My mother is the inspiration for this blog. My mother was a brilliant cook and an amazing woman. She also battled breast cancer, which ultimately brought about her death at the all too young age of 55. Though my mother lost her battle with cancer after 9 years (yes, she was diagnosed in her mid 40's), she always believed that nutrition played a big role in her surviving that long. Her doctors were amazed that she tolerated her extensive chemo as well as she did, and she attributed this to her diet. My mom was an early adopter of eating well, both nutritionally and for enjoyment. (As an aside, my mom was an early adopter of many things: natural childbirth, the green movement, and the rejection of processed food.)
I recently got a request from Jillian McKee, Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, (you can read her bio here) to post an article on nutrition and cancer. In honor of my mother, here it is. Jillian discusses the importance of protein - you can visit my other blog, School of Eating Good, for a discussion of protein and how to get it in your diet.
Good Nutrition: Important Before, During, and After Cancer
If you have just been diagnosed with cancer, one of the last things you might be thinking about is nutrition. However, good nutrition can be essential in helping you before, during, and after cancer treatment.
According to the National Cancer Institute “Eating Hints,” it is important to be as healthy as possible before starting treatments. Whether you have to have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of these treatments, being healthy means that your body will be able to handle the stresses better and recover more quickly. Eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will help you build up vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Keeping protein sources to a modest amount will help you keep your protein stores full without overdoing calories.
During treatment of cancer, you might find it harder to eat like you used to. This may be particularly true if you have symptoms of mesothelioma, stomach, or colon cancers. The important thing is to keep up calories and protein intake. Since your body will be using a lot of energy during treatment, and your appetite might not be the same, you need to make sure to have enough calories coming in to balance the calories you’re spending. This will help you retain energy levels so you can fight your cancer better.
Good protein intake is also important. Your body uses protein to rebuild the muscles and tissues that you might be losing to the cancer and the treatments. Eating protein-rich foods like egg and soy-based items will give your body what it needs to rebuild tissues and muscle.
Continue to eat as nutritious a diet as you possibly can. You might have to talk to a dietician about special supplements to keep your nutrition at a high level. The stronger and healthier you are during treatment, the easier it will be to fight cancer successfully. Having lots of different nutrients helps your body build the immune cells to prevent infection and lets your body heal faster between treatments.
Eat what you can, when you can. Don’t be afraid if your tastes suddenly change during treatment. It might actually lead you to new healthy foods that you’ve never had an opportunity to try before. If you can’t eat anything at all, talk to your doctor right away. You don’t want to let your energy and protein reserves drop low.
After treatments, you’ll need to rebuild your strength and help your body recover. Eating foods that are rich in proteins and energy will help you recover your energy and strength more quickly. Add in as many colorful fruits and vegetables as possible to regain nutrients you might have lost.
Eating a nutritious diet before, during, and after cancer treatment can help you fight your disease better. It will help you keep your energy high and recover more quickly after treatment.