Think Beyond Cancer

When you're being treated for cancer, it's more important than ever to eat a healthy diet and get good nutrition - but it can also be more difficult than ever. Your body is working overtime to fight the cancer, while it's also doing extra duty to repair healthy cells that may have been damaged as a side effect of treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. At the same time, many cancer treatments -- especially chemotherapy -- come with side effects that drain your strength and sap your appetite. So how can you make sure you're getting all the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need? During and after the treatment, your dietary balance changes drastically as a result of loss of appetite, excess weight gain or unexplained weight loss are frequent.

Some good food-based sources of important vitamins and nutrients for people with cancer:

  • Eggs and nuts are great sources of B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, and protein. Egg yolks are a good source of vitamin D. Peanut butter and crackers are an easy, no-prep snack that pack nutrients and may be easier to keep down.
  • Milk, cheese, meat, fish, and poultry are also good sources of B-complex vitamins, as well as protein. If you're having trouble eating hot dishes (the aroma of cooking food can sometimes trigger chemotherapy-related nausea), snack on mild cheeses, ice cream, yogurt, and other cold snacks. For larger meals, try chilled dishes like chicken, egg, and tuna salad.
  • Beans and other legumes offer plenty of B vitamins while helping meet your protein needs as well.
  • Since chemo-related mouth sores may make it painful to drink citrus juices or eat citrus fruits, which are the most common sources of vitamin C, consider alternative fruits and juices. Peach and pear nectars, as well as applesauce, are good alternative ways to get vitamin C.
  • Green, leafy vegetables, of course, are great sources of vitamins like A, E, and K, as well as minerals like iron. Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables carefully; your immune system can be compromised by cancer treatment and susceptible to contaminants in food.
  • Drink plenty of water and fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • In case of weight loss, eat rich meals and fractionate your meals in order to have several little meals during the day. You can eat calorie-rich aliments like butter, mayonnaise, cheese, ice cream, honey, etc. Include protein-rich aliments like eggs, dairy products, meat, fish or cereals, which can help you to keep strength and energy. However, if you don't manage to eat and to have a correct weight, talk about it to your doctor who can prescribe you dietary supplements.
  • On the contrary if you gained weight, you must try to recover your normal weight, but you have to be careful about slimming diets. You have first to talk about it to your nutritionists for expert advice.

There are specials diets adapted to some treatments and surgeries:

  • After a stomach removal, you will have to take several little meals instead of normal meals.
  • After a colostomy (alternative exit created to divert stool through a hole in the colon and through the wall of the abdomen. The end of the colon that leads to the rectum is closed off and becomes dormant); there are no forbidden aliments, but you have to avoid diarrhoea and constipation.
  • In case of mouth and throat irritation: You should avoid acid aliments such as lemon, orange, tomatoes etc, dry aliments like bread, cakes, chicken etc, crunchy aliments such as cereals, chips, raw fruits and vegetables etc, too hot, cold or spicy aliments and alcohol. You must eat neutral aliments like stewed fruits, peers, dairy products, minced meat, custard tart, fruits or vegetables puree, milk, non-acid fruit juices, lukewarm drinks, etc.
  • In case of nausea and vomiting: Prefer a neutral and without smell food, and fractionate your meals. Choose aliments with few fats, spices and sugar.
  • In case of diarrhoea: Avoid every fat aliments like fat meats and fishes, nuts, almonds, french fries, chips, and fibres-rich aliments such as french beans, cabbage, spinach, peas. Include lean meats and fishes, vegetables puree, carrot, courgette, pasta and rice, raw and peeled fruits.
  • In case of constipation; constipation is often related to the medicines such as morphinic analgesics or anti-emetics and to modifications of the feeding way. You have to drink a lot of water, stocks, prune juice, etc. It's advisable to drink a glass of cold water every morning just after waking up. Include fibres-rich aliments both raw and cooked along with dairy products.

The focus of the diet should be from the base of the pyramid - grains, fruits, and vegetables. The numbers of servings decrease as you progress upward, with the top of the pyramid recommending that fats, sweets, and oils are used sparingly.

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