Diet for Radiation Patients – Guidance on what to eat and foods to avoid during radiation therapy

Diet for Radiation Patients – Guidance on what to eat and foods to avoid during radiation therapy
19 Oct 2021
6 mins
Table Of Content
Diet for Radiation Patients – Guidance on what to eat and foods to avoid during radiation therapy

    Radiation therapy may put you at increased risk of malnutrition. It becomes very essential to take proper nutrition or diet to follow before, during, and after the radiation therapy. Everyone’s health status, type of cancer, body’s reaction to treatment may differ. 


    You need a healthy diet to prevent weight loss, recover strength, and rebuild healthy tissues. 

    You should plan your foods based on calories and your body’s reaction to the treatment (side effects).

    Let’s look into what to eat during radiation therapy, useful nutrition tips, and foods to avoid during radiation therapy.


    What to eat during radiation therapy?


    1. Protein rich diet for radiation patients: Take protein-rich foods which help to keep your strength and rebuild the affected tissues. You can eat fish, lean meat, poultry, and dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. 

    You can eat eggs, beans, lentils, and soy foods. You can also take nutritional beverages and protein powders prescribed by your health care professional.


    2. High Calorie Diet: Diet for radiation patients must be rich in calories. Make sure the food you consume is rich in calories. Carbohydrates and fats supply bulk calories and help in maintaining weight. 

    The carbohydrates are rich in fruits, potatoes, corn, rice, oatmeal, beans, peas, pastas, milk, yogurt, honey, maple syrup, and jelly/jam.

    The fat is rich in butter, oils, nuts, seeds, mayonnaise, full-fat dairy products (whole milk, cream cheese, cheese, ice cream, full-fat yogurt), etc.


    3. Vitamins and minerals: Vitamins and minerals ensure the proper growth and development of the body’s cells. They help the body to use energy in foods and keep the immune system stronger. 

    A balanced diet containing enough calories and proteins usually contains an adequate quantity of vitamins which is very essential during radiation therapy. 

    Fruits and vegetables are high in minerals and vitamins. Include orange, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, red pepper, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, almonds and peanuts in your diet. These fruits and vegetables are also rich in antioxidants.


    4. Foods that are easy to swallow and chew: You may experience dry mouth, sore mouth and throat and trouble swallowing during radiation therapy, especially if you are receiving radiation for neck and head cancer. 

    Take cooked rice, instant oatmeal, soft boiled eggs, soups, mashed vegetable side dishes, milkshakes, etc.


    5. Liquids: You should drink water at least 3 to 4 litres per day. Drinking plenty of liquids is an important part of the diet for radiation patients. It becomes very important if you experience vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. Try some clear liquids such as clear apple juice, caffeine-free tea, coconut water, soups, etc.


    4 Nutrition tips to follow:


    • Try to eat frequently in small portions. Split the main three meals into 6 or 7 small meals.
    • Fruit milkshakes can attract you to eat more than fruit. So, change the form of what you want to eat in an interesting way.
    • Use a straw to sip drinks. It will be helpful if you have a sore mouth or sore throat.
    • Take sugar-free mints, candies, ginger candies or gum, which keeps the pleasant taste in the mouth when you have nausea.

    Foods to avoid during radiation therapy:


    1. Raw or undercooked foods: Eating raw or undercooked foods may lead to food poisoning. Microbes could grow even on cooked foods if they were kept in the refrigerator for a long time. Avoid leftovers in the fridge, raw fish, nuts, or foods that show signs of mold.
    2. Alcohol and tobacco: Avoid alcohol and tobacco products as they will reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.
    3. Liquids in between taking meals: Drinking liquids in between meals may make you feel full soon. Try to avoid drinking liquids in between taking meals or sip only small quantities of liquids.
    4. Avoid salty, sugary, smoked or pickled foods.
    5. Lemon, orange, grapefruit, spicy foods, tomatoes, and salty foods: These foods should be avoided during radiation therapy if you have a sore mouth or sore throat.
    6. Less spicy, non-fried and less greasy foods: Choose these foods if you experience nausea and vomiting. 
    7. Apple juice, raw fruits, vegetables, cooked dried beans, coffee, and tea: Avoid these foods during radiation therapy since it may cause diarrhoea and bloating.


    Be prepared:

    You need extra care in nutrition during the radiation therapy. The side effects of the treatment and your feelings may cause you to lose weight and strength. Plan your foods rich in calories before the treatment. Talk to your dietitian about which foods are better for your medical profile.


    Modify your eating rules according to your energy requirements and side effects. Mostly, the side effects are mild and go away once your treatment is over. If you feel sick continuously, you must talk to your physician and get medical help. Staying positive will make you get well soon.


    Written by
    GuruvigneshwariContent Writer
    AboutM.Pharmacy (Pharmacognosy)
    Tags :radiation dietEasily chewable foodsNutrition tipsProtein rich dietfoods for side effects