Eating a healthy diet is important at any stage in life, but it's especially important during a serious disease or infection, such as cancer. Having a good nutrition plan and sticking to it is an important part of successful cancer treatment.
Awareness of the quality of the diet is especially important during cancer treatment because the mental and physical stresses can make it difficult to focus on getting good nutrition. The side effects of chemo and radiation therapy for cancer such as mesothelioma can reduce appetite and interfere with digestion. The physical changes cancer causes in the body can also affect the ability and desire to eat. This means that it's vital to plan ahead for good nutrition as soon as a diagnosis is made, in order to prepare for the challenges ahead.
While proper nutrition can't cure cancer by itself, it can help to mitigate its effects. A well-fed patient will have more energy, which makes it easier to exercise and stay physically active and keep the patient's body strong and healthy. Good nutrition is also the first step in keeping up the patient's quality of life, which in turn supports the positive psychological outlook that's important for the fight against cancer.
If the body is well prepared with nutrients, it will also be better able to ward off any infections that might crop up, as well as resist the negative side effects of cancer treatment and heal faster after surgery.
A good cancer diet is not much different from a good diet in general. Avoid fatty foods, which are difficult to digest, and get plenty of fruits, vegetables, and water or other clear liquids. It's a good idea to discuss specifics with a nutritionist or dietitian before beginning nutritional treatment, as well as during treatment when it may become necessary to adjust the diet. If your cancer treatment causes constipation, diarrhea, or other digestion problems, your doctor may suggest changing the amount of fiber in your diet.
During cancer treatment, the patient will probably need extra fluids, protein, and calories to help deal with the stresses that treatment puts on the body. High-calorie, high-protein foods such as milk and milk products, beans and other legumes, and eggs can be beneficial, as well as commercially produced dietary supplement drinks. Talk to a doctor or dietitian before using supplements.
The National Cancer Institute's Nutrition in Cancer Care page has many other topics and in-depth discussion of the role of nutrition in cancer care.
By: Jillian Mckee from The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance