Eating after stomach cancer surgery – Macmillan Cancer Support
My name is Claudia Rueb, I work at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
I’m a specialist dietitian looking after patients who’ve had surgery of their upper gastrointestinal tract. That means either their oesophagus or their stomach.
When people have stomach cancer and undergo treatment and they feel anxious and quite
down about the difficulties in eating and digesting their food, that is only the case
for the first few weeks and months after they have surgery because the body needs time to
adjust and be able to digest with the new shape inside. Over time, most foods will be
tolerated again. After surgery, some of the challenges people
might face are losing weight, not being able to absorb some of the vitamins properly, like
vitamin B12, or some of the minerals like folate or iron.
Dumping syndrome is another challenge that people might have to overcome. Dumping syndrome
means literally what the word is saying – that the body is not able to cope with the amount
and the concentration of the undigested food. It’s literally trying to get rid of it by
dumping it down the digestive tract and people then will have to go to the toilet very soon
after eating and they may also feel slightly dizzy or sweaty and they will have to rest
for these symptoms to pass. There are a few ways of minimising the risk
of experiencing dumping syndrome. For example, by splitting fluids and food, so trying to
not have something to drink about half an hour before the meal and then waiting about
half an hour after the meal before you have another drink. Also trying to have smaller
portions and eating really slowly is going to make it much easier for your body to actually
digest and cope with the food that is arriving after chewing.
Another thing to remember is to avoid high sugary foods. Choose meals that have a small
amount of starchy food as well as protein foods and some fat.
Another way to minimise problems with digesting food or digesting meals is try and opt for
high calorie high protein foods. Trying to not buy any diet products but the full fat
yoghurt or the regular ice cream. All of those things can help to maximise the calories and
the nutrition that you are having with your meals.
It’s very important actually to continue to have meals and mealtimes with friends and
family and to continue to have a good routine, to sit down and enjoy the food. After that
adaptation period, almost everybody goes back to having a normal life, when I say normal
I mean they discover kind of a new normal where they are going out for dinner, going
on holidays. Some of those activities might be a little bit different, but the body is
able to adjust in an amazing way. Most people will find that they have a happy