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Foods To Eat & Avoid While Undergoing Chemotherapy For Throat Cancer

The fractious multiplication of the abnormal cells in our body is termed as cancer, a group of diseases that can spread and affect your entire body. The malignant tumour growth can affect the lungs, colon, breast, prostate and various other parts of your body[1] . Though there are variations in the pace of the tumour growth, all of it is bound to affect your system and its functions. According to recent studies, it has been asserted that there are more than 100 types of cancer that can affect the human body [2] .

Throat Cancer And Chemotherapy

Throat cancer is one of the various types of tumour growth, and this particular one affects the vocal chords, voice box, tonsils and oropharynx [3] . Statistics have revealed that men have a higher chance of developing throat cancer than women[4] . Some of the lifestyle habits, such as poor dental hygiene, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of proper nutrition and exposure of asbestos can be cohered as being the risk factors assisting the development of throat cancer [5] . In some cases, it can also be caused by human papillomavirus infections (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus [6] .

On comparing with the different types of cancer, an 11% of throat cancer was reported in children [7] and adolescents between the age of 0 to 19. Out of an estimated number of 13,150 adults, 2,660 were women and 10,490 were men [8] [9] . Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat the growth of cancerous cells. The treatment aims at curing, controlling and palliating cancer [10] .

The treatment options chosen for throat cancer are dependent on various factors such as the type, stage and the progression of the disease. Chemotherapy is one of the common treatment methods opted for the condition. The treatment is used as a first-line and second-line treatment, and also in combination with other treatment methods such as radiation therapy[11] . The combination procedure is usually carried out on patients whose condition has advanced.

You may receive chemotherapy along with radiotherapy (chemoradiation) as the main treatment, induction chemotherapy before the surgery, after surgery you may have to undergo chemoradiation[12] so as to limit the recurrence of a tumour, and palliative chemotherapy to control the symptoms and relieve the pain. The common drug combinations applied during the chemotherapy are cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil, and docetaxel, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil [13] .

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Side Effects Of Chemotherapy

On treating throat cancer, chemotherapy applies anticancer drugs such as cytotoxic to destroy or shrink the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be administered orally (by mouth in the form of liquid or a pill), intravenously (by infusion into the vein), topically (as a cream on the skin), through injection, or through direct placement via a lumbar puncture (or a device placed under the scalp) [14] .

It is natural for an individual to experience unfavourable and adverse effects as a part of any treatment method. In one way, it can be ascertained that the side effects are in fact a notification suggesting the effectiveness of the treatment method[15] .

Chemotherapy is not free of any side effects either. As the treatment method includes killing off the cancerous cells, it may destroy or damage the healthy cells as well. The side effects can develop in a few days' periods or may take up to months or even years [16] . The side effects usually go away within some days, but in some cases, it stays on and even becomes permanent.

Some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy are [17]

  • diarrhoea,
  • fatigue,
  • sore mouth and throat,
  • low blood cell counts,
  • loss of appetite,
  • nausea and vomiting,
  • hair loss, and
  • peripheral nerve damage.

Among the aforementioned side effects, few of the most distressing is a loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. These side effects impact the nutritional intake of an individual undergoing chemotherapy. That is, the mentioned side effects can cause the person to avoid the proper and necessary intake of food, thereby aggravating the condition [18] .

Nutrition And Chemotherapy

In the prevention and treatment of cancer, it is implicit that nutrition plays a significant role. Chemotherapy can develop conditions such as loss of appetite or poor appetite, early satiety, sore mouth or throat (also known as mucositis and esophagitis), dry mouth, nausea & vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, weight loss, weight gain, fatigue and taste or smell changes [19] . With your body really hard along with the treatment to get rid of the cancerous cells, it is equally necessary that you follow a healthy diet.

According to a recent study conducted on the relevance of chemotherapy in treating cancer, it was revealed that about 58% of people get chemotherapy, and 11% get chemotherapy with radiation therapy. The study went on to further explain that women are more likely to get adversely affected by the treatment than men. From a study involving 1,654 patients, 89% of women experienced vomiting and nausea, whereas the statistics of men showed 78%. In the case of hair loss, the percentage was 74% men and 81% women [9] . According to the 2018 statistics approved by the American Cancer Society, out of the 10,490 men and 2,660 women diagnosed with throat cancer, 2,970 men and 740 women had succumbed to the disease [20] .

The above-mentioned signs can cause one to despise consuming food, but with certain changes in the lifestyle in parallel to the treatment can help the individual to consume food regularly. With poor appetite being the most common side effect of chemotherapy results in a decreased interest in food. However, one cannot give in to the lack of motivation as your body is working in more capacity than usual, while it is weaker than usual [21] .

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The strain caused to your body while fighting off the cancerous cells and repairing and replacing the damaged healthy cells is considerable thereby needing an equal proportion of nutrients to continue fighting off the disease-causing cells [22] . The nutrition helps in keeping your body alert and healthy, so as to carry out the standard body functions. In the event of a lack of nutrients, your body will fail to fight against cancer, as well as receive the chemotherapy [23] .

However, randomly eating everything and anything around does not actually contribute towards helping your body during the treatment. While undergoing chemotherapy, it is necessary that you take the advice given by the nutritionist. As the treatment will not allow your body to consume any random food, you must be aware of what food to eat and what not to eat. One has to be attentive and careful in choosing the right type of diet because consuming the wrong type of food is worse than not eating anything at all.

Foods To Consume

Vegetables, fruits and other types of food that have healing and immune boosting properties are extremely beneficial for an individual who is undergoing chemotherapy [24] . It is highly necessary that you incorporate carbohydrates, protein, fats and oils, fruits and vegetables, dairy products and plenty of fluids into your diet. However, all these only be incorporated under the doctor's advice.

For each of the symptoms associated with the condition, experts have planned out the perfect diet to be followed by the individual [25] .

1. For the loss of appetite - The stress and agony associated with the treatment can suppress an individual's appetite. Along with that, nausea, vomiting, and changes in smell and taste also contribute to this. Eat in small quantities frequently throughout the day [26] .

You can consume high-calorie foods such as peanut butter, cheese, nuts, trail mix, smoothies, ice creams, milkshakes and pudding. Add butter, mayonnaise and sauces.

2. For early satiety - If you feel too full even without the proper consumption of food, it can lead to the inadequate intake of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Consume whey, soy or rice, and consume fruit juices high in calories.

3. For sore mouth - This can result in causing extreme difficulty while eating food. It will pose difficulty in chewing and swallowing [27] .

You can eat milkshakes and smoothies, puddings, custards, ice cream, warm soups, yoghurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal or other cooked cereals, apple or grape juice (fruit nectars), scrambled eggs, macaroni & cheese, noodles, rice, potatoes, and puréed foods or baby foods.

4. For dry mouth - Chemotherapy can cause a reduction in the proper production of saliva, therefore resulting in dry mouth.

You can eat soft or puréed foods, drink liquids after each bite of food, moisten foods with sauces, gravies, or butter, eat very sweet or lightly tart foods that may increase saliva production.

5. For nausea and vomiting - This can be caused due to chemotherapy as well as cancer itself.

You can eat small frequent meals, bland foods such as pretzels, noodles, rice, potatoes and toast, or you may try yoghurt, smoothies, ice cream, and milkshakes. You can also try carbonated beverages,

foods with ginger - ginger ale, ginger tea etc. Also, try clear soups[28] .

6. For diarrhoea - This causes your body to lose plenty of water, therefore it is necessary that you drink plenty of fluids.

You can try sports drinks, decaffeinated teas, broth, toast, bananas, rice and apple sauce. Try bland foods such as noodles, and canned fruits. You can also eat lean meats, fish and chicken, oatmeal, hot cereals with rice [29] .

7. For constipation - The treatment can result in causing difficulty for you to pass stool, as it has become dry and hard.

You can consume fluids (8 to 10 cups per day) such as prune juice, lemonade and teas without caffeine. Also eat foods that are high in fibre such as legumes, split peas, lentils and whole grains.

8. For fatigue - Eat frequent meals in small quantities (every 3 to 4hours).

Eat foods such as nuts, cheese, raisins, oatmeal made with milk or cream instead of water, peanut butter. You can also eat iron-rich foods such as cream of wheat, red meat, molasses, fortified cereals and whole grains.

9. For taste or smell changes - The treatment may result in causing you to lose or diminish your sense of taste and smell.

You can consider using strong flavours such as onions, bacon or ham to flavour the vegetables. You can also marinate your food for it to get an increased flavour and smell.

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Foods To Avoid

Along with the number of restriction posed on the foods to eat during chemotherapy, it is also highly necessary that pay attention to the types of food to avoid during the treatment[30] .

  • Raw honey and associated products
  • Raw seafood
  • Unpasteurized fruit juice or cider
  • Mouldy cheeses like blue cheese and brie
  • Caffeine drinks
  • Unpasteurized dairy and under-cooked eggs
  • Unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Raw nuts and fresh-made nut butter
  • Smoked fish
  • Some types of fishes that have high mercury content
  • Sushi
  • Raw egg
  • Raw milk yoghurt
  • Spicy foods
  • Broth
  • Salty foods
  • Acidic foods such as salsa or tomato juice
  • Dry food
  • Raw vegetables [31]
  • Salads
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, corn etc.
  • Citrus fruits such as orange, grapefruit etc.
  • Fried foods such as French fries, fried chicken etc.
  • Avoid highly fibrous foods as your body will not able to digest the fibre content.

Foods You Can Consume Before & After Chemotherapy

As we have discussed the types of food you can and cannot eat while undergoing chemotherapy, take a look into the types of food you can eat immediately before and after the treatment process[32] .

Foods to eat before - It is preferable to eat bland and light foods such as plain or fruited yoghurt, fresh fruit and cottage cheese, poached egg and toast, toasted bagel with a small amount of peanut butter, cereal and milk (soy milk, if lactose intolerant) and chicken rice soup with crackers (salt).

Food to eat after - Low fat, colder or cool foods (as it does not have much aroma), plenty of fluids such as fruit nectars, low-salt broth, clear soups, Gatorade (sports drink), popsicles or sherbert, gelatin, herbal teas, such as ginger or mint, and weak black teas[33] .

Healthy Recipes

1. Chicken and White Bean Soup

Ingredients [34]

  • 3 cups of chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 6 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white beans, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Take the meat from the chicken breast, do not use the skin or the bones.
  • Sauté the onion, celery and carrots with the oil over a low to medium heat for 10 minutes.
  • Add the broth and chicken, and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Add in the chicken and beans and cook for five minutes.
  • Add the seasoning accordingly and enjoy.

2. Lemon, Broccoli and Garlic Penne Pasta


  • ½ pound of penne pasta (or any other type of pasta you have)
  • 5 cups of broccoli
  • ¼ cup of olive oil (or oil of your choice)
  • 10 thinly sliced cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup of low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • zest of one lemon, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook the pasta, add the broccoli five minutes the end of cooking time.
  • Once it is cooked, drain the water and keep aside.
  • Heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic slices for two minutes.
  • Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer when the broth becomes half.
  • Stir regularly.
  • Then, add the broccoli, pasta and lemon zest and stir.
  • Season and serve.

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View Article References
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