Overview nutrition therapy for cancer patients
Nutrition is a process in which food is taken in and used by the body for growth, to keep the body healthy, and to replace tissue. Good nutrition is important for good health. Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger. A healthy diet includes eating and drinking enough of the foods and liquids that have important nutrients (vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and water) the body needs.
When you have cancer and are undergoing treatment, your food choices can be very different from what you are used to eating. The main goal is to try and keep your weight stable. To reduce weight changes, maintain adequate energy, and maintain energy to cope with all the new challenges that treatment brings, you should try to eat a variety of high-calorie and high-protein foods, including:
- Milk, cream, and cheese
- Boiled eggs
- Sauces and gravy
- Butter, margarine, and oil
Nutrition recommendations during and after treatment
Here are some general nutrition recommendations for people receiving cancer treatment:
Maintain a healthy weight. For many people, this means avoiding weight loss by getting enough calories every day. For people who are obese, this may mean losing weight. Ask your health care team if you should try to lose weight during treatment. It may be better to wait until after treatment so that you have all the nutrition you need to stay strong. If you do try to lose weight during treatment, it should be moderate, meaning only about a pound a week.
Get essential nutrients. These include protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water.
Be as active as you can. For example, take a daily walk. If you sit or sleep too much, you may lose muscle mass and increase your body fat, even if you are not gaining weight.
Ways to get essential nutrients and maintain a healthy weight
Nutrition counseling can help people with cancer get essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals. It also supports and helps them maintain healthy body weight.
To receive nutritional advice, it is important to visit a qualified professional. This stands for Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Ask your health care team to help you find one of these specialists. You can also find a dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Dietitians and other nutritionists can help you create a diet that meets your specific nutritional needs. Your recommendations may include:
- Vitamins or minerals that you don’t get enough of.
- Liquid nutrients and snacks to help you reach your goal.
Side effects and nutrition
Cancer treatment often causes side effects, such as diarrhea, nausea, mouth sores, and taste changes. These side effects may make it difficult to eat or drink. Follow these tips to help you get the nutrition you need:
- If the water tastes unpleasant to you, take in more liquid through foods and other drinks. For example, eat soup or watermelon and drink tea, milk, or milk substitutes. A sports drink is another option. There are sugar-free ones available for people watching their blood glucose. You can also flavor your water by adding a little bit of fruit juice.
- If food tastes bland, try seasoning it with flavorful spices. For example, try using lemon, garlic, cayenne, dill, and rosemary. If your mouth is sore, you may need to choose non-acidic and non-spicy foods until it heals.
- Eat 6 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals. Make sure you reach your calorie goal with these smaller meals.
- If meat is no longer appealing, get protein from other foods. For example, try fish, eggs, cheese, beans, nuts, nut butter, tofu, or high-protein smoothies or shakes.
- If you have a metallic taste in your mouth, suck on mints, chew gum, or try fresh citrus fruits. Use plastic utensils and cook in nonmetal pots and pans. Also, try brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth before eating.
- If you have mouth sores or a gum infection, use a blender or food processor to make the texture of vegetables and meats smooth. For added smoothness and more calories, add butter, mild sauces, gravy, or cream. Try juicing or making smoothies because the extra moisture can help soothe a sore mouth.
- Some side effects are often treated with medication. If your side effects are affecting your hydration and nutrition, talk with your health care team.