Good nutrition is immensely important for the patients with cancer; those under treatment as well as those who have completed the cancer treatment. It is because the disease itself, as well as its treatments has a potential to significantly impair patient's appetite. Cancer and its treatments may also alter body's ability to tolerate certain foods and nutrients.
The need of nutrients for a cancer patient varies from person to person. Dietitians specialized into 'Nutrition for Cancer Patients' can help set nutritional goals for patients and plan diet strategies to help achieve them.
An appropriate diet can help patients in following ways:
- - Feel better.
- - Restore / Maintain the body strength and energy.
- - Maintain weight and optimum level of required nutrients.
- - Tolerate treatment-related side effects.
- - Decrease the risk of infection.
- - Heal and recover quickly.
Patients need to make sure that they include all food groups like Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals, and Phytochemicals to efficiently fight the battle against cancer. Their meals should essentially include protein foods such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, beans / lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, and milk. In addition, patient will have to drink lots of fluid every single day in order to keep themselves optimally hydrated all the time. Water is by far the best fluid to drink.
The body uses calories and protein as a fuel to support healthy organs, muscle repair, and daily activity. Body needs more calories and proteins during most types of cancers and their treatments. The extra calories and protein are essential for healing tissues and fighting infections during chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or after cancer surgery. Therefore, most people undergoing cancer treatment need to eat more than the usual. If not followed, they may become malnourished and lose weight consequently.
During the treatment, patients may find that their appetite is compromised, or they may have side effects of the treatment that make it hard for them to eat healthfully. When they are not able to maintain healthy body weight with foods that are traditionally considered healthy, it is acceptable to choose alternate foods that otherwise appeal to them. However, they should make sure that they intake enough nutrients to prevent malnutrition.
Consuming food as the part of treatment helps in a better way. Irrespective of the hunger, cancer patients need to eat regularly in order to have enough fuel in the body to fight against the cancer and preserve the muscle. Not following appropriate diet can compromise the efficacy of cancer treatment and the recovery post treatment may become a significant challenge.
Remember, 'Eating Well' while undergoing cancer therapy is the Mantra.
Dietician Madhuri Gurav
- P.G.D. Dietetics, C.D.E.
- Mumbai Oncocare Centre, Thane
- 20th September, 2023
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