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How to eat yourself to better health after cancer diagnosis

What to eat for better health after cancer diagnosis

Nutrition is the foundation of the human body and  plays a key role in cancer prevention, effective management and prevention of relapse. A  post-breast cancer treatment diet is dependent on the patient’s individual nutrient needs, ability to feed orally, cancer cachexia (muscle wasting ) and the patient’s digestive system’s integrity. If the patient is able to feed orally, the first step is to get an evaluation from a clinical nutritionist to assess the individual’s weight in terms of muscle mass, fat mass, water mass and skeletal or bone mass. The nutritionist then uses the assessment results to calculate the individual’s total calories needs, protein needs (this is very important for cell repair and regeneration and to prevent muscle wasting) and finally the water needs, which are based on the individual’s weight.

If the patient is not able to feed orally (through the mouth) or cannot tolerate adequate amounts of food via the mouth, parenteral nutrition (intravenous feeding) is initiated immediately in order to prevent malnutrition and premature death. There are certain foods that are not advisable to eat during and after breast cancer treatment. They include sugar, sweetened foods and drinks, soy (soya) and all soy products because of the presence of phytoestrogen, cured meats such as sausages, smokies, bacon, ham  because of presence of nitrites and sodium benzoate, which are classified as carcinogens, commercial juices, tomato sauce and foods that are high in glycemic index highly-processed foods. Whole unprocessed foods should be the ideal choice.

What are the key nutrients someone being treated for breast cancer needs?

Micronutrients daily needs increase in all types of cancers. It is important to note that healthy cells and cancer cells both compete for the nutrients an individual feeds on daily. For this reason, the clinical nutritionist prescribes nutrients at therapeutic levels. Micronutrients include; vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Micronutrients are the ammunition the body needs in order to fight disease, restore the body back to optimal health at cellular level and also prevent disease relapse.

How does hormone therapy affect one’s diet including weight gain and the psychological effects it could cause?

One of the side effects of hormonal therapy is weight gain because weight management is controlled by hormones. Working closely with a nutritionist and a fitness professional helps the individual to eat the required amounts of calories per day. For cancer warriors it is crucial to consult a fitness professional so that they do not engage in  strenuous exercise that could cause more damage in a system that’s already strained by harsh treatment, side effects of treatment and in most instances Micronutrients malnutrition.

How does chemo affect one’s diet and how  can a nutritionist help the survivor handle this?

Chemotherapy causes side effects such as vomiting, nausea, changes in saliva production, it affects taste buds, which results in altered taste of various foods and drinks including water, diarrhoea or constipation. This varies from individual to individual.

This can be controlled by omitting foods that cause nausea, capitalsing on tolerable foods depending on the individual, adding fresh lemon juice to water to improve taste, avoiding use of spices with added artificial flavours.

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