Food is a fundamental necessity of every living being on this planet. Nutrition leverages growth and sustainability of the body. Human race, bound to perform several physical and mental activities everyday, needs it in the right quantity.
A sudden growth of some cells where it destroys the normal body tissues, expands in the body uncontrollably. There are different types of cancer affecting different body parts. Breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, basal cell cancer and lung cancer, to name a few.. The patients undergoing treatment experience a lot of pain and physical ailments, as an unfortunate side-effect. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, the most common types of treatment, leave the person in a state of numbness, taking a toll on them completely. Some of the physical ailments faced by the patients include, shrinking, losing weight and losing hair, leave the person feeling vulnerable about themselves.
Surveys show that 48% of cancer patients, upon experiencing such bodily changes, turn to the fad diets promoted in pop culture. These include Paleolithic, Ketogenic, Alkaline and macrobiotic diets.
It is important to take proper care of yourself with both the cases; the body dealing with illness or undergoing any side effects. Instead of falling for such ‘pop fad diets’, they need to collaborate with dietitians and doctors in order to understand what their body needs in order to remain healthy in the face of treatment. What to eat is a big question, the amount of food and the kind of nutrients consumed is being recommended by the doctors itself as it differs both from person to person and kind of cancer. There are some reasons stated where it is helpful during treatment of cancer :
- Helps the patient to feel better
- Reduces risk of any infection due to treatments
- Helps in the healing process
- Maintains weight
- Keep up the strength and energy in body
- Reduces side effects caused due to chemotherapy
The key principle of a balanced diet is understanding that the excess of anything is bad. The key to deal with cancer treatment is a diet which is created under the supervision of the doctors and nutritionists. Each kind of nutrient has a major contribution in the growth and development of our body. Mentioned below, are some of the vital nutrients that are required by the cancer patients:
- Carbohydrates – These are the energy providing nutrients which level up the energy for laborious activities. They fuel up the functions of organs to revert back during the treatment, supplying phytonutrients to the body. Bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, cereals, beans are a good source of Carbohydrates.
- Fats – Fat provides energy to the body for regular voluntary and involuntary activities. The body breaks down fat for storing energy. Some of the cooking oil preferred for the patients are canola, olive and peanut, flaxseed and seafood. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are advised to be taken instead of saturated and trans fat.
- Proteins – Known as body building nutrients, Protein helps in the revival of old tissues and growth of new ones. People dealing with cancer require a greater intake of proteins in their diet as it helps in the quick recovery of healing body tissues and helps to fight infections. Fish, soy food, lentils, lean red meat, eggs, low fat dairy products are few good sources of protein.
- Minerals – Minerals like Iron and Phosphorus boost the formation of blood and bones in the body.
- Vitamins – These are the protective nutrients which are essential for safeguarding the body against diseases. Vitamins can be taken in the form of the supplement suggested by the doctors or the dietician. A constant eye should be kept on the dose as well.
- Antioxidant – These are helpers which protect the normal cells from getting infected by the cancerous cells. It is generally Vitamin A,C & E; Selenium & Zinc.
- Water – It is a critical requirement as it regulates body processes such as digestion, excretion, maintenance of body temperature and removal of toxins from the body. 8-ounce of glasses of liquid per day is what a body needs.
Patients should avoid consuming raw or undercooked meat, fish and poultry items. Unpasteurized foods and beverages are a strict no-no. It is advised to have five or six small meals, as opposed to three large ones, as many cancer patients suffer a loss of appetite, and are, therefore, unwilling to eat. Bite- sized meal or a quick snack, right before the chemotherapy session, is said to keep the nausea away. Products such as yogurt, cereal, cheese and soup are considered excellent choices in that case. These seemingly small steps, coupled with the patient’s on-going treatment, helps them get past some of the most common issues, such as:
- Nausea/Vomiting: Avoid greasy or spicy foods, or those with strong odour. Try to eat dry foods like crackers or toast every few hours. Sip clear liquids like broths, sports drinks, and water.
- Mouth or throat problems: For sores, pain or any trouble with the swallowing of food, having soft foods would be a better option. Avoid rough or scratchy food and spicy and acidic food as well. Try to eat lukewarm meals.
- Diarrhea or Constipation: Hydration is the vital element to overcome these two. Cutting back on high fiber foods like whole grains and vegetables helps in the rendition of constipation. It generally helps in the bowel movement.
- Change in taste: It happens in a way which reverses the taste of tongue. The food which was earlier enjoyed by the taste buds seems to lose interest and is overtaken by the flavours like sour or tart.
The importance of consulting a doctor for a patient’s dietary requirement, cannot be stressed enough. It is critical to understand that each patient’s journey is distinct, which means the physical challenges they face are unique in themselves. This means that there is no, “one-size-fits-all” diet that works for everyone. If anything, it only showcases how every individual, healthy or not, has a different set of nutrient requirements. While, unfortunately, no diet plan can, by itself, cure cancer. However, a good diet plan, created, keeping in mind, the needs of a patient, can definitely help soothe the harsh and painful journey to recovery. These nutrients provide strength to the body and increase the patient’s willpower. Remember, a balanced diet leads to a strong body, a happy mind and a healthy future!