Eating Well with Cancer
A healthy, nutritious diet is important for everybody, but people who are fighting cancer such as mesothelioma often have special dietary needs. When people have cancer, it is important to eat foods that will help them keep up their strength and fight infection during treatment. This can become a challenge when certain cancer treatments lead to the development of eating problems in some patients. If you or someone you love has cancer and is about to begin treatment, or is currently in treatment, this eating guide may be helpful.
Cancer Treatment and Eating Problems
A person never knows how cancer treatment will affect his eating habits until he begins that treatment. Many patients have no trouble with eating healthy during cancer treatment, while others may experience some of the following treatment side effects that may make eating a struggle:
- Dry mouth and mouth sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Inability to properly digest foods and absorb all nutrients
- Loss of appetite
Preparing to Eat Well During Treatment
Fighting cancer is just that: a fight. When a person is undergoing cancer treatment, it is crucial that he fortifies his body with the right foods in order to stay strong and fend off infection. Unfortunately, many cancer treatments make eating difficult for patients, and malnutrition is very common amongst mesothelioma cancer patients. Before beginning cancer treatment, it’s a good idea to prepare for eating well by taking the following steps:
- Stock up. Fill your home with healthy foods that you can eat even when you aren’t feeling your best. Also purchase foods that are easy to prepare, such as frozen meals, for when you may not feel well enough to cook. Many patients also prepare meals ahead then freeze them for later use.
- Talk to your doctor about your current nutritional habits, to learn whether there are some changes you need to make before beginning treatment. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a dietician, and you may be able to get a list of foods that other cancer patients have found helpful or appealing during treatment.
- Build your community of care. Speak with friends and family members about your treatment and how the side effects may affect your nutrition. Perhaps a friend can do your shopping, or can bring meals a few times a week.
- How to Manage Eating Problems during Cancer Treatment
- During cancer treatment, many patients have “good food days” and bad days. By preparing yourself and your pantry for this possibility, you may make it easier to find foods that you can tolerate during those more difficult days. Here are some other tips to help you keep your body fueled during cancer treatment:
- Some days, you may not be able to eat at all. This is normal. If you can’t eat for more than 2 days, however, you need to let your doctor know. When you can’t eat, try to focus on other ways you can make yourself feel better.
- Eating lots of protein and calories will should strengthen your body and help to rebuild tissues damaged by cancer treatment
- It is very important to keep drinking lots of liquids, especially on those days when you are unable to eat. Many patients find it easier to stay hydrated when they keep a water bottle near them at all times.
- On those more difficult days, eat whatever you can. Liquid meal replacements are often an easier way for patients to get some food into their bodies. Even if you just eat a small snack, it is important to eat whenever you are able to.
National Institute of Cancer (www.cancer.gov)