Diet and Nutrition in Cancer Treatment

Every cancer type is different; however, no matter the type of cancer, mechanism of onset, or even genetic predisposition. A well-balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise, is the first thing to be started for cancer prevention as well as treatment, says Dt. Sanjana Sharma.

According to the World Health Organization, “between 30–50% of cancer issues can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing some prevention strategies.”

Every cancer type is different; however, no matter the type of cancer, mechanism of onset, or even genetic predisposition. A well-balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise, is the first thing to be started for cancer prevention as well as treatment. What a cancer patient eats is really important. The body needs enough calories and nutrients to stay strong but, the disease can make it hard to recognise what they need, which can be different before, during, and after treatment. And sometimes, the patient just won’t feel like eating.

Nutrition Before Cancer Treatment

  • Focus more on healthy foods like nuts, yogurt, boiled veggies, whole cereals and grains etc., before the treatment starts.
  • Make sure the body is well nourished before treatment begins.
  • Plan ahead and stock your kitchen with foods one can easily prepare.
  • Stock nutritious snacks in case someone does not feel like preparing a meal.
  • Have a support group to help with preparing meals and grocery shopping.

Nutrition During Treatment

Weight fluctuations are a common problem for patients undergoing cancer therapy. Those undergoing treatment for cancer should try to maintain a healthy weight and avoid any losses or gains in weight.

The main nutrients to focus on during cancer treatment are –

Protein: We need protein for growth, to repair body tissue, and to keep our immune systems healthy. When the body doesn’t get enough protein, it might break down muscle for the fuel it needs. This causes longer recovery from illness and can lower resistance to infection. After surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, extra protein is usually needed to heal tissues and help fight infection.

Good sources of protein include fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products, nuts and nut butters, dried beans, peas and lentils, and soy foods.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the body’s major source of energy. Carbohydrates give the body, the fuel, it needs for physical activity and proper organ function. The best sources of carbohydrates are – fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – also supply needed vitamins and minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients to the body’s cells.

Fats: Fats play an important role in nutrition. Fats and oils serve as a rich source of energy for the body. The body breaks down fats and uses them to store energy, insulate body tissues, and transport some types of vitamins through the blood.

When considering the effects of fats on one’s heart and cholesterol level, choose monounsaturated (olive, canola, and peanut oils) and polyunsaturated fats (these are found mainly in sunflower, corn, and flaxseed oils and seafood) more often than saturated fats or trans fats.

Water: Water and liquids or fluids are vital to health. All body cells need water to function. If the patients don’t take enough fluids or if they lose fluids through vomiting or diarrhoea, they can become dehydrated (the body doesn’t have as much fluid as it need). Keep in mind that all liquids (soups, milk, even ice cream and gelatine) count toward your fluid goals.

Antioxidants: Antioxidants includes vitamins A, C, and E; selenium and zinc; and some enzymes that absorb and attach to free radicals (destructive molecules), preventing them from attacking normal cells.

Phytonutrients: Phytonutrients or phytochemicals are plant compounds like carotenoids, lycopene, resveratrol, and phytosterols that are thought to have health-protecting qualities. They’re found in plants such as fruits and vegetables, or things made from plants, like tofu or tea.

After Cancer Treatment

  • Eat smaller and frequent meals throughout the day (at least 5-6 meals).
  • Choose a variety of foods from all the food groups. Try to eat at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day; including citrus fruits and dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, at least 8 ounces of water per day.
  • Eat plenty of high protein like eggs, fish, pulses, soy and high-fibre foods, like whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Try to buy a different fruit, vegetable, low-fat food, or whole-grain product each time, shopping for groceries.
  • Decrease the amount of fat in the meals by baking or broiling foods.
  • Avoid red meats, raw foods, salt-cured, smoked, and pickled foods (including bacon, sausage, and deli meats).
  • Choose low-fat milk and dairy products.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women, and 2 for men. Alcohol is a known cancer-causing agent.

About The Author

Dt. Sanjana Sharma

A dietitian by profession, running an online clinic  named  "Diet My way." Also, practicing as consultant nutritionist  with an.... Read More..

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