What Should A Cancer Survivor Know About Nutrition
I am constantly amazed by the number of healthcare professionals who care for individuals with cancer who do not discuss basics about nutrition during the cancer journey. There are different issues during various time periods in the cancer journey and they are all important.
Some of the issues that may affect you or your loved one's nutrition are:
- Loss of appetite or anorexia
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Neutropenia (low white blood cell count)
- Mouth sores and sores all the way down the gastrointestinal tract.
Although no one particular diet or nutritional supplement has proven to prevent cancer, healthcare professionals still need to discuss nutrition so cancer survivors may maintain their health and strength during their fight. Your mouth may get sore, your taste buds my change and foods you once loved you may now hate, but you still need to try and eat.
Some tips for during and after chemotherapy include:
- Eat smaller portions of food and eat more frequently (5-6 times per day).
- Eat 2-3 snacks between your 3 main meals.
- Eat foods that are high in protein (milkshakes, puddings, and nutritional drink supplements).
- Choose foods you like keeping any necessary dietary restictions you may have (such as low salt). Do NOT go on a diet to lose weight.
- Add cream or butter to soups, cooked cereals and vegetables to increase calories.
- Eat foods at room temperature if the smell bothers you.
- Make mealtime a pleasant time with family and friends.
One interesting resource designed specifically for cancer survivors is called "Eating Well Through Cancer," written by Holly Clegg and Dr. Gerald Miletello, MD. What is especially good about this book is it truly is designed for the cancer survivor. Any book could pick a variety of recipes and say these are the best for cancer survivors. But, Ms. Clegg has gone beyond that. She has placed her recipes based on what stage of the journey you are in (before, during and after chemotherapy) and what symptoms you are having (there are 14 recipes that can help with constipation). Under each recipe you will find the nutritional information per serving and a "Doc's Note." Also, there are many good resources on nutrition available through organizations like the American Cancer Society or local services in your area.
The most important information to remember is that YOU MUST maintain your health even if you do not feel like eating. You need calories, protein, and plenty of fluids more than ever. If you have no appetite, ask your nurse, doctor or pharmacist about nutritional supplements (Glucerna, Ensure).