When a person is suffering from cancer the focus naturally turns to the medical treatment they’ll be receiving. Chemotherapy, the various cancer drugs they may be given and the myriad of potential side effects from both are what most patients and their families will focus on, but there’s an important aspect of care which is often overlooked – your diet.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet during any form of cancer treatment is extremely important as part of the recovery process. The treatments can often leave the patient feeling weak, and naturally they’ll be feeling a little down as a result. Eating the right foods can help them feel stronger and healthier, both mentally and physically, throughout the process.
Getting the Right Balance
The first thing to note is that this is not a time to deny your body key nutrients but doing things like cutting calories or eating a restricted diet. You should aim for a well-balanced diet which includes plenty of vegetables and fruit, lean meats and whole grains. Your oncologist should be able to advise on your target calorie intake, and you may need to eat more than usual to keep your strength up throughout the process.
Eating enough is one of the major challenges during cancer treatment, as the loss of appetite is extremely common. Some medication can cause issues with your taste buds and may make food taste unpleasant, so it can be beneficial to plan your diet around higher calorie, nutrient dense foods to ensure you’re getting enough of the right things without having to eat quite as much food.
If you find certain foods more enjoyable throughout the process then it’s a good idea to keep them on hand – it can be a little easier to keep your calories up if you like what you’re eating.
Plan Your Day
It can get a little repetitive, but when it comes to managing your diet a well-planned routine is essential. If you know what you should be eating and when you should be eating it can make your life a whole lot easier. Everything from shopping to cooking becomes much more straightforward when you plan it out in advance.
Cooking meals a few days in advance is ideal, as there will be times when finding the energy to cook will be a real struggle. If the food is prepared in advance it’s really easy to warm it up quickly, saving the effort of cooking a healthy meal every time you’re hungry.
By eating at similar regular intervals throughout the day you’ll also be ensuring you’re eating enough. Only eating when you’re hungry could leave you short on nutrients or calories, so try to plan your day in advance and stick to it.
Listen to the Experts
The single best thing you can do is to listen to the advice of your medial team when it comes to your diet. The advancements in cancer care in recent years means a more holistic approach is taken with patients – it’s no longer a case of simply prescribing treatment and letting the patient get on with it.
Many cancer clinics, such as The LOC in London, have dedicated teams which help patients with everything from diet and nutrition to image consultation and counselling. This balanced approach can help make the whole cancer treatment process far more manageable for patients, which can have a huge impact on recovery.
The more we understand about cancer the more we’re seeing how important proper diet and nutrition is. By eating well throughout your treatment you can help improve the recovery process and maintain your energy throughout a hugely stressful time. Manage your diet, follow the advice of your consultants and it can help make the treatment process a lot less challenging for your body.
The American Institute for Cancer Research have produced a fantastic PDF guide to eating well during cancer treatment – it’s well worth a read if you’re looking for more information.