Eating Hints: Tips for Better Nutrition During Cancer Treatment
Anu Gupta, MD
A nutritious diet is always important for your body to work at its best. Good nutrition is even more important for people with cancer for many reasons. Patients who eat well during their treatment are better able to cope with the side effects of treatment. Patients who eat well may even be able to handle a higher dose of certain treatments. A healthy diet can help keep up your strength, prevent body tissues from breaking down, and rebuild tissues that cancer treatment may harm. Also,when you are unable to eat enough food or the right kind of food, your body uses stored nutrients as a source of energy. As a result, your natural defenses are weaker and your body can not fight infection as well. Yet, this defense system is especially important to you now, because cancer patients are often at risk of getting an infection.
A good rule to follow is to eat a variety of different foods everyday. No one food or group of food contains all of the nutrients you need. A diet to keep your body strong will include daily servings from all four major food groups. Fruits and vegetables provide certain vitamins and minerals. Protein foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and cheese help your body heal itself and fight infection. Grains,such as bread, pastas, and cereals, provide a variety of carbohydrates and B vitamins. Carbohydrates provide a good source of energy, which the body needs to run well. Dairy foods such as milk, provide protein and many vitamins and are the best source of calcium.
While these standards are a good goal, you also need to listen to your body. If you become nauseous eating fruits but can keep protein foods down, feel free to eat more protein. Anything you can eat will be a plus in helping you get enough calories and maintain your weight.
Doctors know that patients who eat well during cancer treatment are better able to cope with treatment side effects. However, there is no evidence that any kind of diet or food can either cure cancer or stop it from coming back. In fact, some diets may be harmful, especially those that don’t include a wide variety of foods. There is also no evidence that diet supplements, such as vitamin or mineral pills, can cure cancer or stop it from coming back. Always ask your doctor before taking any supplements. Too much of some supplements can be dangerous or potentially interfere with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Follow your doctors directions for recommendations on what to eat and always inform your doctor if you are taking supplements.