Nutrition: Steroids and weight gain

Tuesday 08 May 2018

This week I want to look at something that I know causes a great deal of additional stress to some people and that is, weight gain as a result of being given steroids as part of the cancer treatment. This can become a real issue for people and although I have not got a magic answer I have a few tips that may help. Weight does seem to normalise again once the steroids have stopped. This can take between 6 and 12 months.

There are 2 main reasons why people can gain weight when they are taking steroids.

1. Steroids can increase the appetite making people hungry most of the time.
2. And once on steroids the body metabolises and deposits fat in the body differently.

But they are given for several good reasons

  • To help treat the cancer itself along with chemotherapy.
  • To help to reduce any inflammation.
  • To help to relieve any feelings of nausea or sickness when having chemotherapy.
  • To help to boost appetite when it is too low and people are struggling to eat.
  • To reduce the immune response for example after a transplant.

What can we do to try and minimise the weight gain?
As I explained I do not have a magic answer but the following may help.

  • Try to plan what you are going to eat and shop wisely making sure that you have the right food available so that you will not be tempted by the not so healthy snacks foods if hunger strikes.
  • When planning meals make sure that you include plenty of protein rich foods like chicken, fish (fresh and canned for convenience), eggs, nuts, pulses and seeds. Protein helps to satisfy appetite and makes you feel fuller for longer.
  • I would recommend a protein rich breakfast rather than a cereal based one. The protein will help stave off hunger whereas a cereal based breakfast tends to not last as long and consequently you will be hungry sooner.
    Foods like; poached eggs or an omelette with grilled tomatoes with some wholemeal toast; or the occasional smoked haddock or bacon with the toast; or baked beans on toast ;or sardines on toast with grilled tomatoes, ;French toast (which we called eggy bread as youngsters) using whole meal bread; are some simple ideas. Homemade smoothies are also acceptable but with the addition of some protein powder or ground nuts to add the essential protein.
  • Try to avoid sugar and sugary foods like cakes, biscuits and confectionery, because not only can these add to your weight but as they are digested very quickly they will make you more hungry sooner.
  • Focus on soups, homemade are best or failing that the fresh soups bought in the chill counter of the supermarket. Avoid the cream based soups but focus on the vegetable based ones with added lentils or beans or chicken. These could be eaten at any time of the day. They are not only filling but nourishing at the same time.
  • Between meals focus on unsalted nuts and seeds. I know that these can be calorific but control the amount by using a tablespoon as a portion or whatever you can fit into an egg cup.
    Oatcakes with some almond nut butter or some cashew nut butter make a good snack. The protein coming from the nut butters.A piece of fruit with a small portion of nuts and seeds is another idea and of course a mug of soup.
  • Some people find it easier and more satisfying to eat little and often rather than the traditional 3 meals a day. This way food is never far away and it will stop you getting over hungry.
  • Try to fit some exercise into your day as this will help use up stored energy and can sometimes make you feel more positive.
  • If you do gain weight as a result of the steroids try and focus on why you are taking them looking at the bigger picture, knowing that when they stop your weight should fall again. Try to focus on eating healthily so that you know that you are doing the best that you can for yourself while all of the treatment is going on.

Vegetable soup
This soup freezes well. It is using seasonal vegetables and quite simple, you could add extra ingredients to it like a can of rinsed chickpeas or some lentils or butter beans or even leftover chicken towards the end of the cooking time. You can also  freeze it as it is then add the additional ingredients when you defrost a portion to heat up.

2 carrots
2 leeks
2 stalks of celery.
8 shiitake mushrooms.
4 tomatoes
Small piece or swede or pumpkin.
Fresh coriander or parsley chopped.
800mls of water
2 vegetable stock cubes or chicken stock.

1. Wash and chop all of the vegetables finely. This could be done in a food processor.
2. Put the water and stock cubes in a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the vegetables, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 min till the carrots are soft.
3. Check the seasoning. Add the herbs, serve or chill and freeze in portions.

See also  Recipes of the month for some additional soup recipes last month was pea and Broad bean soup.

Blog originally written by Caroline Nov 2013

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