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Tips for Proper Nutrition while Undergoing Cancer Treatments

Eating a healthy diet helps cancer patients feel better while undergoing treatment. While good nutrition does not cure cancer, it gives patients the nutrients they need to stay strong and recover.

Nutrition therapy

When quality nutrients are taken into the body, they help the body maintain its weight, fight infection, build strength and keep the body’s tissues healthy. Everyone requires good nutrition but the cancer patient nutrition guidelines are different than someone without cancer. People with cancer need to make sure they get enough protein and calories in the diet to maintain a good quality of life and improve recovery.

Certain treatments, such as those used to treat mesothelioma, can make it difficult to take in the nutrients that are needed. Treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can make it difficult to eat. When too few calories and protein are ingested, people often begin to feel weak and tired. This is often caused from anorexia, which is brought about by the cancer treatment and leads to weight loss

Finding the best nutrition will require a nutrition screening. The screening will look at appetite, nausea, vomiting, mouth pain and other symptoms. It is not uncommon for the cancer patient to need medicine with their nutrition therapy.

The goals of nutrition therapy are to prevent problems, replace missing nutrients and to prevent loss of the patient’s current health status. People who can eat but have no appetite may be given medicine to improve their appetite and to soothe any mouth sores. When people cannot eat food, they may be given nutrients by a tube inserted into the stomach, intestines or bloodstream. The food will be liquid and consist of protein, fats, water, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates.

Foods to eat and avoid

After treatments such as surgery, eating may be painful and decrease the appetite. Because of this it is important to increase calories. This can be done by using salad dressings, mayonnaise, gravies and frying food. Increasing protein and high calorie foods helps wounds to heal and increase energy. These foods include:

-Cheese
-Nuts
-Eggs
-Whole milk
-Peanut butter
-Fish, poultry and meat
-Ice cream

Foods to avoid are the ones that may cause gas. This type of food includes:

-Beans
-Carbonated beverages
-Cabbage
-Broccoli
-Peas
-Green peppers
-Cucumbers
-Radishes

Constipation can be a common side effect of cancer treatment, especially when taking pain medications. Drinking lots of water and increasing fiber intake will help to prevent this problem. These foods have fiber:

-Whole-grain breads and cereals
-Fruits and vegetables
-Beans

The desire to eat may be reduced following cancer treatment and lead to anorexia. To combat this, eat small amounts of high protein and calorie foods every 1-2 hours. These foods are recommended:

-Yogurt
-Pudding
-Nutritional supplements
-Cheese and crackers
-Ice cream and milkshakes
-Muffins

Other tips to increase protein and calories in the diet are to add powdered milk to foods such as milkshakes, pudding or any recipe that requires milk. Foods that can be snacked on make it easy to take in nutrients. Deviled eggs, peanut butter and crackers, cream cheese and crackers or deviled ham on crackers are all good choices.

There are many ways for a cancer patient going through treatment to improve their nutritional status. Most of the options are simple and easily stored in the home.