Posted by: Sanele | 2018/11/18


Stomach cancer/ulcer

Hi. I hope this finds you well. My mother is 56 years old and has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. It's at its early stages. She has trouble to keep food down and has lost weight due to this. I need advice on a healthy diet we can follow.

Expert's Reply


Cancer expert
- 2019/01/03

Dear Sanele, 

I am sorry to hear about your mother's diagnosis. Herewith some advice on nutrition:

Good nutrition is important if one has cancer. Cancer and cancer treatments can also affect the way one’s body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients. The nutrient needs of people with cancer vary from person to person. The cancer care team can help patients identify their nutrition goals and plan ways to help them meet their goals. Good nutrition is essential – it helps patients to:

·        Feel better

·        Keep up strength and energy

·        Maintain a good weight (mass)

·        Better tolerate treatment-related side effects

·        Lower the risk of infection

·        Heal and recover faster


If able and allowed to eat, eat as healthy as possible as allowed by the digestive system - Fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains are all nutrient dense foods. Nutrient dense foods are foods that contain protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals all needed by the body to function optimally. Consult a registered dietitian for specific recommendations based on one’s level of food tolerance. Refer to the table above.

No single food will supply all the nutrients a body needs, so good nutrition means eating a variety of foods. It is important to eat foods from each group at each meal every day.

Foods are divided into five main groups:

·        Fruits and vegetables (oranges, apples, bananas, carrots, and spinach)

·        Whole grains, cereals, and bread (wheat, rice, oats, bran and barley)

·        Dairy products (milk, cheese, and plain yogurt)

·        Meats and meat substitutes (fish, poultry, eggs, dried beans, and nuts)

·        Fats and oils (oil, butter, and margarine)


It is important to eat foods from each food group at each meal every day. Meals and snacks should include starch/grains, protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables and fats. By eating foods from each food group at each meal, an individual ensures that the body has a proper balance of all nutrients it needs to function. Eating meals and snacks at regular times is also necessary for controlling blood sugar levels.

Eat whole grain foods when possible - Cereals, breads, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and crackers are good whole grain choices. Whole grain foods will have “whole grain flour,” “whole wheat flour,” or “oats” as one of the first 3 ingredients. Take cognisance of the possibility of ‘dumping syndrome’. A registered dietitian can provide guidelines.

Avoid excess sugar and sweets - Since sugary foods can be a cause of ‘dumping syndrome’ one should be careful in consuming sugary foods and drinks.

If excessive weight loss becomes an issue, one’s body may need more kilojoules and it is fine if some of them come from sugar as long as one is able to tolerate sweet foods. It is important to consult a registered dietitian in this regard.

Be as active as possible - Exercise may help to stimulate the digestive system. Being able to eat more and having an enhanced feeling of wellbeing will make one’s treatments more bearable.

If able, or allowed to take in food per mouth, take in sufficient fluids to avoid dehydration - Choose beverages that contain nutrients and kilojoules. A good starting point is to strive for several glasses of nutritious beverages per day. Only take small sips to avoid excessive bloating, gas or feeling too full to eat.

A registered dietitian can provide recommendations for which liquid nutrition supplement and how much is best.

Avoid all alcoholic beverages - Alcohol is a Group 1 cancer causing agent according the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and is best avoided.

Keep a journal - Record eating times, foods consumed, and any effects to track and determine which foods are best tolerated.

Take all medications as prescribed – It is essential to take medicines regularly as prescribed.

Maintain a good mass (weight) - It is normal to lose some weight after being diagnosed (and treated) for cancer of the stomach. If losing more than ½ to 1Kg per week continuously, consult a registered dietitian immediately for recommendations on increasing kilojoule intake.

If there are any specific questions regarding any of the guidelines, please contact a registered dietitian.(MCH).

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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