Guest Post: Jillian McKee
Today’s post is brought to you by Jillian McKee, a Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Jillian brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to the organization, and spends most her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine when used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment. Take it away Jillian!
Benefits of Healthy Nutrition While Fighting Cancer
Facing a fight against cancer can be difficult, causing anxiety for both the patient and family. While many aspects of treating and living with cancer seem out of the patient’s direct control, what a cancer patient eats can have a huge effect on their overall well-being during and after treatment.
Nutrition therapy is often used in conjunction with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery because good eating habits for cancer patients can be far different from good eating habits for healthy people. Working with a nutrition counselor during this process can help patients get the proper balance of foods they need.
Different cancers and treatments affect the body differently, thereby requiring different nutrition. Treatments for mesothelioma, for example, can focus on making sure the patient maintains a healthy weight, or tailoring the foods to promote maximum nutrient absorption if the cancer makes it difficult to swallow or is centered in the abdomen.
The body needs a certain amount of protein and calories each day to maintain proper weight, which in turn helps the cells repair and rebuild themselves, an important part of cancer treatment and remission. Therefore, it is very important to monitor the symptoms of malnourishment during treatment, including weight loss, anemia, and loss of appetite. Proper calorie intake helps ensure healing, fights infection, and maintains energy levels.
Getting the proper balance of nutrients helps patients by increasing their overall well-being as well. It can combat the depression and anxiety cancer often causes, and give them the energy to continue living as normal a life as possible. Patients are also more responsive to treatment, bounce back faster, decrease their risk of infection, and improve their immune function when they are properly nourished.
Foods high in phytonutrients, those found in plant foods such as berries, dark leafy greens, legumes and whole wheat, contain antioxidants, anticarginogens and bioflavonoids, all important in helping the immune system repair itself and keep the body healthy. While a diet rich in these foods can help prevent some cancers, they are also important in helping to fight cancers that do develop, and in keeping those cancers in remission.
Eating healthy, lean protein, such as that from fish and soy, maintains the body’s muscle mass and helps rebuild body tissue. Whole grains provide fiber to counteract the gastrointestinal effects of treatment, such as constipation and diarrhea. Whole grains also help regulate the production and absorption of good bacteria in the intestines, which in turn helps regulate hormones and brain chemicals such as serotonin that affect mood.
Good nutrition is important for those with cancer, whether just diagnosed, undergoing treatment, or in remission, and can make a big difference in a patient’s overall well-being.