Radiation Oncology Photo

Food Suggestions To Help Prevent Diarrhea

Diarrhea, Nausea, and Vomiting

Radiation therapy to the abdomen may cause some side effects. Some patients experience nausea or an upset stomach a few hours after radiation treatment to the abdomen. Some patients find it helpful to eat a light meal a few hours prior to their treatment, while others prefer not to eat before their radiation treatment. You will need to work out a dietary plan that works best for you. Nausea may be most common during the first few days of treatment and taper down subsequently. Vomiting is uncommon and may be controlled with medications prescribed by your radiation oncologist. Diarrhea may also occur after a few weeks of radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvis. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are usually temporary side effects. You will likely not experience these side effects once your radiation treatments to the abdomen have been completed.

When diarrhea is a problem, the fluids lost must be replaced. Low-acid juices such as apricot, peach or pear nectars are usually good choices. A change in diet may help. Avoid foods that contain roughage or bulk. Discuss long-term diet changes with your physician.

During and after therapy, many people may not be able to tolerate milk or milk products. Milk contains a sugar named lactose. If lactose is not broken down by the digestive system, cramping and diarrhea result. There are commercial enzymes available which break down the lactose in milk before it is used for drinking or in recipes. Buy Lactaid milk and use it in cereal, coffee or cooking. Or you may substitute soybean milk for drinking and cooking.

Anxiety may also cause diarrhea, but it should be of a short-term nature. If your diarrhea persists for more than a few days, see your doctor.


Food Suggestions To Help Prevent Diarrhea
Suggest: Avoid:
Milk Group
Low-lactose milk* and milk products.
*Lactaid® is the name of the milk
Regular milk and milk products.
Beans, legumes, nuts.
Cereal and Bread Groups
Refined grains, cereals and pasta:
white bread, cream of wheat, spaghetti, white rice, Rice Krispies®, or puffed rice.

*No sauce on pasta: use a small amount of margarine and/or grated cheese.
Whole grains and cereals:
whole wheat bread, bran, cracked wheat, etc.
Fruit and Vegetable Group
Cooked vegetables, especially carrots, yellow squash, beets, white or sweet potato (no skin), bananas, applesauce, peeled apple. Fruits with skin and seeds, no tomatoes, raisins, and dried fruit, raw vegetables, skin of baked potatoes, gas-forming vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, onions, citrus fruits and juices.
Lean broiled or baked fish, chicken, turkey (no skin), or veal, lean beef only.  Cut away fat and skin before cooking. No greasy, fatty or fried foods. No garlic or onion. Use garlic and onion powders instead.
Feel free to direct any questions and/or concerns you may have related to your treatment to your primary nurse and physician.  The phone number is (631) 444-2328, Monday-Friday, 8:00-4:30 PM.  Evenings, weekends, and holidays, please call (516) 783-1610.