Radiation Enteritis

Katrina Claghorn, RD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
What are some diet recommendations for cancer patients with radiation enteritis?

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

The general diet recommendations for patients with radiation enteritis are a low fiber, low lactose and low fat diet. Sometimes a gluten restriction may be needed. Because the diet can be so restrictive it is best to meet with a registered dietitian who can instruct you on foods that can be tolerated and develop a meal plan that will provide all your nutrition needs.

However, most patients tolerate a regular diet of 6 small frequent meals better than 3 large meals. The small meals need to be nutritionally complete, containing adequate protein and calories. A general goal is that each small meal should contain no less than 300 calories and at least 10 grams of protein. If weight loss continues add nutrition supplements e.g. Carnation Instant Breakfast (made with Lactaid milk), Boost or Ensure. There is a wonderful product called Scandishake that provides 600 calories per 8 oz serving, however it has to be ordered from your pharmacist.

The main problem during periods of enteritis is significant diarrhea. Rice, applesauce and bananas are the foods that may help with diarrhea. Adding pectin powder to your food (but start with small amounts) may also decrease diarrhea.

Some helpful resources:

  • The National Cancer Institute's "Eating Hints" booklet is a good source of information on symptom management and information about diet and nutrition for people undergoing cancer treatments. It also contains recipes that are high in nutritional value and are delicious.
  • "The Cancer Recovery Eating Plan" by Daniel Nixon, M.D.