It’s More Important Than Ever To Eat Healthy When Fighting Cancer

Getting the proper nourishment during and after cancer treatment can help patients feel better and get stronger.

Good nutrition is critical to maintaining optimal health at any stage of your life. A balanced diet includes eating foods and drinking liquids that have essential nutrients—vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and water—that the body requires to function at its best.

Because cancer, chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments can cause side effects that impact nutrition, it’s more important than ever to eat healthy when fighting cancer.

Common reasons why you don’t feel like eating when you have cancer

Some treatments can make food taste unpleasant. While you may not feel like eating it is important to get adequate nutrition. In order to remain in your best physical condition and continue on your road to recovery, you must be mindful to feed your body even when you don’t have an appetite.

  • Choose nutrient dense foods and learn how to develop a healthy eating plan for everyday.
  • Don’t wait until you’re hungry to eat; small meals throughout the day may be easier to digest.
  • Keep your favorite foods on hand. Now is not the time to try to eat foods you know you don’t like simply because they are good for you.

Mouth sores or dry mouth can make eating painful. Forming on the inside lining of your mouth or lips, sores may appear burn-like and be punishing, making it hard to eat. As well, these agonizing sores can extend into the esophagus which carries food to your stomach making it hard to swallow.

  • Visit your dentist and take care of any unresolved dental problems. Any issues with pain or infections in your mouth will only get worse once you begin treatment.
  • Develop a routine for mouth care—get into the habit of brushing your teeth, flossing and rinsing your mouth out several times a day. Check labels and be sure to avoid using alcohol-based products.
  • You may want to try grinding or pureeing foods to make them easier to swallow. Or eat foods that are already soft and mostly liquid like soup, yogurt, or shakes.

Nausea and upset stomach can make even the smell of food unpleasant. Some drugs and treatments will be more likely to cause nausea and vomiting than others. While drugs can be used to help alleviate the feelings of upset stomach, here’s a few tips to consider when planning your meals.

  • If it’s the taste of food that’s making you nauseous, try choosing bland foods. If it’s the odor of a particular food, eat it cold or at room temperature to decrease its taste. As well, steer clear of fried, greasy or fatty foods; opt for grilled, baked, or broiled instead.
  • Slowly sip clear liquids such as ginger ale, apple juice, broth, tea, etc., or try Popsicles or gelatin. You may also opt for small amounts of high calorie foods like pudding, ice cream or sherbet.
  • Dehydration from repeated vomiting can turn into a serious problem rather quickly. A lack of fluids and minerals your body needs can cause fatigue, slow wound healing and trouble concentrating. Be sure to alert your cancer care team right away if you’re experiencing problems keeping food, fluids, or your medications down.

Healthy dietary habits will help with cancer treatment and recovery

A cancer diagnosis and the treatments that follow may cause serious adverse reactions that will affect proper nutrition; therefore, it’s more important than ever to eat healthy when fighting cancer.

A registered dietician (RD) can be one of your best resources for information about your nutritional needs. They work with patients, families and the medical team to manage the patient’s diet during and after cancer treatment. Through nutrition therapy, they help cancer patients maintain a healthy body weight, retain strength, and decrease side effects both during and after treatment.

Continue to take charge of your wellness by focusing on sound eating habits. Add proper nutrition to your treatment plan so you can be the strongest, healthiest version of yourself.

The information in this article is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. If you have questions or concerns be sure to talk to your medical team. You can find more detailed discussion of nutrition before, during, and after cancer treatment in the book American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Nutrition for Cancer Survivors: Eating Well, Staying Well During and After Cancer.

I am a corporate wellness consultant. As a master yoga instructor, I support in-house wellness programs, seminars, trade shows and executive retreats. I help business leaders build and maintain physical and mental well-being. If you would like to learn more about offering a health and fitness program to your busy management team contact me at [email protected] or 386.871.0582


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