Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.
Your car runs on fuel. If you want your car to perform well, you give it high-octane gas. The same can be said for your body. If you want your body to perform well, then you feed it high-octane, or nutrient-rich, foods. Sometimes, even with the best care, our cars and our bodies develop problems. As we nurse them back to health, it's more important than ever to feed them the best fuel available. In this lesson, we will focus on how a person dealing with cancer should feed their body and some of the diet-related obstacles they may face due to their condition.
It's important for a person who is undergoing cancer treatment to stay physically strong by maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet. However, during treatment, it can be difficult for a person to continue on a healthy eating plan. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, which are common medical procedures used in the treatment of cancer, can result in a reduced appetite and weight loss. These treatments can also cause nausea and mouth sores or alter the appeal or taste of certain foods. These side effects make it difficult to take in all the essential nutrients needed for a strong recovery.
During cancer treatment, a patient might be referred to a registered dietitian, who is a nutrition expert qualified to design meal plans for patients with medical conditions. This health care professional may work directly with the patient and create diet strategies to help them overcome specific challenges.
While specific needs will vary from patient to patient, there are some general nutrition recommendations during cancer treatment that act as a foundation for most people undergoing treatment. First, it's important that patients maintain a healthy weight. Cancer treatment can lead to weight loss. If a person is underweight, they should take in sufficient calories to keep their weight in a healthy range. If a patient is obese, calorie intake can be adjusted to allow weight loss, but the loss should be controlled so the weight does not come off too rapidly.
It's also important for a cancer patient's diet to include essential nutrients. This means taking in sufficient amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients, which include proteins, fats and carbohydrates, provide the necessary calories to maintain body functions. Micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which are natural chemicals found in plant-based foods, provide additional nutrients for healing and repair.
If consuming a sufficient amount of nutrients is difficult due to side effects of treatment, it might be necessary to add nutrients through dietary supplements, liquid meal replacements or other means, such as a feeding tube or intravenous injections. If nausea is a problem, it may be helpful to eat small meals throughout the day, as opposed to large, infrequent meals. If mouth sores make it difficult to eat solid foods, it may help to use a juicer or a blender to make vegetables, fruits and other nutrient-rich foods easier to consume.
If food tastes bland, it can be seasoned with spices to enhance flavor. And, if cancer treatment causes a metallic taste in your mouth, you may find that using plastic utensils and cooking with glassware helps. The metallic taste may also be lessened by chewing gum, sucking on mints or brushing your teeth before eating.
Let's review. It's important for a person undergoing cancer treatment to stay physically strong by consuming a nutrient-rich diet and maintaining a healthy weight. However, these tasks can be difficult to carry out if treatment causes a reduced appetite, weight loss, nausea, mouth sores, or if treatment alters the appeal or taste of certain foods. A registered dietitian, who is a nutrition expert qualified to design meal plans for patients with medical conditions, can help a cancer patient meet their unique nutrient needs and overcome these obstacles.
A person undergoing cancer treatment should maintain a healthy weight and include essential nutrients in their diet. If consuming a sufficient amount of nutrients is difficult, a patient may need to take in additional nutrients through dietary supplements, liquid meal replacements, a feeding tube or intravenous injections.
As you come to the end of the lesson, you should aim to:
- Explain the importance of nutrition, especially when dealing with cancer
- Describe the obstacles cancer patients might face when it comes to nutrition
- Recall nutrition recommendations for cancer patients
- Explain how a registered dietitian may help a cancer patient
- Identify alternative ways to ensure patients receive proper nutrition
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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