Good nutrition is essential during cancer treatments, recovery, and prevention. Maintaining good eating habits will help the body support healthy organs, repair muscles, and heal wounds and tissues that have been affected during treatments. Malnutrition is a common problem amongst cancer patients and may lead to poor outcomes and procedure delays. Although each individual’s calorie requirements may vary, consuming enough protein and eating a balanced diet can improve the effectiveness of treatments.
How Cancer Treatment Affects Nutrition
Cancer treatments have an adverse effect on nutrition and on our body’s ability to absorb or digest food. After surgery it may be difficult to eat or swallow; thus, individuals may need to get nutrition intravenously or through tube feeding. Radiation treatment can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, all of which can affect appetite and the amount of ingestible nutrients. Chemotherapy medications can affect the digestive system, causing decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. Immunotherapy, a treatment that stimulates the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells, may cause fever, fatigue, and changes in the taste of food. Lastly, hormonal therapy can change appetite patterns and promote weight gain.
The aforementioned side effects directly impact the ability and willingness to consume foods. This leads to weight loss, feeling of weakness and lethargy, and even the way the body is able to absorb and tolerate food and nutrients.
The Importance of Protein
During cancer treatments individuals may need to change their diet to one that builds up strength to surpass the effects of cancer and its related procedures. Eating well and balanced is key to help fight cancer.
Many cancer treatments directly impact the body’s ability to absorb protein. Also, protein needs to be replenished since the body will start to consume muscles for the fuel it needs. Supplementing with protein is required to repair body tissue, to recover after surgery, and to help fight viruses and infections that may arise from subsequent treatments. Eating more protein can also give the body energy, which is especially needed after many procedures.
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