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Eating Healthy Critical for Cancer Treatment Patients

June 15, 2012

Recently on our sister blog at SlowMoneyFarm I had a question from Jillian Mckee about doing a guest post. When she presented her idea, it was not long after a friend’s husband lost his battle with illness. It’s after losing an uncle and grandfather to cancer. She didn’t know this, but having had several friends the last few years, one no longer with us, this is a topic that is far more important than recipes, although I love sharing those.

It’s something few want to talk about or think about, but when you have a loved one with cancer and are looking for every weapon available to defeat it’s evil, nutrition is certainly one thing to draw on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Importance of Healthy Eating Throughout Cancer Treatment and Beyond

By Jillian McKee

According to the  National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, cancer and its treatments require a patient to maintain good nutrition. However, dealing with cancer can make maintaining the right nutrition difficult. Whether a patient has just been diagnosed with breast cancer or is undergoing   treatment for mesothelioma, good nutrition can improve the quality of his or her life.

Good nutrition is essential for all people, but especially those with cancer. The rules change when cancer and treatment are a factor. Many cancer patients have difficulty eating or they lose their appetites as a side effect.   Stanford Medicine’s Cancer Institute lists several nutrition recommendations for cancer patients that might seem counter-intuitive, but they are important for those who have difficulty eating properly.

Such guidelines suggest eating every one to two hours and choosing high-calorie, high-protein options for snacks, meals, and drinks to avoid weight loss and not getting enough nutrients. Poor nutrition while one has cancer can make the person feel weak and reduce their immune system, putting them at greater risk for infections. This may be compounded when coupled with the effects of treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy which both affect blood cell counts and possibly the immune system.

Inadequate intake of nutrients can also make a cancer patient feel more worn out and tired, further worsening a typical side effect of cancer treatments. Getting enough calories to provide sustained energy throughout the day can help improve the patient’s overall well-being.

When the person’s appetite is poor it is important to boost the nutrition in small amounts of food. Rather than choosing low-calorie or diet options, cancer patients should pick enticing foods that are dense in calories.  Appetite enhancers like small amounts of alcohol or light activity may help the patient to eat more at meal times.

Supplementing home cooked foods with powdered milk, butter, oil, honey, or brown sugar can help to raise the number of calories in a dish. Protein amounts should also be closely watched because the body needs it for rebuilding healthy tissue and to prevent muscle wasting that may occur in some patients who do not eat enough.

Those with cancer need to discuss their condition with a doctor or dietician to find the best eating plan for their condition and appetite. Getting the right nutrition throughout cancer treatment can help a patient to feel physically better. Focusing on adequate nutrition during cancer treatment lays the groundwork for continuing healthy eating habits beyond treatment for the next stage of life.

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