When Cancer therapy affects the head, neck, esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, and various other body parts, it’s difficult to consume enough nutrition to be healthy.
Nutrition is the process through which food is consumed and utilized by the body for growth, health maintenance, and tissue replacement. Nutrition is essential for health. Eating the appropriate meals before, during, and after cancer treatment can help patients feel better and stay stronger. A healthy diet consists of eating and drinking enough of the foods and beverages that provide vital vitamins and minerals. (National Cancer Institute, 2018).
Many patients find it difficult to eat healthily due to the symptoms of illness and cancer therapies. Cancer therapies that have an impact on the diet include chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, surgery, stem cell therapy, and Immunotherapy.
Cancer and cancer therapies can have an impact on taste, smell, appetite, and the capacity to eat enough food and absorb nutrients from meals. This can lead to malnutrition, a condition characterized by a shortage of essential nutrients. Obesity and alcoholism may raise the risk of malnutrition.
Malnutrition can make a patient weak and weary, rendering them unable to fight infection or complete cancer therapy. Malnutrition may worsen if cancer spreads or develops.
Eating adequate protein and calories is essential for healing, combating illness, and having enough energy.
How does chemotherapy affect nutrition in cancer patients
Chemotherapy has an impact on cells all across the body. Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses medicines to halt the development of cancer cells, either by killing them or preventing them from growing. Healthy cells that typically grow and divide rapidly may be destroyed as well. Cells in the mouth and digestive tract are examples of this. Chemotherapy side effects include issues with eating and digestion. When more than one chemotherapy drug is used, each agent may induce distinct side effects.
Some of the common side effects are loss of appetite, Nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, feeling full, and Anorexia.
Nutrition during cancer
Since there are various side effects during the treatment of cancer due to the drugs we can follow some simple tricks like:
- If you dislike the taste of water, consume more fluids through meals and other beverages. Eat soup or watermelon, for example, drink tea, milk, or milk replacements. Another alternative is to consume a sports drink. There are sugar-free varieties available for those who are managing their blood glucose levels. You may also flavor your water with a splash of fruit juice.
- Suck on mints, chew gum, or try fresh citrus fruits if you get a metallic taste in your tongue. Cook using non-metal pots, pans, and not plastic utensils. Also, before eating, consider cleaning your teeth or rinsing your mouth.
- In case of mouth sores or a gum infection, smooth the texture of vegetables and meats with a blender or food processor. Add butter, mild sauces, gravy, or cream for extra smoothness and calories. Juicing or preparing smoothies might help relieve a sore mouth since the added moisture can help soothe it. (Cancernet, 2019)
In Cancer, most of the patients are unaware that they are in danger of malnutrition or dehydration, and they are unaware that these symptoms may impair their ability to finish therapy. Many patients are concerned about malnourishment (not obtaining enough food or essential nutrients). It is a common consequence of various cancer therapies and associated adverse effects.
On the other hand, overnutrition (consuming more food than required) causes problems as well. Obesity as a risk factor may also have a detrimental influence on therapy and be linked to worse survival rates for some forms of cancer, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. In certain circumstances, it may also raise the chance of cancer recurrence or the development of another malignancy or cancer.
A healthy diet during cancer therapy is usually as advised for the general population: a balanced, plant-forward diet with whole grains, good protein sources, fruits, vegetables, and minerals. You must include the following:
- Whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat are all good sources of fiber.
- 2 to 3 cups of veggies per day
- 1 to 2 cups of fruits per day
- A couple of times per week, consume skinless poultry and cold water ocean seafood such as salmon, tuna, and cod.
- Protein-rich dried beans, peas, lentils, and legumes
- Olive oil, avocado, almonds, and seeds are examples of healthy fats.
- Calcium can be obtained through low-fat dairy or a dairy replacement.
You should avoid red meat and processed meat, refined carbohydrates, and added sugar(Cancer Center, 2021).
Eating primarily plant-based meals — whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes — has been shown in studies to help avoid cancer and live a better life. This is because plant-based meals are high in fiber, minerals, and phytochemicals that may help to prevent cancer. Additionally, plant foods can help you control your weight and provide you with the nutrition and energy you require. Fruits contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which help you fight cancer. Including fruits in your diet will help your body get the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs throughout your cancer treatment.
However, it is critical to customize your fruit selection to your symptoms.
Puréed fruits or fruit smoothies, for example, are an excellent alternative if you have difficulties swallowing, and fruits high in fiber can help improve regularity. If you have constipation, foods high in fiber might help encourage regularity.
Depending on your symptoms, you may also wish to avoid specific fruits. Citrus fruits, for example, may aggravate mouth sores and worsen the conditions of a dry mouth. Some cancer patients find it difficult to eat fruits such as apples, apricots, and pears due to mouth sores, trouble swallowing, and other factors.
Here’s a list of fruits that are beneficial to eat during cancer treatment
- Blueberries: Blueberries are a nutritious powerhouse, with each serving providing lots of fiber, vitamin C, and manganese.
They are also high in antioxidants and have been extensively researched for their cancer-fighting properties.
Blueberries may also assist with chemo brain, which is a term used to describe memory and concentration difficulties that some individuals suffer throughout cancer treatment and recovery(Kristo et al., 2016).
- Oranges are a popular citrus fruit because of their sweet flavor, vibrant color, and excellent nutritional profile.
One medium orange can fulfill and surpass your daily vitamin C requirements while also providing other vital elements such as thiamine, folate, and potassium.
Vitamin C is important for immunity and can aid your immune system during and after cancer therapy. Oranges include vitamin C, which can help with iron absorption. This aids in the prevention of anemia, a major adverse effect of chemotherapy.
- Grapefruit is a high-nutritional-value fruit that is high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
It is high in beneficial chemicals like lycopene and contains a lot of vitamin C, pro-vitamin A, and potassium.
- Apples: Apples are the most common fruit and they are also one of the healthiest.
It has a high amount of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, all of which can help in cancer recovery.
Apple fiber promotes regularity and keeps things flowing through your digestive tract(Healthline, 2019)
- Pomegranates : They are tasty, nutritious, and packed with health benefits, making them an excellent addition to any diet.
They, like other fruits, are high in vitamin C and fiber, but also in vitamin K, folate, and potassium.