestine.

Below are a few key tips to nourish your body while fighting stomach cancer, as well as to avoid developing dumping syndrome:

  • Eat small meals five or six times per day – each meal or snack should be no more than one cup of food.
  • Add new foods to your diet slowly.
  • Be sure to sit upright while eating, eat slowly and chew well.
  • Remember to include a protein source at every meal – proteins give you energy, help your body repair cells and tissues and help your immune system recover from illness. Proteins include eggs, cheese, beans, tender meats and chicken, boneless fish, yogurt, peanut butter, tofu, and cottage cheese.
  •  Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, including lots of colorful choices to get the greatest benefit. Fruits and veggies offer the body antioxidants, which help fight cancer. You may need to begin taking a liquid multivitamin as well, be sure to check with your doctor.
  • Low sugar is important to prevent dumping syndrome; carbs overall can be about half of caloric intake.
  •  Avoid foods with natural laxatives, like prunes, figs, licorice, caffeine and sugar, as well as very hot or very cold foods.
  • If losing weight is an issue, a low sugar liquid supplemental beverage can be sipped on between meals.
  • To prevent diarrhea, diet should be low or moderate in sodium to prevent excess fluid drawn into GI system.
  • Do not drink with snacks or meals and wait 30 to 60 minutes after eating to drink anything.
  • It is normal for stomach cancer patients to become lactose intolerant, so you may need to avoid dairy products.

“Good nutrition is an essential part of your treatment plan to stay strong in the fight against cancer,” says Emy Storms, RDN, LD, at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Medical City Denton. “It is important to overcome any reluctance to eat, and if you would benefit from a nutrition professional, to contact a Nutrition Educator to get you on the right path.”

For specific types of food you should include in your diet and which foods to avoid, visit Sarah Cannon’s nutrition information for stomach cancer patients. If you would like to speak with a registered nurse about care and resources in your community for stomach cancer, call askSARAH.

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