What Is The Right Diet For Cancer Patients?

Paul White's picture

Good health is directly linked to a good diet. Whatever you eat is used by your body for the purpose of growth, tissue repair and replacement, and boosting vitality and vigor. Cancer patients are no different. In fact, if you're a cancer patient it is absolutely important that you have a particularly healthy diet before, during, and after active treatment in order to recover faster, and to stay healthy.

If you do not have the right foods, or if your body is unable to absorb nutrients from the food you consume, it could lead to malnutrition and you might not get positive results from your treatment.

In this article, you will find some information about the right diet for adult cancer patients.

The right eating habits during treatment for cancer

A good diet for cancer patients might be very different from the same for normal adults. The cancer care team will also have a nutritionist on board to advise about the right kind of foods. The foods are chosen to help the patient stay strong and boost their immune system to fight infections.

Good eating habits help patients withstand the effects of cancer as well as that of the treatment. A patient who gets sufficient calories and protein in his diet responds better to most cancer treatments. Well-nourished adults stand a better chance of recovery, as well as improved quality of life after treatment.

Cancer affects the way your body absorbs nutrients from food

Cancer cells and tumors might produce chemicals which alter the way your body absorbs nutrients from the food you consume. Especially if the tumors are present in the gastrointestinal tract, it will affect the way your body uses nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and protein. In such cases, you might be having all the right foods, but your body is still unable to absorb these nutrients.

Cancer and its treatment affect the way you eat

Most cancer patients find it difficult to eat because of the disease itself or the side-effects of the treatments. Treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplant and surgery can cause loss of appetite and other side effects like mouth sores, dry mouth, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, depression, loss of taste, or difficulty swallowing food. All this can seriously interfere with the patient's ability to consume good food.

If the treatment affects parts of the body like stomach, intestine or esophagus, taking sufficient nutrition can be very difficult for the patient. Patients are also sometimes unable to sit long enough to have a meal. All this could cause malnutrition which not only weakens the patient’s body, but also lowers the immunity level. The patient might not be strong enough to even undergo complete treatment. This underlines the importance for cancer patients to have adequate calories and protein.

Anorexia and cachexia - causes of malnutrition

Cancer patients may exhibit anorexia during different stages of the disease. Some patients who are diagnosed with cancer have anorexia already. It is the most common cause of malnutrition in cancer patients.

Cachexia is a unique condition found in cancer patients. It causes loss of appetite accompanied by weight loss, loss of muscle as well as weakness. Doctors should ensure that cachexia is treated early enough. In later stage, it is difficult to treat this condition.

Weight loss could be the result of either consuming fewer calories or spending more calories, or sometimes both. Nutrition therapy can help cancer patients cope with the symptoms and side effects which affect the ability to eat food. Doctors can also prescribe medicines that boost appetite, aid digestion, prevent nausea, treat conditions like diarrhea and constipation, and alleviate problems of the mouth like dryness, mouth sores or infection of the oral cavity.

It is important to do all that is possible to help cancer patients eat a healthy, nourishing diet. This will help them significantly to improve their chances of a complete recovery.

Linking anorexia with cancer

I noticed that towards the end of your article, you made a connection between anorexia and cancer. Eight years ago , my Father passed away. He was in a wheel chair, for which I will make the connection shortly.
About 17 months before he passed away, he had gotten to the point where he was totally disabled, and my mother had to wait on him hand and foot, but he was still in relatively good health. Then, my mother suddenly had to have heart surgery.
To make a long story short, when my mother came back from the hospital, my Father stopped eating everything except oatmeal. He started going downhill, and in a little more than a year, passed away. Everyone in my family except me was convinced he had cancer. I don't agree. I think when my mother came back from her surgery, he subconsciously stopped eating so he would not be a burden to her. I am convinced that my Father developed anorexia, which led to possible cancer. Does this make sense to you, or am I just speculating?

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