Cancer is a complex and formidable disease that affects millions of lives worldwide. While medical advancements have revolutionized cancer treatment, the importance of diet in supporting patients during their battle against cancer cannot be overlooked. The impact of nutrition on overall health and well-being has long been recognized, and its significance becomes even more pronounced in the context of cancer care. A carefully tailored diet can help mitigate treatment side effects and enhance the body’s ability to fight against cancer cells. In this article, we explore the vital role of diet in the lives of cancer patients, shedding light on how proper nutrition can play a transformative role in their journey towards improved outcomes and a higher quality of life.
- Nourishing the Body: Cancer and its treatments can take a toll on the body, often leading to weight loss, muscle wasting, and compromised immunity. Adequate nutrition becomes crucial in replenishing vital nutrients, maintaining a healthy weight, and supporting the body’s overall strength. We delve into the specific dietary considerations that can help address these challenges and optimize the body’s ability to endure treatment.
- Emphasize Fruits and Vegetables: Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eat at least two servings of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre, which support overall health and help fight against cancer.
- Lean Protein Sources: Choose lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, and legumes. Adequate protein intake is important for maintaining muscle mass and supporting the body’s healing process.
- Healthy Fats: Opt for healthy fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These fats provide essential nutrients and help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Hydration: Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, preferably water. Proper hydration supports digestion, helps manage treatment side effects, and aids in detoxification.
- Avoid Processed Foods: Minimize the consumption of processed and packaged foods, which often contain added sugars, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. Instead, opt for whole, fresh foods whenever possible.
- Fiber-Rich Foods: Include high-fibre foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes in your diet. Fibre promotes healthy digestion, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and supports bowel regularity.
- Nutrient-Dense Foods: Focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. This includes dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
- Managing Treatment Side Effects: Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other cancer treatments can induce a range of side effects, such as nausea, loss of appetite, taste alterations, and mouth sores. We discuss how strategic dietary choices, including specific food selections and meal planning techniques, can alleviate these side effects, enhance nutrition absorption, and improve patients’ overall well-being.
- Nausea and changes in appetite: Eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day can help manage treatment-related side effects like nausea or changes in appetite. This approach may be more tolerable than consuming large meals.
- Digestive Issues: Cancer treatments can sometimes cause digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you experience these symptoms, work with your healthcare team and dietitian to identify foods that are well-tolerated and provide the necessary nutrients.
- Mouth Ulcers: Some cancer treatments run the risk of affecting the cell lining of your mouth and Esophagus, increasing the risk of developing mouth Ulcers. There are some strategies you can utilize to reduce the chance of developing these mouth ulcers, such as Eating soft foods that are easy to chew and Eating foods cold or at cooler temperatures. Staying away from certain foods such as Citrus foods, Spicy foods, Tomatoes and ketchup, Salty foods, Raw vegetables and Sharp and crunchy foods can also help with reducing the chance of developing mouth ulcers.
- Compromised Immunity: Cancer and some treatments (such as chemotherapy and stem cell transplants) can reduce your white blood cell level, making it harder for your body to fight infections. If this happens, you will need to take care of preparing and storing food because you are more likely to get foodborne illnesses
- Practice Good Hygiene: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling food, especially when preparing meals. Clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces and utensils to prevent cross-contamination.
- Choose Safe Food Sources: Select fresh, high-quality foods from reputable sources. Pay attention to food recalls and avoid consuming potentially contaminated products.
- Properly Wash Fruits and Vegetables: Rinse raw fruits and vegetables under running water before consuming or cooking them to remove dirt, bacteria, and pesticides. Scrub firm produces with a brush.
- Cook Foods Thoroughly: Cook foods, especially animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, to their recommended internal temperatures to kill bacteria and pathogens. Use a food thermometer to ensure proper cooking.
- Avoid Raw or Undercooked Foods: Minimize consumption of raw or undercooked foods, including raw seafood, eggs, unpasteurized dairy products, and rare or medium-rare meat. These foods carry a higher risk of bacterial contamination.
- Handle Leftovers Safely: Store leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate them promptly. Consume them within a few days, and reheat thoroughly before eating. Discard any leftovers that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Be Cautious with High-Risk Foods: Avoid high-risk foods, such as raw sprouts, unpasteurized juices, soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, and deli meats and hot dogs that are not reheated. These foods are more prone to bacterial contamination.
- Follow Safe Food Storage Practices: Keep your refrigerator clean and set to the appropriate temperature (below 40°F or 4°C). Use or freeze perishable foods before their expiration dates. Discard any expired or spoiled food.
- Consider Pre-Packaged Meals or Meal Delivery Services: If you are concerned about food safety, you may consider pre-packaged meals or meal delivery services that adhere to strict food safety standards.
In the battle against cancer, diet plays a pivotal role in supporting patients’ well-being, mitigating treatment side effects, and empowering the body’s natural defences. Every cancer patient is unique, and dietary recommendations should be tailored to individual needs, considering factors such as cancer type, stage, treatment modalities, and personal preferences. We emphasize the importance of personalized nutrition plans and the role of registered dietitians or nutritionists in guiding patients towards optimal dietary choices.
As we explore the profound impact of nutrition on cancer care, it becomes clear that a holistic approach that integrates medical interventions with a well-designed diet can significantly enhance patients’ quality of life and potentially improve treatment outcomes. By nourishing the body and empowering the fight against cancer, a properly tailored diet can become a powerful ally in the journey towards resilience and recovery.
For some recipe ideas and diet tips, please visit these sites:
- Nourishing Drinks Ideas | Nutrition and Cancer | Cancer Council NSW
- Healthy recipes | Cancer Council
- Recipes for cancer patients – Cancer Council Victoria (cancervic.org.au)
For more information, please visit these trusted sites.
Please contact our Nurses on 07 5445 5794 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
The information in this document is based on resources from the Cancer Council Queensland, and the National Cancer Institute (America). All information provided by Bloomhill is based on research and best practice guidelines. Our model of care utilizes the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) domains of wellness along with available clinical evidence. Always consult your care team regarding matters that affect your health. This is a guide intended for information only.