Keeping Up Your Strength While Dealing With Cancer Treatment
There are certain cancers that can affect the ability to eat, especially to swallow. In addition, some cancers in the stomach or other parts of the digestive system may leave you feeling full, even when you have not been eating anything at all. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can leave you feeling nauseous or too weak to bother eating. Even on days when you are not feeling nausea at all, you still may not have much of an appetite. You may be too worried or stressed out to eat. You may be too depressed to eat. Trying to eat enough to keep up your strength is important so that you have a better exit.
There are many things to keep in mind when dealing with cancer, no matter what form or type you have. Well meaning friends and family can make you feel worse and may try to push you to eat certain foods or to avoid certain other foods. If you are at the end stage of your cancer, certain medical rules are not going to apply any longer – why bother with low-sodium or low-fat if you will not affect the income at all?
Keep in mind that there are a number of studies that have been done about the benefits of certain foods, while others that contradict these studies. There are so many conflicting reports and studies that it may be impossible to tell which ones to believe and which ones you should not. It is important to follow the guidelines that are established for you by your doctor and / or nutritionist so that you are able to stay at your optimal health level. Both chemo and radiation will reduce your immune system, so trying to stay strong is important.
Careful planning of snacks and meals can allow you to have foods handy for when you actually feel up to eating, and supplements can be used even on days when you are not concerned with eating.
Laura, age 38 and newly diagnosed with breast cancer, is not looking forward to her coming round of chemotherapy. She is working toward setting up her life so that it is as easy as possible for her and her 20 year old son, but she knows that it is going to be a struggle. She has always been a health conscious eater, so some of the suggestions might be problematic for her, but she will do whatever she needs to do to fight back from this disease.
How and When to Eat
In some kinds of cancer, there is a constant feeling of fullness in addition to a lack of appetite, so it might be necessary to start eating on a schedule instead of waiting for hunger. It also might be easier to eat small amounts every one to two hours instead of eating at "normal" mealtimes. If you actually have a moment when you feel hungry, then eat something – do not miss a chance to eat when hunger strikes unless you have been restricted from eating because of ancoming treatment.
Like a person who has had a gastric bypass surgery, the cancer patient should limit or eliminate fluids during meals because they will fill you up quicker without giving you the nutrition that you need. Follow the same guidelines as for weight loss surgery and drink the fluids 30-60 minutes before or after your meal. Laura's doctor suggests that she drink a small glass of wine about an hour before her evening meals, both to relax her and to stimulate her appetite.
Know what triggers your nausea. For some people it might be some smells, colors or sights. For other people it might be certain foods themselves. Avoid the triggers as much as you can and make the meal as pleasant as possible. For Laura, smells such as coffee and bacon make her ill and she can not tolerate anything yellow on her plate.
If you feel up to it and the doctor approves, you may be able to take a walk in the fresh air to stimulate your appetite. However, there are some precautions because of the lowered immune system, including not walking in large crowds, not getting overly tired or not walking in the cold or the rain.
Calorie needs may be extreme during this period as your body works to rebuild the immune system and to fight back against the cancer that has invaded it. Adding additional calories can be easier than you would think and can be done using real butter on any food that you can think of, and spreading high-protein peanut butter on crackers, apples, bread or bagels. One of Laura's favorite high-calorie snacks is a cinnamon raisin bagel with honey nut flavored cream cheese, followed by hour later by a glass of full fat milk.
Add powdered milk or creamer to hot cocoa, milkshakes, glasses of full fat milk, hot cereals, gravy, sauces and other foods. Another option is to add whey powder to these food and beverage choices. Whey powder is a powdered protein source created as a byproduct of cheese-making and is a derivative of milk. If you are lactose intolerant, then skip whey protein powder.
Getting Extra Protein
Protein helps to build and repair the immune system as well as playing a number of other roles in the body. People with illness or after surgery need additional protein so that their body can work to heal itself. There are two sources of protein, animal- and plant-based. In a healthy person's diet, red meat is considered a no-no, however, for those who are fighting back from cancer; this is no longer a concern. If you do not want or like red meat, however, there are several other choices for protein that can be used instead.
For Laura, using a protein supplement is easier than trying to deal with eating meat, which she just can not seem to tolerate any more. Proasis, the first all-natural protein supplement from Protica is her choice because it is small (2.9 ounces), gives her high-quality protein (25 grams) and allows her to consume it whenever she feels like it. She keeps the single-serve vial in various places so that she can consume it whenever she lifts up to it. There are a number of flavors, so she can have a variety. This way, if one flavor starts making her nauseous, she can switch to a new one. She can also mix Proasis with other foods or beverages if she needs to.
She also gets protein with protein bars, not worrying about the calorie count in the choices. She has one brand that she likes the best, with a delicious chocolate peanut butter flavor. She can just grab a bar when she feels up to it, no matter where she is.
Another suggestion that has been made is for high-protein milk: Laura will mix powdered milk to whole milk and then use this high-powered blend for a number of things, including in recipes and as a beverage.
Mayo Clinic Staff No Appetite? How to Get Nutrition During Cancer Treatment Mayoclinic.com