World Cancer Day aims to foster awareness of cancer as a public health issue and improve access to quality care, screening, prompt detection, treatment, and palliative care. This year's theme earmarks the second year of the health campaign "close the care gap," which is about knowing and understanding the inequalities in cancer care and taking necessary steps to make advancements to address these issues. On this World Cancer Day, let all of us recognize the power of working together and play our part in creating a cancer-free world.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has resulted in disruptions in cancer, affecting patient access and lives. Thus, the lessons learned during the pandemic should be used to deal with disturbances and inequities in cancer care, prevention, and control. In addition, this multi-year event increases exposure and engagement and creates more opportunities to strengthen worldwide awareness and eventually improve the outcomes.
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Read this article to get an insight into the importance of diet and nutrition during the pre, post, and recovery phases of cancer.
Good nutrition is the most vital physiological need of the human body that determines the metabolic processes throughout life, and a wholesome diet regimen for cancer patients is the essential means and regulator.
Health experts suggest that the nutritional factor is the most crucial criterion among all contributing factors to cancer incidence. Nevertheless, a wholesome diet packed with fresh vegetables and fruits, regular physical activity, and maintaining a normal weight form the critical parameters for primary cancer prevention and can lessen the risk of occurrence and development of most tumours.
According to reports, at least 4 million cancer cases can be prevented if people eat less meat and more fresh produce. Isn't that a surprising fact? Further, studies also revealed that being obese or overweight can up the risk of cancer by 2.5 times. But fret not; following a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced and varied diet can treat early signs of cancer.
Also Read: Breast Cancer Diet Regimen: Here's A Detailed Guide Of Foods To Eat During And After Treatment
Nutrition Recommendations During and After Cancer Treatment
With cancer, eating well and getting the proper nutrition the system needs can be challenging. Thus, finding ways to maintain a healthy weight and eat a wholesome and balanced diet is pivotal. Also, it is essential to stay well hydrated.
The side effects of cancer and cancer treatment can change appetite and weight. Sometimes specific therapies can make you eat less, resulting in weight loss. On the other hand, some medicines can cause weight gain. Though small weight changes are not a huge problem, losing or gaining too much weight can impact your overall health during cancer and treatment. Good nutrition can help a person stay as healthy and active as possible.
Nutritional Needs Differ In People With Cancer
People with cancer mostly need to follow diet patterns that are considered healthy, which may differ from person to person; these include:
- Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain bread and cereals
- Moderate amounts of lean protein and dairy products
- Restricted amounts of sugar, alcohol, salt, and saturated and trans fats
While suffering from cancer, you need to eat well to boost your strength and stamina to manage with side effects of treatment. When you are healthy, eating adequate food is often not an issue, but dealing with cancer and treatment can be challenging.
When you have cancer, you may need additional proteins and calories, and the diet should include extra meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and plant-based proteins. Also, some patients may have trouble chewing and swallowing, so they may need a semi-solid or full-liquid diet. And sometimes, you may have to eat low-fiber foods instead of fiber-rich ones. Getting the help of nutritionists can help patients to modify their diets as per their needs and health status.
Side effects from cancer treatment are significant problems that can lead to eating disorders.
Also Read: Cancer Prevention: Try These 5 Super Foods To Avert The Risk Of Cancer
Cancer treatments are aimed at killing cancer cells, but these therapies can also destroy healthy cells. And any damage to the healthy cells can cause side effects that lead to eating issues.
Some of the common eating issues during cancer treatment include:
- Poor appetite
- Loss of sense of taste or smell
- Dry mouth
- Lactose intolerance
- Mouth sores
- Sore throat and trouble swallowing
- Weight gain
- Sudden weight loss
Why Is Diet Important During Cancer Treatment?
As cancer treatment can lead to variations in appetite and weight, it's extremely important to focus on nutritional management. Furthermore, a wholesome diet can help patients maintain a healthy weight and manage the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which include:
- Deal with treatment side effects
- Boost energy levels
- Improve muscle mass
- Conserve immune function
- Decrease inflammation
Foods To Add During Cancer Treatment
Experts suggest that one should include plenty of foods rich in protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and vitamins and minerals, even before cancer treatment begins. This will help you be healthier and more active going forward with treatment.
Plant-based proteins are highly valued for their incredible health-benefiting traits. Adding these foods as part of a diet regimen during chemotherapy or other cancer therapies helps a person to manage the condition. In addition, these foods deliver ample reserves of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, and vegetables are good sources of plant-based proteins. Choose lean meat sources like skinned chicken or fish if you eat animal proteins.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are healthy sources of fats high in omega-3 fatty acids. For example, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, and walnuts are all good omega fatty acids that help fight inflammation and repair and regenerate new cells.
Choose from complex sources of carbohydrates like whole wheat, bran, millet, and oats. These are abundant in soluble fiber, which helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome and immune function. In addition, they also improve the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which play a crucial role in promoting metabolism and cellular repair.
Vitamins and minerals are essential micronutrients that aid the human system with enzymatic processes and functions, which remarkably trigger the immune system and lower inflammation. Choose from a rich array of rainbow-coloured fruits and vegetables to meet the requirements of these vital nutrients and stay disease-free.
Dietary Management To Cope With Cancer Treatment Side Effects
Dietary modifications can help patients manage side effects after the treatment begins, which include:
Appetite Loss: Eat small frequent meals with one or two intermediary nutritious snacks throughout the day rather than having three heavy ones.
Constipation: Incorporate plenty of natural sources of fibre like fruits, vegetables, and beans, drink a lot of fluids, and consider a fiber supplement if needed.
Diarrhoea: Choose foods or drinks with sodium and potassium, like bananas, fresh fruit juices, soups, and other fluids, to replenish lost electrolytes.
Loss Of Taste: To overcome the loss of taste, consider trying new foods with different herbs or spices. You can also add intense flavours like fresh lemon, lemon juice, or orange juice.
Nausea: Add foods like citrus fruits, ginger, and peppermint oil to ease nausea. Also, you can drink ginger tea or lemon tea or chew ginger or lemon slices to alleviate nausea.
Foods To Avoid During Cancer Treatment
It is essential to know what you're consuming during cancer treatment. Any ingredient in the food should not impede the treatment plan. Read the nutrition labels to learn if the products contain any triggers and avoid them. It is best to have homemade foods prepared hygienically and nutritionally. Refrain from having refined, processed foods, fried foods, and sugary stuff to decrease inflammation and speed up recovery.
Moreover, people with cancer often have a compromised immune system, hence consider avoiding some of these foods that carry the risk of foodborne illness:
- Undercooked or raw fish, such as sushi
- Soft-cooked eggs or foods that contain raw eggs, like homemade mayonnaise
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- Unwashed fruits or vegetables
Diet During Recovery
A wholesome and balanced diet during the recovery phase is essential to optimize the patient's overall physical and mental well-being. Include ample amounts of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grain cereals. In addition, the American Cancer Society recommends the following diet regimen:
- Include at least 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits every day.
- Add healthy fats containing omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybean oil, and canola oil.
- Choose a good amount of complete protein foods low in saturated fat, such as fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
- Go for healthy sources of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables.
Incorporating these foods will help a person meet the needs of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help the body stay strong, recuperate well, and improve the overall quality of life.
Nutritional supplements like multivitamins may be helpful for people fighting cancer when taken in low dosages. However, it is essential to consult your doctor before adding accessories to your diet regimen.
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