The Importance Of Nutrition For Cancer Patients

Author: Shannon Miller

As part of my “My Journey” blog I’ve tried to include interviews, articles and guest blogs from people who are dealing with or helping others deal with a cancer diagnosis. It takes communication, support and education to get through such a difficult time.

Melanie Bowen is an awareness advocate for natural health and holistic therapies for cancer patients. You will often find her highlighting the great benefits of different nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those with illness in her efforts to increase attentiveness and responsiveness on like topics.

Article by Melanie Bowen

According to the National Cancer Institute, close to 35 percent of all cancers have a nutritional connection. Food plays an important role in health, mood, energy, and even self-esteem. Choosing foods that are rich in protective factors can greatly enhance a person’s health and well-being. Most importantly, illness doesn’t just affect the person it affects the home.
Good nutrition is especially important for people with chronic or terminal illness, like kidney disease or mesothelioma cancer. Eating well before, during, and after treatment helps patients feel better and stronger. A healthy diet includes foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and other essential elements. A diet that lacks these, causes a patient to become dehydrated, malnourished, and less able to fight disease.

How Cancer Affects Nutrition

Cancer, especially, can change the way a person’s body absorbs and uses nutrients. Some tumors, particularly those in the stomach or intestines, make chemicals that affect the use of macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates). Although patients may seem to eat enough food, their bodies cannot absorb these important nutrients.

Healthy eating habits can help patients address their cancer symptoms and treatment side effects. Well-nourished patients can better endure cancer treatments, potentially leading to an improved prognosis. They often have a better prognosis and quality of life, too.

Cancer Treatments And Side Effects

Cancer treatments make it hard for many patients to eat well. All of today’s standard medical treatments can adversely affect a patient’s nutritional health. These include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplants, and immunotherapy. Treatment that affects the neck, esophagus, stomach, or intestines make healthy nutrition difficult but extremely important.

Cancer treatments, while aggressive in fighting cancer cells, often leave patients with serious side effects. Many of these side effects can affect eating and nutrition. Mouth sores, swallowing difficulties, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and depression are just some examples.

In addition, cancer treatment can alter the taste and smell of foods. This is another contributing factor to malnutrition in patients. Malnutrition only compounds the problem, causing cancer patients to feel tired, weak, and unable to fight infection or endure treatment.

Medications And Nutritional Therapy

Cancer treatment side effects should be treated early. Nutrition therapy and medicine can help. Even terminally ill patients can benefit from this therapy. Prescription medications and nutritional supplements can help patients regain an appetite, digest their food, and maintain their weight.

In addition, nutritional therapy can treat nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and constipation, mouth sores and infections, pain, and other cancer side effects that hinder proper nutrition. A good nutritional lifestyle — helped along by therapy, if necessary — is one of the best remedies for increasing strength, fighting infection, and healing through cancer.

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