Managing Your Body’s Nutritional Needs During Cancer Treatment

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in your fight against cancer. Eating the right kinds of food during treatment can ease out some of the stress and help you stay strong. New Hope Unlimited has prepared this guide to help you cope with treatment and the side effects that might affect your appetite.

It is important to note, however, that this is not meant to replace the advice of your medical team. Every change in your lifestyle and diet must first be discussed with your doctor, nurse, or dietician to ensure that you are getting what you need.

How Cancer and Cancer Treatment Affect Nutrition

Getting the nutrients and calories you need is normally not a problem when you’re healthy. But when you’re being treated for cancer, things may get a little complicated, especially if you are experiencing side effects that upset your appetite.

When undergoing therapy, you might need to modify your diet to build enough strength and withstand the brunt of cancer. This may mean consuming food that is not usually recommended if you are in optimal health. For instance, you may need high-calorie, high-fat meals to get the energy that your body requires. It’s also normal to have milkshakes or ice cream for patients who are suffering sores in their mouth and throat because anything else will just be too hard to eat. You and your healthcare team must consider the type of cancer, your therapy, and any side effects when figuring out the best nutrition plan for your body.

Common Side Effects Of Cancer Therapy

When you were first diagnosed with cancer, your primary physician laid out your treatment plan. This may have included a combination of surgery, chemo, radiation, hormone, and biologic therapy. All of these procedures kill cancer cells, but they also damage some healthy cells along the way. This leads to a number of side effects that could affect eating, including:

  • Sore throat and mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Teeth and gum problems
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in smell or taste

Many factors determine your tendency for these side effects, so you may or may not experience them at all. Some of them can be controlled, and it’s likely for them to go away once you are done with treatment. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to alleviate symptoms and improve your appetite.

Eat Well

Your body requires the right amount of nutrients to function properly. This is even more important if you are battling cancer. With a healthy diet, you can go into treatment with energy reserves to keep your body from breaking down, maintain your defenses against infection, and repair tissue. Being the healthiest you can help you handle the side effects and higher doses of medication. Try including these tips into your lifestyle:

  • Choose plant-based foods. Phytochemicals in fruits and vegetable help your body cope with any disease. Go for peas and beans instead of meat a few meals every week. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the plant fiber and protein help reduce the risk of cancer growth.
  • Try healthy food items you’ve always avoided before. Cancer treatment may affect your palate and sense of smell, so you might find certain foods tastier now.
  • Try at least two and a half cup of vegetables and fruits daily, especially dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables and citrus fruits. Colorful veggies contain potent health-promoting properties.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight and keep your muscles moving. Small weight changes are normal when undergoing treatment but aim for normal weight if you can.
  • Limit the amount of smoked, salt-cured, and pickled foods you eat.

You don’t have to rush into doing all of these at once. After all, you are only starting to feel the changes in your body. Sometimes the goal of this diet is to get you more fluids, calories, and protein to help you heal and feel invigorated.

Snack As Needed

If you can’t achieve your ideal weight with regular meals, include some snacks to fill in. If you are quickly losing weight due to medication, small snacks throughout the day can help you meet your needs and keep your energy level. During treatment, you may have to rely on calorie-dense foods to meet your daily requirement. Do keep in mind that once the side effects go away, you can go back into your normal, healthy diet.

Don’t Forget To Exercise

Exercising is important, even more so during cancer treatment. Research has found that moderate exercise can reduce the fatigue of patients by up to 50 percent. Consider riding a stationary bicycle or talking a daily walk, combined with the use of light weights to train your muscles and spur your recovery.

The sooner you start doing physical activities, the better and more relaxed you might feel. This can lower your risk for complications and the positive results may even lead to fewer medications. Get a referral to a physical therapist from your doctor. Consider someone who works with other cancer patients and can design a personalized exercise program for you. But as with anything that you tackle during treatment, safety is of utmost priority. Proceed with care and have your team ensure that your exercise program is safe and beneficial to your health.

Various cancer treatments cause different types of issues that make it hard for a patient to eat or drink. If you are struggling to get the nutrients that your body needs, devise a plan with your healthcare team on the appropriate course of action. Coping with eating problems during treatment is a real problem, but you have to make sure you have the strength to manage the side effects of therapy.

New Hope Unlimited is your friend and teammate in your fight against cancer. Our seasoned professionals are here to provide the best care for your whole wellbeing and guide you to survivorship. Call us today at 480-473-9808 to learn how about the holistic ways we treat cancer. You may also fill out our contact form for inquiries.

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