How to gain weight during chemotherapy

How to gain weight during chemotherapy
There are many ways that cancer can affect your life, and being prepared for them may help make the journey a little easier. For instance, you’re probably aware that chemotherapy can cause your hair to fall out and may have readied yourself for that by doing some wig or hat shopping.

However, did you know that chemo can cause weight gain or loss? It’s an unpredictable thing, but knowing why these fluctuations occur may help you prepare for a rise or fall in your body weight.

Weight loss associated with chemotherapy

Certain side effects of chemotherapy, such as low appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and dehydration, may cause a drop in body fat. As a result, it’s important to monitor your weight, and notify your health care provider if you lose more than five pounds. (Seek emergency care if you experience sudden rapid heartbeat or breathing, confusion, blue lips or excessive fatigue.)

To maintain your body weight, you may need to change your diet to preserve the muscle mass you need to heal. This can include eating more protein and healthy fats—think olive oil, nuts and fish. Other palatable and easy-to-keep-down foods may include bean soups, milkshakes, smoothies, whole milk, yogurt and ice cream. Additionally, consuming smaller, more frequent meals may be easier on your stomach than three traditional meals per day.

Finally, talk to your health care provider about medications that may be causing your appetite loss, and find out if they’re necessary. There also may be prescriptions that can help spark hunger.

Chemo-associated weight gain

If you fall into the camp of people who put on pounds in response to cancer treatment, there could be a number of reasons. For example, it’s not uncommon for people to get less physical activity due to chemo-related fatigue or to eat more because of side effects from certain medications. Additionally, some cancer drugs can increase water retention and fatty tissue. The latter is largely associated with steroids, and this type of weight gain usually shows most in the face or between the shoulder blades.

If you or your health care provider think your weight gain is due to a poor diet or lack of activity, you may want to consider changing your lifestyle habits. Eating more fruits and vegetables can satisfy your appetite while keeping you hydrated and well-nourished.

While feelings of weakness or nausea can certainly hinder physical activity, some exercises may actually alleviate these symptoms. Swimming is a great low-impact, calming activity, as is walking. Many cancer patients find yoga to be soothing to both the body and the mind. Yoga can help tone muscles while reducing stress, which is great for your overall well-being.

Weight gain from fluid retention requires different action. If your doctor determines that your chemo meds are causing bloat and puffiness, try not to stand or walk too much at one time. Additionally, avoid wearing tight clothes, crossing your legs and consuming excessive sodium. To cut down on sodium, stay away from savory snacks, canned foods, cured meat, added salt and soy sauce.

If your weight gain goes higher than five pounds within a week, contact your health care provider. If you experience shortness of breath, contact your physician immediately.

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The information contained on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a professional health care provider. Please check with the appropriate physician regarding health questions and concerns. Although we strive to deliver accurate and up-to-date information, no guarantee to that effect is made.

  • Ativan and B-Complex Vitamins
  • Sources of B Vitamins
  • Ativan Administration
  • Ativan Side Effects

Ativan, with the generic name lorazepam, is a drug used to treat anxiety disorders. Ativan belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines. Ativan is also used to treat insomnia, epilepsy, irritable bowel syndrome and nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment, according to PubMed Health. B vitamins are necessary for metabolism and maintenance of healthy nervous system 1. B complex vitamins also helps the brain function properly, which reduces anxiety 1.

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Ativan and B-Complex Vitamins

Patients taking B-complex vitamins or multivitamins may require dose adjustment of Ativan, according to PubMed Health 1. B vitamins help maintain healthy nerves and proper nervous system functioning, which decreases anxiety and other neurological symptoms 1. Ativan dosage may therefore be lowered in patients taking B vitamins because of improved neurological and brain functioning 1.

Sources of B Vitamins

Vitamins for HPV

Patients with anxiety problems should increase consumption of vitamin B rich foods. Foods high in B vitamins include fortified breads and cereals, brewer’s yeast, beans, lentils, peas, bananas, whole grains, nutritional yeast, molasses, red meat, milk, dairy products, tuna, turkey, eggs, potatoes, tempeh, and green leafy vegetables such as:

  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • according to Medline Plus 1

Ativan Administration

Ativan is available as tablets and liquids that are taken orally. Ativan is usually taken two or three times a day with or without food. Ativan liquid should be diluted in 1 ounce of water or juice before taking it. Patients should not stop taking Ativan suddenly because this can cause withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, nervousness and increased anxiety. Patients can become easily addicted to Ativan. Tolerance may also develop with long-term or excessive use of Ativan.

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How to gain weight during chemotherapy

To encourage fast muscle growth, the most important thing to eat is protein. You can get the protein you need from a variety of sources, and you will need to make sure you are consuming enough each day; eating protein at five or six meals per day, or around every three hours, is usually very effective for building muscle when combined with appropriate exercise and strength training. Foods such as chicken, fish, and eggs that are derived from animals are all excellent sources. Some foods made from plants like nuts and legumes can also provide high levels of protein, and may be ideal for vegetarians. There are also special protein shakes you can drink for a quick and easy serving of protein.

Animal-derived foods are one of the best sources of protein for fast muscle growth. Beef, chicken, and pork all contain essential amino acids needed for muscle development. Seafood, including different types of fish, shellfish, and mollusks, is another option. Eating dairy products like milk and cheese, as well as eggs, can also get you the protein you need. One disadvantage of many animal products is their high saturated fat content; you may wish to consider eating products where the fat content is reduced, such as skim milk, lean meats, and egg whites, if you are including them at every meal.

Eating protein-rich, plant-based foods is another way you can encourage fast muscle growth. Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peanuts are all good sources. Nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios can also be eaten to help build muscle, as can seeds like pumpkin or sunflower. If you are a vegetarian and therefore do not eat animal products, these foods will likely be your primary source of protein and best option for building muscle. They also have the advantage of not containing saturated fat and many of them are high in nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants as well.

Another dietary option for fast muscle growth is drinking protein shakes. These shakes may be a good choice for you if you want to add some variety into your routine or if you are having trouble getting enough protein from food alone. There are several different varieties of shake you can choose from, depending on your personal preferences. You can drink shakes made from egg, casein, or whey protein, or ones made from soy or hemp if you are looking for a vegetarian option; there are also shakes made with combinations of these products.

Weight changes, either loss or gain, are common during cancer treatment.

Weight loss

Quick weight loss can be a sign of dehydration, which can be serious. Weight loss of more than 3 pounds in a week should be reported to your cancer team. There are a number of possible causes for weight loss, including:

  • Eating less due to nausea or poor appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration (not taking in enough fluid to make up for fluid that’s lost)

What to look for

  • Weight loss of 3 pounds or more in a week ( or less than a week)
  • Weight loss continues without trying
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Dizziness
  • Clothes or rings are too big

If you want to try to stop losing weight

  • Be sure to drink enough water and other liquids. Drink liquids between meals not during, so you won’t fill up.
  • Choose snacks that are high in calories and protein such as nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, granola, peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, or cheese.
  • Drink smoothies, milkshakes, and nutritional supplements or bars to put more calories and protein in your diet.
  • Eat your favorite food any time of the day: Eat breakfast foods for dinner; dinner foods for lunch
  • Try adding high-calorie foods such as whipped cream, sour cream, cream cheese, butter, or gravy to what you eat to avoid further weight loss.
  • Ask about meeting with a dietitian.

Weight gain

Some people with cancer find they don’t lose weight during treatment. They may even gain weight. This is particularly true for people with breast, prostate, or ovarian cancer who are taking certain medicines or getting hormone therapy or certain kinds of chemotherapy or targeted therapy. If you notice you’re gaining weight, tell your cancer care team so you can find out what may be causing this change

Many women with breast cancer gain weight during treatment, sometimes due to changes in hormone levels. Some may notice a weight gain if they have lymphedema. Many of the recommendations for breast cancer patients include a reduced-calorie diet much like those suggested for patients after cancer treatment has been completed. Some people find it helps their nausea to have something in their stomachs, so they eat more. Others eat more when they’re stressed or worried. If you have any questions, talk to your cancer care team about the best diet for you.

. People with certain kinds of cancer might have swelling in the abdomen (belly) that causes weight gain. Or, sometimes you gain weight because certain anti-cancer drugs cause your body to hold on to extra fluid. If this is the case, your doctor may ask you to talk with a registered dietitian for help with limiting the amount of salt you eat. This is important because salt might cause your body to hold extra water.

An increase in weight over time might also suggest a serious health condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. You may be able to tell if you gain or lose weight in a week by the way you feel or the way your clothes fit, or you can weigh yourself on a scale every few days.

How to gain weight during chemotherapy

When the average person calls to mind someone undergoing chemo, one of the first things they think of, fairly or not, is someone who is gaunt. It’s rotten, but it’s true: sometimes, people having chemo lose weight, a lot of weight. But not everyone, and not all the time; it is possible to maintain or gain weight during chemo, and to do it safely. If you’re worried about weight loss during chemo, I can help (though I always, always recommend chatting with your doctor, first). Here are 7 effective ways to put on weight during chemo, or at least just maintain weight during chemo.

Table of contents:

1 Stay Hydrated

If the chemo drugs make you nauseous, or cause diarrhea, one of your first concerns should be staying hydrated. Aim for 60 ounces or more of water (or other fluids) every day. Normally, your doctor would recommend against Gatorade or iced tea, rather than plain water, but during chemo, it’s usually okay to drink whatever sounds good, and whatever you can keep down. The exceptions, of course, are alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

2 Keep Nausea at Bay

Over the past decade, the drugs used to treat cancer have become less toxic, and they can cause far less nausea… but some patients still experience extreme nausea. If you’re among them, talk to your doctor about medication to help, otherwise, you’ll have difficulty keeping food down, and may lose weight. If you’re loath to add another med to your cancer-fighting cabinet, then experiment a little and see what foods help you… soda crackers, ginger ale, pretzels… these may help, too.

3 If You Can’t Eat a Meal…

If you just can’t seem to face the thought of sitting down for a full meal, then eat what you can, when you can… snack! Have a few bites at breakfast, indulge a snack attack, nibble at noon — you get the idea. You might find that, in addition to helping you gain weight during chemo, you’ll have more energy, a pleasant and much-needed side effect of your quick metabolism.

4 Add a Little Fat

You know what? You’re battling cancer right now. If you feel like having a bowl of ice cream, then go for it! Same goes for lasagna or smashed potatoes or fried chicken or double-cheese pizza. Unless your doctor advises against it, indulge a little in whatever comfort foods sound palatable to you. This isn’t a diet I would recommend when you’re better, but right now, why not? A little indulgence is a marvelous ways to put on weight during chemo, or at least to maintain your weight.

5 Can’t Stomach Meat?

Your body will need protein as you wage your battle, but if you can’t stomach traditional sources of protein, like meat and fish and poultry, try another source, like eggs, or beans, or soy. Supplements, though, like protein powder, aren’t necessarily a good idea, since they’re not the “complete” proteins your body needs.

6 Get Your Five Servings…

While too many antioxidants (like vitamins A, C, and E) aren’t a good idea while you’re having chemo (they might actually protect your cancer cells from the chemo), it’s an excellent idea to boost your mood and energy with five servings of fresh fruits and veggies each day. Strawberries, apples, pears, cucumbers, carrots… again, anything that appeals to you, and anything you can eat in moderation, is an excellent idea.

7 Ask before Taking Supplements

A note of warning: as I mentioned above, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The internet is full of special diets and supplements geared to helping people on chemo fight their cancer, but some do much more harm than good. Before taking a supplement, or adding a large quantity of something to your diet, check with your doctor to make sure it won’t interfere with your treatment. Though you’re hoping a protein shake might help you gain weight during chemo, it might end up hurting more than it helps.

Remember, everyone is different, so some of these tips may be more helpful than others, but hopefully, you’ve found something here that will help you maintain your weight, or gain weight during chemo. If you’ve been through chemo, and managed to keep your weight, which of these ideas helped you the most? Or do you have another tip to share? Please do!

How to gain weight during chemotherapy

Losing too much weight is a problem for many people with cancer

by Nancy Burke, R.D., Danielle Karsies, M.S., R.D., CSO, and Melissa Shannon-Hagen, R.D., CSO, U-M Rogel Cancer Center Symptom Management and Supportive Care Program

It’s important to include enough carbohydrates, protein and fat in your meals to maintain weight during treatments because too much weight loss can actually slow down/delay treatment. But, side effects of treatment, including loss of appetite, can make it challenging to eat enough food to get the calories your body needs.

This is particularly true for patients with oral, throat or other types of head and neck cancers. For these patients, the cancer itself, as well as treatment, changes the ability and desire to eat. This is true for other cancer patients, since chemoradiation treatment often has side effects that impact appetite and how foods taste. It’s also important to understand that cancer changes in the way the body uses food for energy.

If you think of food as the fuel your body needs to function, the importance of eating becomes clear. There are different types of food that provide different nutrients and all are important fuels for your body:

  • Protein is an essential nutrient for healing, tissue maintenance and growth. Your body requires protein to maintain its muscle mass; people who keep their muscle mass generally have fewer side effects during cancer treatment and recover more quickly.
  • Carbohydrates and fat help to provide increased calories your body needs during treatment.

Tips to get more protein and calories:

  • Switch from skim milk to whole milk, if you’re struggling with weight loss
  • Melt cheese on sandwiches, stir it into scrambled eggs or grate on top of soups, starches or meats
  • Add cottage or ricotta cheese to fruits and vegetables, egg dishes or desserts
  • Get an extra boost by mixing powdered milk into milkshakes and smoothies
  • Spread peanut butter and other nutbased spreads on sandwiches, toast and vegetables or swirl them into shakes, smoothies, yogurt and soft ice cream
  • Sprinkle nuts over cereal, salads, vegetables, pancakes or fruit as a crunchy topping
  • Add chopped meat to salads, omelets and quiches
  • Eat more beans and tofu. Hummus is high in protein and can be spread on breads and vegetables
  • Use whole wheat pastas — and add cream sauces
  • Mix legumes, lentils and beans into chicken or beef broth
  • Cook vegetables and meats in olive oil
  • Turn fruit into smoothies or sauces, such as apple sauce

Also consider drinking nutritional supplements, like Boost or Ensure. Several brands and flavors are available. They can be mixed with fruits, ice cream and syrups to make milkshakes. Generic versions are available and can be less expensive. Boost Very High Calorie, an ultra-high calorie supplement, is available in the U-M Rogel Cancer Center pharmacy.

Tips to make eating easier for head and neck cancer patients, specifically:

  • Dry mouth? drink plenty of fluids. Choose moist, soft foods. Limit spicy or hot foods. Cut food into small pieces and mix with sauces and gravies.
  • Sore mouth & throat? Avoid dry, crunchy, citrus, spicy or salty foods. Eat luke warm or cool foods. Use sauces and gravies or milk to moisten foods.
  • Food tastes different? Use plastic utensils for metallic tastes. Rinse your mouth with alcohol free mouthwash or a baking soda and salt water mix before each meal. If foods taste salty add sugar. If foods taste sweet add salt.
  • Difficulty chewing? Choose soft foods. Cut foods into small pieces or puree foods with gravies or sauces. Drink protein rich smoothies and shakes.

U-M Rogel Cancer Center patients: if you are losing weight or have additional questions, the Registered Dietitians at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center can help you. Talk with your physician to request a referral and call 1-877-907-0859 to make an appointment.

How to gain weight during chemotherapy

Many cancer patients experience weight loss during cancer treatment. It can be a result of the cancer itself or nutrition related side effects that affect your food intake, such as nausea, taste changes, and decreased appetite. Weight loss during treatment is linked to more hospitalizations, delays in treatment, and malnutrition. A common concern for caregivers and patients alike is how to promote weight gain in a healthy way. During and after cancer treatment, it is important to provide your body with adequate nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals. In this article, we will provide tips to promote weight gain while eating a healthy balanced diet.

  • Eat often. The goal to promote weight gain and combat a poor appetite is to eat regularly throughout the day. You may be used to eating only 2-3 times per day, but while you are actively fighting cancer, it is recommended to eat at least 5-6 times daily. Eating often can stimulate your appetite and provide additional calories to encourage weight gain. If you are not hungry, it is hard to remember to eat. Try setting an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to eat a meal or snack.
  • Choose high calorie, yet healthy foods. Avocado, olives, peanut butter, and nuts are great examples of foods that are good for you, but also high in calories. Adding these foods into your daily meal or snack routine can provide you with adequate nutrients and calories. Additional examples include: seeds, like sunflower or pumpkin seeds, full fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and trail mix.
  • Add calorie boosters onto the foods you are already eating. Sometimes during cancer treatment, certain foods will work for you while others won’t. It is important to eat the foods that you are tolerating and find appetizing, but you may need to “doctor” them up to provide additional calories. Adding condiments such as olive oil, cheese, salad dressings, and sauces onto your foods can give you the taste of eating your comfort foods, but with added calories to promote weight gain.
  • Drink your calories. 100% fruit juice and milk or milk alternatives can provide hydration, while also providing extra calories. When you are not feeling like eating or having nausea, liquids are usually easier to consume than solid foods. Smoothies and nutritional drinks are good options for high calorie snacks in between meals. If you are experiencing diarrhea, gas, or bloating from your cancer treatment talk to your dietitian about the best kinds for you.
  • Stay on a schedule and plan ahead. During your cancer treatments it is important to start an eating and drinking schedule and stick with it. Drinking your fluids in between meals can prevent filling up on fluid during meal time. Planning your meals out the day before can not only increase how much you eat, but also help promote weight gain and improve your nutritional status. Utilize friends and family to help you plan ahead and stay on track.
  • Don’t be afraid to indulge. Sweets and desserts are high in calories, which can promote weight gain. While they do not have much nutritional value, it is okay to consume every now and then to satisfy your sweet tooth and increase your calorie intake. Using natural sugars, like honey, pure maple syrup, dried fruit, nuts and whole grains in your favorite dessert recipes are great ways to boost their nutritional content.
  • Work with your Dietitian. Meeting with a dietitian regularly during treatment has been shown to produce better outcomes compared to those who do not see a dietitian. Dietitians can give you individualized ideas on ways to add calories, as well as help you with your side effects. As mentioned above, side effects from treatment can have a significant impact on your nutritional status. Managing these side effects with the help of your oncology dietitian and medical team can help you improve your appetite and promote weight gain.

Weight loss does not have to be an uncontrollable outcome of cancer treatment. Using these tips above and focusing on your nutrition related side effects can be the difference between weight loss and weight gain. It is important to not get discouraged if you see the number going down on the scale. Having a positive attitude and being proactive about your nutrition can make a big difference. Create a nutrition plan with the help of your oncology dietitian and medical team and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it!

Looking for instant and personalized nutrition advice? Check out Ina®, Your Personal Intelligent Nutrition Assistant. You can communicate with Ina® 24/7 to receive clinically appropriate and “on demand” nutrition support and guidance. She’ll respond with personalized nutrition tips, recipe, and answers to your questions—no phone calls or appointments necessary.

Visit LUNGevity’s website to learn more about Ina®. Click here to sign-up for Ina®.

Savor Health is a provider of personalized nutrition solutions designed exclusively for cancer patients based on evidence-based science and clinical best practices and provided by a team of oncology-credentialed registered dietitians.

Submit your questions here and the experts at Savor Health may answer it in an upcoming blog!

How to gain weight during chemotherapy

Many cancer patients experience weight loss during cancer treatment. It can be a result of the cancer itself or nutrition related side effects that affect your food intake, such as nausea, taste changes, and decreased appetite. Weight loss during treatment is linked to more hospitalizations, delays in treatment, and malnutrition. A common concern for caregivers and patients alike is how to promote weight gain in a healthy way. During and after cancer treatment, it is important to provide your body with adequate nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals. In this article, we will provide tips to promote weight gain while eating a healthy balanced diet.

  • Eat often. The goal to promote weight gain and combat a poor appetite is to eat regularly throughout the day. You may be used to eating only 2-3 times per day, but while you are actively fighting cancer, it is recommended to eat at least 5-6 times daily. Eating often can stimulate your appetite and provide additional calories to encourage weight gain. If you are not hungry, it is hard to remember to eat. Try setting an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to eat a meal or snack.
  • Choose high calorie, yet healthy foods. Avocado, olives, peanut butter, and nuts are great examples of foods that are good for you, but also high in calories. Adding these foods into your daily meal or snack routine can provide you with adequate nutrients and calories. Additional examples include: seeds, like sunflower or pumpkin seeds, full fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and trail mix.
  • Add calorie boosters onto the foods you are already eating. Sometimes during cancer treatment, certain foods will work for you while others won’t. It is important to eat the foods that you are tolerating and find appetizing, but you may need to “doctor” them up to provide additional calories. Adding condiments such as olive oil, cheese, salad dressings, and sauces onto your foods can give you the taste of eating your comfort foods, but with added calories to promote weight gain.
  • Drink your calories. 100% fruit juice and milk or milk alternatives can provide hydration, while also providing extra calories. When you are not feeling like eating or having nausea, liquids are usually easier to consume than solid foods. Smoothies and nutritional drinks are good options for high calorie snacks in between meals. If you are experiencing diarrhea, gas, or bloating from your cancer treatment talk to your dietitian about the best kinds for you.
  • Stay on a schedule and plan ahead. During your cancer treatments it is important to start an eating and drinking schedule and stick with it. Drinking your fluids in between meals can prevent filling up on fluid during meal time. Planning your meals out the day before can not only increase how much you eat, but also help promote weight gain and improve your nutritional status. Utilize friends and family to help you plan ahead and stay on track.
  • Don’t be afraid to indulge. Sweets and desserts are high in calories, which can promote weight gain. While they do not have much nutritional value, it is okay to consume every now and then to satisfy your sweet tooth and increase your calorie intake. Using natural sugars, like honey, pure maple syrup, dried fruit, nuts and whole grains in your favorite dessert recipes are great ways to boost their nutritional content.
  • Work with your Dietitian. Meeting with a dietitian regularly during treatment has been shown to produce better outcomes compared to those who do not see a dietitian. Dietitians can give you individualized ideas on ways to add calories, as well as help you with your side effects. As mentioned above, side effects from treatment can have a significant impact on your nutritional status. Managing these side effects with the help of your oncology dietitian and medical team can help you improve your appetite and promote weight gain.

Weight loss does not have to be an uncontrollable outcome of cancer treatment. Using these tips above and focusing on your nutrition related side effects can be the difference between weight loss and weight gain. It is important to not get discouraged if you see the number going down on the scale. Having a positive attitude and being proactive about your nutrition can make a big difference. Create a nutrition plan with the help of your oncology dietitian and medical team and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it!

Looking for instant and personalized nutrition advice? Check out Ina®, Your Personal Intelligent Nutrition Assistant. You can communicate with Ina® 24/7 to receive clinically appropriate and “on demand” nutrition support and guidance. She’ll respond with personalized nutrition tips, recipe, and answers to your questions—no phone calls or appointments necessary.

Visit LUNGevity’s website to learn more about Ina®. Click here to sign-up for Ina®.

Savor Health is a provider of personalized nutrition solutions designed exclusively for cancer patients based on evidence-based science and clinical best practices and provided by a team of oncology-credentialed registered dietitians.

Submit your questions here and the experts at Savor Health may answer it in an upcoming blog!