Liquid Nutrition Supplements

Katrina Claghorn, RD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Should I take liquid nutrition supplements during my cancer treatment?

Katrina Claghorn, RD, Oncology Dietitian for The University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

Maintaining your nutrition status during the course of cancer treatment is a goal shared by the medical team.However the side effects of the therapies as well as the disease itself can make it difficult to take in enoughnutrients. Some of the symptoms that can cause decreased nutrient intake include a loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing, or inflammation of mucous membranes in your mouth. Furthermore the cancer or the cancer therapies can increase your body may need more nutrient because of an increase in metabolic rate.

While the best way to insure adequate nutrition is through a diet that includes a variety of foods, there may be times when you are unable to meet your nutritionneeds from food alone and nutrition supplements can help fill the gap.

Most of the traditional nutritional supplements resemble a milk shake, and come in a wide variety of flavors. Newer more popular products are also available in a high calorie or Aplus¨ version. If these high calorie products are too sweet they can be thinned with milk to decrease the thickness and the sweetness. Some products resemble a fruit drink supplement (mix this drink with gingerale to make a punch) for those that do not like the milk shake version. This fruit based supplement, as well as the low lactose drinks, are indicated for patients experiencing diarrhea.

Instant Breakfast mixes can be purchased in the grocery store and can be used as a supplement. These supplements are added to milk products to provide extra proteinand calories. While it may not be as nutritionally complete as the commercial supplements, these Instant Breakfast mixes are much less expensive.

Nutrition supplements can play an important role in minimizing wasting cachexia, so often seen during cancer therapy. Aggressive use of supplements along witheducation on symptom management can help prevent malnutrition and may improve tolerance to treatment. With supplements now available in bars and puddings aswell as beverages, you should be able to find a supplement that you like and can include in your meal plan.

The following is a recipe for a supplemental shake:

  • mix one packet Carnation Instant Breakfast into one 8 oz can of a nutritional supplement
  • blend in one to two scoops of ice cream.
(This drink provides about 500 calories and 20 gm of protein depending on the supplement used.)


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