Colon cancer: Foods to eat and avoid

Colon cancer: Foods to eat and avoid

In the journey of colon cancer, a healthy diet is crucial at each step. Eating problems, common during the treatment of colon cancer, can make it difficult to eat healthy. Many patients feel nauseous that decreases the desire to eat. It is best to follow a well-balanced diet that will offer nourishment, energy, strength to the body, and also help the body respond to the challenges of colon cancer therapy.

Different therapies for colon cancer may exhibit different nutritional challenges. Below are the key tips for building a diet plan!


  • Nutrients that you should never miss in the colon cancer diet
  • Diet to follow during treatment of colon cancer
  • Foods and drinks to avoid
  • Conclusion

Nutrients that you should never miss in the colon cancer diet

  • Proteins

Proteins are great for your health. Incorporate proteins in your diet as they boost the immune system, and also support the repair of body tissues after radiation therapy, surgery, or chemotherapy. Avoid red and processed meat such as hot dogs. Instead, go for lean proteins such as fish, eggs, and poultry. Legumes, beans, lentils, and nuts are also good sources of protein.

To know the daily protein requirement during cancer treatment, click here!

  • Healthy fats

Avoid trans fat and saturated fat present in junk food, red meat, and dairy products like butter and cheese. Seek out healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids (found in nuts, fish, and seeds) and monounsaturated fats (found in canola, peanut, and olive oils) as it provides energy to the body and also reduces inflammation.

Wondering the benefits of olive oil in the prevention of colorectal cancer, click here!

  • Roughage/Fibre

Your colon needs the right amount of fibres to help in the passage of food through the intestine, thus minimizing the time potential carcinogens stay in the intestines. Good sources of dietary fiber include fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice, nuts, corns, seeds, and legumes like lentils and black beans.

  • Electrolytes

People with colon cancer should monitor their intake of electrolytes since colon cancer and its treatment might impede the absorption of nutrients like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Loss of fluids due to prolonged vomiting, sweating, or diarrhea can also result in electrolyte imbalance.

Good sources of electrolytes included fruits like watermelon, bananas and avocados; green leafy vegetables like kale and lettuce; and peanuts, potatoes, almonds, and beans.

  • Vitamins

Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute suggested that supplementation of chemotherapy with elevated doses of vitamin D delays disease progression, and therefore may be valuable for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

Other essential vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and vitamin E play a vital role in the body’s ability to tolerate colon cancer therapy. So, include colorful fruits and vegetables as they are rich sources of vitamins.

  • Adequate hydration

Not getting enough fluids can lead to a wide range of problems such as fatigue, headache, low blood pressure, dizziness, constipation, strong color or odor of urine, and decreased urine output. Staying hydrated is therefore necessary during and after colon cancer treatment. Adequate hydration might also diminish therapy-associated side effects.

Low-sugar electrolyte drinks such as smoothies and juices are a great way to keep yourself hydrated. Also, drink plenty of water and/or other decaffeinated fluids.

Diet to follow during treatment of colon cancer

Proper nutrition is important for good health but knowing what to eat when a person has colon cancer is especially crucial. In certain stages of colon cancer treatment, side effects like severe diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, mucositis (painful inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes lining the digestive tract), alteration in taste and smell, mouth sores, vomiting, constipation are common.

Such side effects might impact a patient's ability to eat and digest food, and make it hard to follow a "perfect" diet. Read below to know more about the dietary modifications required by a patient suffering from colon cancer.

(a) Diet before and after surgery

Prior to colon cancer surgery, patients should be well-nourished. Research has indicated that individuals who are well-nourished prior to surgery tend to have better outcomes, including decreased hospital stays and minimized complications vs. malnourished individuals. In severely malnourished people who can not get sufficient nutrients by mouth, intravenous nutrition for a few weeks prior to surgery might enhance the outcomes.

About a week prior to surgery, individuals may be given a drink rich in micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids to minimize the chances of complications. Try to avoid too much fibre-rich diet initially. However, within a week, most of the surgical patients may return to a normal diet.

(b) Diet during chemotherapy

  • Patients experiencing chemotherapy-linked severe diarrhea are suggested to stay away from high-fiber foods. Such patients should prefer to follow a low fiber diet such as white rice, pasta, and healthy sources of low-fiber protein.

Since low fiber diets do not boost bowel movement, they will not trigger diarrhea. Moreover, low-fiber diets are easy to digest.

  • Individuals who have lost their sense of taste might require a high-calorie diet of bland foods like chicken, turkey, eggs, and fish.
  • Hydration is pivotal too. So, be sure to consume plenty of fluids.

(c) Diet during radiation therapy

Colon cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy may witness numerous side effects including diarrhea and irritation of the rectum. For such patients, the best pick would be a low-roughage diet to minimize irritation. Individuals who aren’t witnessing side effects can usually follow a regular diet soon after radiation therapy.

Foods and drinks to avoid

Some foods and drinks can be harmful during your colon cancer journey and shouldn’t be included in your diet plan. These include:

  • Greasy, fried foods
  • Foods and drinks high in sugars
  • Foods high in saturated fats and trans fats like pork, lamb, butter, and processed snacks
  • Carbonated beverages and soda
  • Tobacco, caffeine, alcohol,
  • Red meat and processed meats since they are linked with a higher risk of colorectal cancer


Colon cancer and its treatment can often raise the nutritional needs of the body. The exact amount of nutrients required differs from patient to patient. The therapeutic approach, risk factors, adverse effects, general health condition of the patient, and other factors determine the specific dietary needs. During treatment, it is crucial to watch your weight and nutrition intake.

For many cancer patients, maintaining healthy body weight through proper nutrition during treatment is a challenge. Extreme weight loss during therapy is not encouraged as it will affect the strength and ability to tolerate treatment, may raise the risk of experiencing therapy-linked adverse effects, affect the response to therapy, slow down recovery, might lead to hospitalization or the need to pause or delay the therapy.

In contrast, high body weight may negatively influence cancer therapy and raise the risk of mortality. In comparison with people with a healthy weight, obese people are at greater risk of colorectal tumor recurrence. So, maintain a healthy body weight as it yields numerous promising benefits. It gives the energy to stay active, and also boosts the immune system. You can also read more about colorectal cancer.

Patients with colon cancer should stay hydrated and consume foods that are rich in fibres, proteins, vitamins, antioxidants, healthy fats, and electrolytes. Thus, monitoring the nutritional status may aid to minimize the risk of experiencing nutritional deficiencies during treatment.

Also, explore Natural remedies to prevent colorectal cancer

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