Diet and advanced gallbladder cancer
This page is about diet in advanced gallbladder cancer.
Diet and advanced gallbladder cancer
If you have advanced gallbladder cancer, you are likely to find it difficult to digest fat. You may feel sick a lot or sometimes be sick. You may feel too tired to eat or prepare your own meals. Side effects from your treatment can further decrease your appetite.
Before you leave hospital, you should see a dietician, who will give you a diet plan to suit you. Preparing food is often the last thing you want to do if you are feeling sick or have no appetite. If you live alone, and do not have anyone you can depend on to help out, you may be able to have a home help for shopping and preparing meals.
Snacks and small meals
You may find it easier to have lots of small meals, rather than sticking to 3 meals a day, so have plenty of nourishing snacks to hand.
If you have advanced cancer, you may find it hard to eat all the protein and calories you need. Lower down this page you can find tips for foods that contain lots of calories in one go.
If you have diarrhoea after gallbladder surgery, tell your doctor, nurse and dietician. You may need medicines to control it. And avoid very high fibre foods such as whole grain bread or cereals and dried fruit as these can make it worse.
View a summary of living with advanced gallbladder cancer.
People with advanced cancer often have weight loss. As many as 8 out of 10 people with advanced cancer (80%) have severe weight loss. If you have advanced gallbladder cancer, you are likely to find it difficult to digest fat. You may feel sick a lot or sometimes be sick. You may feel too tired to eat or prepare your own meals. Side effects from your treatment, such as chemotherapy, can also lessen your appetite. All of these things can be hard to deal with on top of your diagnosis.
Weight loss may not only be due to having a small appetite. It can also be partly because the cancer makes your body burn up calories at a faster rate than normal. If you are already underweight, further weight loss can cause a lot of anxiety for you and your relatives. There is more about cachexia in our diet problems and cancer section.
Most people want to do something to help their ill relative or friend. For many families, preparing and offering food are a major way of showing love and concern. For a patient, this can be wearing if you don't feel like eating. If you can't or don't want to eat, your carer may feel helpless and frustrated. It can be difficult for you both. But do let the people looking after you know how you feel about eating. It may help to have your nurse or dietician talk it over with you and your family. Some booklets and leaflets can be extremely useful in explaining about diet and advanced cancer. Have a look at the gallbladder cancer reading list.
Your diet can be affected by your treatment and your general health. If you are depressed, your appetite can decrease. What you feel like eating when you are ill is also related to your life long likes and dislikes and it is important that your nurse, dietician and doctor realise this. For example, if you have never liked drinking milk, then you probably won't want to start drinking high calorie milk drinks. These drinks are often recommended for people with cancer to help boost their calorie intake. You can ask to have fruit drink versions of these high calorie drinks instead. You should see a dietician before you leave hospital and they will give you a diet plan to suit you.
Preparing food is often the last thing you want to do if you are feeling sick or have no appetite. Your family and friends will often be only too pleased to spend time preparing pleasant and appetising meals for you. Small portions of meals that can go in the freezer and be easily defrosted are a good idea. This not only means that you don't have to do the cooking yourself. It also gives your relatives and friends a way of helping you.
If you live on your own you may not have any family or friends you can depend on to help with meals or shopping. So it may be more difficult for you to maintain a healthy diet. If this is the case, it may help to have an assessment carried out by social services. They should be able to organise a home help for shopping, preparing meals and for general support. Your district nurse or symptom control nurse will be able to help you organise this if necessary.
You may find it easier to have lots of small meals, rather than sticking to the traditional 3 meals a day. It is a good idea to have plenty of snacks to hand ready for whenever you feel like eating. You could try
- Yoghurts or fromage frais
- Dried fruit
- Stewed or fresh fruit (bananas are high in calories)
- Crisps or nuts
- Instant soups (make them up with milk to boost calories)
- Milky drinks
People with advanced cancer sometimes find it hard to eat all the protein and calories they need. Here are some easy tips for foods that contain lots of calories in one go
- Mash vegetables with milk and add some grated cheese and egg
- Porridge is a very nutritious breakfast – add syrup or sugar and cream
- Make up instant soups or gravies with milk instead of water
- Add cheese to an omelette
- Dip cooked soft vegetables in dips like hummus and sour cream for a healthy snack
- Make instant coffee, hot chocolate or Horlicks with full fat milk
- Mix a milkshake with ice cream, yoghurt and fresh fruit
- Dunk your favourite biscuits into tea and coffee
- You can get complete meals in a drink. There are a number of well known ones on the market such as – Ensure, Complan (soups and flavoured drinks) and Fresubin. These can be bought from chemists’ shops or you can get them on prescription from your doctor. Some of these come in 200ml cartons (the size of a small fruit juice carton). Keep one on hand and sip it throughout the day. You can really increase your calorie intake by doing this. Ask your dietician for advice on what to use and what you can get on prescription.
- If you need building up, you can increase the protein content of whole milk by adding a couple of tablespoons of dried milk powder per pint. Use it in the same way as ordinary milk for drinking and cooking. You can also buy protein powders and high energy powders and sprinkle these on everyday foods or add to recipes.
Remember - everyone is different and one person may manage foods that cause problems for someone else. So you may need some personalised advice from a professional dietician. You can ask your doctor or nurse for a referral.
Many people with advanced cancer feel tired and don't feel like cooking. Buy ready meals at your local supermarket if you don't have the energy to cook and don't have anyone to do it for you.
If you are having problems with diarrhoea after gallbladder surgery, avoid very high fibre foods such as whole grain bread or cereals and dried fruit, as these may make things worse. Tell your doctor or nurse. You may need some medicines to control your symptoms. It is worth asking to see a dietician to plan a diet that suits you better.
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