Even for people who have been diagnosed with cancer, adequate nutrition helps to deal with the discomfort caused by the disease or the side effects of treatment.
The selection of food , together with their distribution in the course of the day , affect the way in which the patient can :
- Coping with illness
- Coping with the side effects of treatment
- Countering the growth or recurrence of the tumor
- Coping with illness
Many forms of cancer are associated with a weight loss , which may also be important : it is estimated that up to 40 percent of cancer patients have already lost weight at the time of diagnosis or has problems of nutrition. This phenomenon, which affects not only the tumors of the digestive system , is determined by various factors including:
- The increase of basal metabolism by the tumor cells , which leads to a reduction of the weight to equal caloric intake ;
- The reduction in appetite : a sick person can be very weak , suffer from depression, have various pains not well controlled , have nausea or vomiting, all situations that take away the urge to eat .
However, it should do everything possible to follow a balanced diet in order to:
- Regain strength
- Cope better therapies
- Optimize the effect of drugs
- Fight infections
- Get the best from the immune system
Eating in the hospital and at home
For many patients, eating enough is a real effort , which requires understanding on the part of caregivers . In hospitals, meals are served at fixed times, often different from those to which people are accustomed , a condition that is not conducive to the power of sick . Other times meals are served while the patient is out of the department to perform an exam, so his return are cold and unappetizing .
Or again, the shortage of staff can not assist the patient during the meal. As common , these situations should be diked : you could ask family members to bring food more pleasing , getting heat food by nurses or to obtain the cooperation of volunteers , relatives or friends at the time of the meal. This is an aspect that should never be underestimated , even for the evolution of the disease.
On the other hand , for many patients with cancer just the idea of eating can be a source of stress and anxiety, while their loved ones difficulty in feeding can be very frustrating. Who is close to a cancer patient can help in many ways, but it should not force him to eat against their will , nor resent his efforts if they do not get the desired results, nor blame the patient . Talk about it in the family, and with specialized staff, the nutritionist to the psychologist , can be of great help to choose the most suitable foods and the most correct mode for taking action.
Coping with the side effects of treatment
Not only is the chemotherapy cause unpleasant side effects: even the new biological drugs , radiation therapy, or the consequences of surgery can cause nausea and vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, also causing loss of appetite. Nausea , in particular, affects nearly 70% of patients undergoing chemotherapy and remains one of the most difficult to manage even with the introduction of new generation drugs . An unexpected help but can get just from food.
In 2011, researchers at the University of Rochester have published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer a study of over 500 patients that demonstrates how the annoying symptoms can be reduced by 40 % when added to normal anti-nausea medication takes a small daily dose ginger . But this is only one example : many are the steps you can take to follow a diet as possible correct and balanced in order to help the body to respond to treatment with minimal side effects. Here are some illustrated in a recent manual published by the American Cancer Society, to counter :
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Discomfort in the mouth
Countering the growth or recurrence of the tumor
It is well established that a healthy diet , rich in whole grains and legumes, fruits and vegetables, with little red meat and a strong reduction in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and preserved meat, protects against the development of tumors and is reported to also effectively counter the onset of recurrence. It is therefore advisable to follow the recommendations of the World Wide Fund for Cancer Research.
More attention should be paid to food seemingly harmless but may interfere with some specific therapies. The grapefruit and its juice , for example, can block the action of enzymes important for the absorption and metabolism of some drugs , and in this way reduce its effectiveness . It is very important to follow the instructions of the doctor from time to time will be provided to the patient in this regard.
We must not forget that the same effect can also be induced by some herbal products , such as ginseng, and aloe , which sometimes can be taken without thinking that you consult your doctor , who instead must always refer to.
Breast cancer , a special case
If the problem of the majority of cancer patients in relation to food is weight loss , women breast surgery and adjutant therapy tend to gain weight. In addition to adversely affect mood, this phenomenon could worsen the prognosis , affecting the delicate hormone balance , especially as regards the metabolism of insulin.
The National Cancer Institute of Milan is checking if an appropriate diet can improve the prognosis of these patients. To this end, the project Diana 5 is experiencing a special diet , which uses some typical foods of the Mediterranean tradition and that macrobiotics, to help patients reduce the risk factors related to recurrence.