Monday, July 22, 2013

Dealing with the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment through Dietary Changes

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from someone volunteering to do a guest post on this blog. I thought people did that on blogs where people read them! (insert drum fill) 

Seriously though, David Hass, from the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance has asked me to help him share some information about nutrition and the side effects of Cancer treatments and I of course said no problem. Hope you guys enjoy and you can check out the MCA blog here.

                                                                                                                        - Frank

The goal of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, is to attack and destroy the cancer cells within your body in order to stop them from multiplying. However, healthy cells are often caught up in this barrage, producing undesirable side effects. Simple dietary changes can help to reduce and sometimes eliminate some of these unwanted physical and emotional side effects.

Chemotherapy Causes Chemo Brain
Among many cancer patients and survivors, there is a phenomenon jokingly termed “chemo brain” that is actually a very real and serious condition. Chemo brain is characterized by factors such as memory loss, an inability to multi-task and extreme difficulty concentrating. There are several dietary tricks that can help to combat chemo brain.
• Eat your vegetables. Yellow, orange and green vegetables contain beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that has been linked to improved memory and reasoning skills.
• Focus on consuming more of the brain booster foods.
• Blueberries contain a wealth of nutrients, including vitamin C, folic acid and fiber. They are said to help improve the memory.
• Salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease while improving the memory as well the enhancing the ability to learn new skills and concepts.
• Other brain boosting foods that are rich in antioxidants include apples, blackberries, dark chocolate, coffee, curry, grapes and spinach.

Nausea is Often a Side Effect of Chemotherapy and Radiation
Nausea is not only uncomfortable but may also lead to vomiting. Vomiting empties the body of essential nutrients and can irritate the lining of the stomach, esophagus and throat. The more often you vomit, the less of the essential vitamins, minerals and even calories that feed your body. Additionally, frequent vomiting makes you feel weaker overall.
• Keep small packages of crackers nearby at all times. It is a good idea to have some on your bedside table for any morning or post-nap nausea. Keep several packages in your car, your desk, or any bag that you carry with you regularly.
• If certain food smells make you feel nauseated, avoid them as well as hot foods and beverages. Stick with cold foods and drinks.
• Safe options are bland foods, such as cold cereal, plain toast, rice, pudding, sherbet and mild fruits or vegetables.

Cancer Treatment Can Lead to Anorexia Nervosa
Many cancer treatments result in a loss of appetite. This in combination with the high levels of emotions during treatments can sometimes lead to anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by an inaccurate perception of one’s body and an intense desire to maintain an extremely low weight. With an already weakened immune system, it is vital that you nourish your body with adequate protein, fat and carbohydrates to ensure that you are supplied with the right vitamins and minerals.
• Surround yourself with positive people. You want to live in a supportive environment that makes you feel secure and confident in who you are.
• Eat with friends and family members as often as possible. Try to avoid frequently dining alone.
• Play music or light candles while you eat to create a pleasant ambiance.
• Eat higher calories snacks that are also high in protein. Examples include nuts, avocados, cheese, and nut butters.
• Check with your cancer treatment center regarding nutritional counseling and support groups.

Though cancer is a life-changing event, you can take positive steps to enhance your physical and mental health as much as possible when undergoing cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.  Proper nutrition and eating habits play a huge role in keeping you both physically and emotionally strong.

1 comment:

  1. I read your blog Frank and this is great information. I'm not the healthiest eater, but I do believe a lot of illness can be helped through diet.