Many people assume that sticking to rigorous diet plans is part of cancer care. Dieticians, as much as possible, will not overwhelm patients with what they should be eating. Still, the demands of illness of the body mean that your daily meals might be different from those for a person who is well. That is why before dealing with nutrition concerns, it is important to get help for any physical, mental, social, and spiritual problems first. Resolving these issues will make it easier for you to eat well.
In palliative care, the focus of nutrition is on reducing worry and improving quality of life. It is the job of your healthcare team to set a foundation to keep you feeling as strong and healthy while you’re getting treatment.
Setting Your Goals
You can still enjoy food even as you work toward your nutritional goals. Just make sure the foundation you should set during cancer treatment includes getting enough:
- Energy (calories) and nutrients from healthy food sources
- Fluids to stay hydrated (mostly caffeine-free)
- Protein to preserve lean body mass/muscle
Each individual is indifferent. What works for others may not work for you. If you have issues with appetite or swallowing, you need to talk to your dietician about what you find appealing and what you’re comfortable eating. Ultimately, your goal should revolve around getting calories through nutrient-rich foods.
Optimizing Nutrition While Managing Symptoms
Many patients can follow a regular diet, but treatments for cancer often cause side effects that can affect your ability to eat. If you are struggling to eat and drink enough to maintain your weight, or if you are losing weight, make it a point to make everything you consume count.
Go for food items that are high in calories and protein. Eat less of low-protein and low-energy foods like vegetables, fruits, clear soups, and watery drinks. Make sure you are adding enough calories to your meals, such as nuts and oils, to boost your energy without increasing the volume you have to eat.
People who have lost weight or have lost muscle may have to double the amount of protein they consume. The recommended intake for a healthy adult is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This can increase to as much as 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram for those suffering from advanced disease.
Diet Quality And Health Considerations
Try to include a variety of all food types in your diet. This will reduce the risk of mineral and vitamin deficiencies. This is especially crucial for nerves and muscles which require key nutrients to work well. If you struggle to eat enough, it is okay to relax your diet and include more of those foods you enjoy. Just control things like fried and highly processed foods that could be detrimental to your health when consumed excessively. Speak to your dietician if you are unsure of what dietary changes are important for you.
Treatments for cancer may cause swallowing problems or block off parts of the gut, making it difficult to get enough nourishment. First, you need to get help in managing these symptoms. Then, work with your dietician to come up with a plan that will include things you love to eat that also have the essential nutrients your body needs.