Durings cancer treatment, you may experience symptoms that can impact your ability to eat. Even a five percent change in body mass can affect treatment outcomes. Eating a well-balanced diet and staying nourished during cancer treatment can keep you strong and provide the nutrients your body needs to tolerate and recover from treatment. The stronger the body, the faster it can heal.
Good nutrition can provide several benefits for people living with cancer, including:
- Support immune function
- Preserve lean body cell mass
- Rebuild body tissue
- Decrease your risk of infection
- Increase strength and energy
- Improve your tolerance to treatment
- Help you recuperate faster after treatment
- Enhance your overall well-being
Managing side effects with nutrition
Cancer treatment can affect the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, bladder and nervous system in different ways, causing a variety of side effects that can interfere with your treatment regimen. Your dietitian may use various nutrition interventions to combat the side effects of cancer treatment, such as:
- Weight loss: We will monitor you closely to ensure you are maintaining a healthy weight, since weight loss can delay or interrupt your treatment.
- Fatigue: We may recommend small, frequent meals and nutrient-dense foods to give you more energy.
- Nausea: We may recommend a low-fat, bland diet of cold foods, ginger products, peppermint or sea bands to combat nausea.
- Constipation: We may recommend you increase your fiber intake and stay hydrated, including drinking warm liquids (e.g., prune juice), to relieve constipation.
- Diarrhea: We may suggest a BRAT diet of bananas, white rice, applesauce and toast to help minimize irritation to the digestive tract, and water soluble fiber supplements (e.g., pectin) to help form firmer stool.
- Anemia: We may recommend iron and folic acid supplements to boost your red blood cell count.
- Low blood counts: We may recommend a well-balanced, protein-rich diet to help your blood counts return to a safe level.
Eating do’s and don’ts
Most of us feel that to eat healthy, we must give up the taste, costs and convenience of typical American food; not true. Here is a list of simple do’s and don’ts for healthy eating.
DON’T rely on pills for nutrition. Taking one-a-day with a Wendy’s triple and large fries just isn’t going to cut it. Supplements should be taken with good food, not instead of good food.
DO drink water. It may be bland next to Coke, Pepsi and coffee, but the cells in your body don’t think so. Water is the most essential nutrient for them. Try adding lemon or lime slices for flavor.
DON’T walk around dehydrated. If your urine is deep in color or has a strong odor, you need to drink more water.
DO eat “mixed” food for breakfast such as those containing a little carbohydrate, a little protein and a little fat. For example: Eggs and a bowl of fruit or a protein shake with soy milk and a banana.
DON’T eat sugary foods in the morning. A burst of refined sugar on an empty stomach will trigger a flood of insulin which will suppress the immune system, and feed any abnormal cells which are common in everyone’s body.
DO eat less fat. The average American eats the equivalent of a stick of margarine a day, most of which is hidden in processed foods. Some examples are club crackers, frozen pot pies, potato chips, pastries such as doughnuts and croissants, and snack cakes. Of the fat you do eat, consumer a higher proportion from plant oils like olive oil and canola oil.
DON’T eat daily amounts of corn oil and soybean oil, especially if hydrogenated. These fats are immune suppressive and researchers are linking hydrogenated fats to increased free radicals (destructive to cells). Butter is a better choice than margarine.
DO increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Daily “detoxing” of the colon is important in maintaining good health. There are many high fiber pills, wafers, crackers and powders that are so easy to work into a busy lifestyle. High-quality fibers such as psyllium seed, psyllium husk, oat bran, mucilages, gums and pectin should be found on the label of the product you choose. Remember to drink more water while increasing fiber in your diet.
DON’T expect to get more fiber by eating iceberg or head lettuce, it has miniscule amounts of fiber.The same with white grapes, corn, cucumbers and celery. Some quick, simple high-fiber foods are dried figs, bananas, raisins, prunes, fresh oranges and dried dates – a good substitute for a candy bar.
DO eat nutrient dense foods everyday. Regularly consume yogurt, deep orange vegetables (carrots, squash, sweet potatoes), vegetables in the cabbage family, tomatoes, citrus fruit and dark green leafy vegetables. Remember to go for the color. The deeper the color of fruit or veggie, the more nutrients.
NOTE: This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to making decisions about your treatment.
Article from CancerCenter.com