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Cancer and Nutrition: Foods to Manage Diarrhea

During cancer treatment, you need enough calories and protein. The foods you choose can also help you cope with side effects of cancer and its treatment. One side effect of cancer or cancer treatment is diarrhea. Diarrhea is when you have bowel movements that are frequent, loose, and watery. It happens when waste passes too fast through your bowel, and your body is not able to absorb enough water that it needs.

Foods to eat

These are good food choices if you have diarrhea:

  • Yogurt

  • Cottage cheese

  • White rice

  • Noodles

  • Potatoes with skin

  • Farina or cream of wheat

  • Eggs cooked until the whites are solid (not fried)

  • Smooth peanut butter

  • White bread

  • Canned, peeled fruits

  • Well-cooked vegetables

  • Chicken or turkey without skin, lean beef, and fish (not fried)

It may help to eat small meals and snacks often instead of 3 large meals a day. Eating foods rich in potassium and salt (sodium) are good choices. This can help replace electrolytes lost from diarrhea.

Foods to stay away from

Make sure to not eat:

  • Fatty or fried foods

  • Raw vegetables

  • Fruit seeds, skins, or stringy fibers

  • Vegetables with a lot of fiber, such as broccoli, corn, dried beans, cabbage, peas, and cauliflower

You may also need to not have milk or dairy foods. If you are not be able to digest the lactose in these foods, your symptoms may become worse.

Getting enough to drink

Diarrhea may cause dehydration. This means you don’t have enough water in your body. It is vital when you have diarrhea to drink at least 8 to 12 cups of fluids a day or as directed by your healthcare provider. Drink liquids that are at room temperature. If you have a sudden bout of diarrhea, drink only clear liquids for a short time. This lets your bowel rest. And it replaces the fluids lost during the diarrhea.

Taking medicine

Your healthcare provider may also advise medicine to help stop diarrhea. Take this medicine exactly as directed.

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