Proper Cancer Diet & Nutrition

If you are a cancer patient, a registered dietitian is your best resource when planning a healthy diet to help you combat the disease. Your treatment may have included surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biologic immunotherapy, and hormone therapy, and they can lessen your ability to eat properly.

Why dietary problems occur

All of these treatments kill cancer cells, and healthy cells can also be damaged in the process. This leads to side affects that make it difficult to eat, such as loss of appetite, sore throat or mouth, weight changes, dental problems, alterations in the sense of smell or taste, lactose intolerance, nausea and vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea.

Something that may surprise you

The recommendations your dietitian gives you many be quite different from what you have heard in the past about healthy eating, and this can be very confusing. You may be urged to eat more high-calorie foods with an emphasis on protein, and told to increase your intake of milk, cheese, cream, and eggs. You might also be urged to include gravies and sauces in your diet, or to use more oil, margarine, or butter in your cooking. You may find yourself eating fewer high-fiber foods because they can make some problems worse, including a sore mouth or diarrhea. These recommendations differ from the norm because they are intended to counteract the effects of both the disease and its side effects as you regain your strength and your appetite with a healthy diet.

Why you may have trouble eating

Depression, anxiety, pain, difficulty in swallowing, and failure to absorb the nutrients in your food may also come into play here. If malnutrition results, patients are unable to ward off infections or undergo treatment, and they become weak and fatigued at a time when they should become stronger. Anorexia, a common cause of malnutrition, may occur at the onset of the disease or at a later stage when the cancer has spread. Those suffering from certain types of cancer can also develop cachexia, a wasting syndrome resulting in weakness and the loss of muscle, weight, and fat.

Where nutrition therapy fits in

This provides cancer patients with the nutrients they need to keep body tissue from deteriorating, rebuild tissue, maintain their body weight and strength, and prevent infection. Certain cancer treatments have better results when the patient is well-nourished and eating properly, and their chance for recovery increases significantly.

Receive a free consultation from a dietitian with the American Dietitians for Health.

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