Nutrition is a process where food consumed is used to maintain bodily functions, repair tissues and support growth and development. A wholesome diet includes eating food with adequate nutrients and drinking plenty of fluids. Several studies have disclosed that simple lifestyle modifications like healthy eating habits and a good diet can avert the risk of 30-50% of all cancers. Latest research also shows that certain dietary behaviours can increase or decrease cancer risk. Thus, good nutrition is believed to play a pivotal role in treating and living with cancer.
Nutrition is an essential part of healthy living, cancer treatment, recovery, and prevention. As cancer can immensely affect every aspect of your health, including appetite and diet.
What a person eats is very vital when you suffer from cancer. The body needs adequate calories and nutrients to stay healthy and strong. However, this debilitating condition can make it difficult to get what one needs, which is entirely different before, during and after the treatment. And in most cases, the patient may not feel like eating.
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Cancer treatments comprise radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and surgery, where these procedures and medications can result in poor appetite and low energy in most patients putting them at a high risk of malnutrition. The food preferences when dealing with cancer and undergoing treatment may vary from what you had earlier. The key goal is to maintain weight constantly, heal well, and sustain the energy to cope with all the challenges treatment may bring. Hence it is essential to focus on eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense, high-calorie and high-protein foods.
How Cancer Treatment Impacts Your Diet?
Treatments like chemotherapy and some form of radiation therapy can cause several side effects:
- Constipation can cause discomfort and further lessen your desire to eat
- Diarrhoea can deplete the body fluids and other essential nutrients
- Loss of taste can make food unpleasant
- Nausea and vomiting may lower appetite and can result in weight loss
- Fatigue makes you very tired and less active, so you burn fewer calories and don’t feel hungry throughout the day
Treatment of cancer depends on the type of cancer. Breast cancer and blood cancer treatment often involve steroids. Steroids can increase appetite and blood sugar levels, which may lead to insulin resistance and weight gain.
People on hormone therapy after chemotherapy for breast cancer or uterine cancer are given drugs that suppress the production of estrogen, a hormone that holds a vital role in metabolism. When metabolism slows down, you may naturally gain weight.
People with pancreatic cancer mostly find it hard to maintain their weight. As the pancreas isn’t functioning properly, this makes it difficult to digest food and eventually leads to weight loss and malnourishment.
Importance of Diet During Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatments can lead to remarkable changes in appetite and body weight; thus, it is very important to focus on your diet. Also, nutrition therapy helps cancer patients to maintain weight and deliver the body with essential nutrients required during chemotherapy or radiation therapy that may help:
- Manage treatment side effects
- Boosts energy levels
- Improve muscle mass
- Promote immune response
- Lower inflammation
- Lowers the risk of infection
- Speed up the recovery process
- Improving the body’s response to treatment
Foods Containing Cancer Fighting Nutrients
Well, there is no single power food that can avert cancer. But a holistic dietary approach is most likely to optimise health.
Research estimate that eating a wholesome diet for cancer may lessen the risk by 70% and help to recuperate faster. Also, certain foods are believed to fight cancer by blocking the blood vessels that feed cancer in a process called anti-angiogenesis.
Some Of The Key Anti-Cancer Foods Include:
Most vegetables are laden with cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals. Evidence also discloses that a higher intake of vegetables with a lower risk of cancer.
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, contain the bioactive compound sulforaphane, which has been revealed to decrease the growth of tumours. While other vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes are associated with a reduced risk of prostate, stomach, and lung cancer.
Fruits are a powerhouse of antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help prevent cancer. A study has found that adding at least three servings of citrus per week decreased the risk of stomach cancer by 28%.
Flaxseed has been linked with shielding effects against certain types of cancer and may also reduce the spread of cancer cells. Adding flaxseeds as a part of a meal plan may lower the risk of prostate and breast cancer.
Spices are an integral part of our cooking that not only adds flavour and aroma to dishes but are also credited to have anti-cancer qualities. Cinnamon is known to exhibit anti-cancer traits and avert the spreading of tumour cells.
Curcumin present in turmeric has the potential to lessen lesions in the colon and reduces the risk of colon cancer. Thus, adding turmeric to meals or having haldi milk holds a remarkable role in reducing the risk of cancer.
Beans And Legumes
Legumes are an abundant source of dietary fibre and studies suggest that a higher intake of fibre may protect against colorectal cancer. Also, people who included more legumes had a 50% lower risk of certain types of cancers.
Nuts laden with healthy fats, protein and antioxidants are associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer. Munch on a few nuts as a standalone snack or add them into breakfast cereals and oatmeal.
Several studies have shown a strong association between olive oil and reduced cancer risk. Add olive oil as part of your regular cooking to optimise your overall health and avert the risk of cancer.
Garlin packed with allicin is known to have cancer-combatting traits that aid in lowering the risk of stomach and prostate cancers.
Eating freshwater fish has proven to protect against cancer owing to the richness of healthy fats that can lower inflammation. A large study found that regularly eating fish reduced the risk of colorectal cancer by 12%.
Adding dairy products has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. However, the type and amount of dairy products consumed are very important
For instance, moderate consumption of high-quality dairy products like raw milk, fermented milk products and milk from grass-fed cows have a protective effect. This is due to the presence of high amounts so healthy fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid and fat-soluble vitamins.
Remember that a high intake of processed dairy product is linked with an increased risk of cancer.
Nutritional supplements like multivitamins may be beneficial for people combatting cancer when taken in low dosage. Multivitamins are dietary products that comprise a daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals. It is important to consult your healthcare provider before consuming these supplements.
There are no miracle superfoods that can prevent cancer, but studies have suggested that healthy dietary habits can confer protection. A diet laden with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein may prevent cancer. On the other hand, having processed meats, refined carbs, salty foods, and alcohol may elevate the risk. Thus, people with cancer are encouraged to eat a balanced and varied plant-based diet with moderate addition of healthy animal proteins to preserve the quality of life and support better health outcomes.