Implementing healthy eating habits is an essential tool for cancer patients to withstand the effects of their disease and treatment. The benefits of a proper diet to improve their quality of life.
News on nutrition for cancer patients
The term “cancer” refers to a large group of diseases that begin in cells, the building blocks of the body. Normally they grow and divide to produce new ones, which are essential to ensure a healthy functioning. Sometimes this orderly process goes awry; new cells form when the body does not need them, and old ones do not die when they should, this forms a mass of tissue called a tumor. It is important to clarify that tumors can be benign (ie, noncancerous, because the cells do not spread to other parts of the body, often can be removed, and in most cases do not recur) or malignant (cancerous, when the abnormal cells, divide without control or order, invade and destroy the tissue around it, enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system and spread to other organs). At present, cancer is a disease that affects, in some way, to almost everyone and has been established in life as something relatively common. Although this disease presents high incidence, we must not forget that the survival rate has increased through research and the advancement of treatments. Some time ago the word “cancer” was scary, but today, although it is still a painful process, survival rates are much higher.
Cancer and its treatment can affect the taste, smell, appetite and ability to eat enough food or absorb nutrients, which leads consequently to pour nutrition. This condition can result in, weakness, fatigue and inability to fight infection or it can reduce the ability to overcome cancer treatment .
Therefore, the unintended weight loss in people who are sick with cancer, is associated with a decreased quality of life and prognosis dramatically worsening of the disease. On the contrary, a well-nourished patient had better prognosis and respond better to treatment, independently of tumor stage and type of tumor cells.
Malnutrition in people with cancer is caused by the confluence of several factors:
Directly related to the tumor: Metabolic alterations occur causing substances produced by the tumor, or by changes in the metabolism of glucose, lipids and proteins. These metabolic alterations often cause the cachexia-anorexia syndrome that affects a large number of these patients and is characterized by weight loss, decreased appetite, weakness (asthenia) associated with the loss of weight, fat and muscle mass. Often accompanied by nausea, anemia, fullness, and alterations of taste and smell.
Related tumor treatment: In cases of surgery, increase energy and protein requirements in the process of healing and fighting infection. With regard to radiotherapy, its side effects (asthenia, anorexia) usually appear between the first and second week of the start of treatment, and can last up to several weeks after finalizing. Chemotherapy, in turn, often causes inflammation of the mucous membranes, nausea and vomiting, intestinal inflammation, altered taste and smell, with major influence on nutrition.
Finally, immunotherapy can lead to fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and anorexia.
Related to other habits of the patient: For example, the consumption of alcohol and smoking causes reduced appetite by producing nutritional changes.
Also, the lack of dental hygiene habits causes alterations in the mouth as gingivitis or tooth loss, which can lead to inadequate intake of food and nutrients.
The role of nutrition
Through this process, the body incorporates food and use it to grow, stay healthy and replace tissues; therefore, proper nutrition is important for good health. Eating the right foods before, during and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger.
In this sense, nutritional therapy used by cancer patients help them get the nutrients they need to maintain body weight and strength and fight infection. It also will focus on:
- Increase appetite.
- Digest food better and minimize digestive discomfort
- Prevent or treat nausea and vomiting.
- Prevent or treat diarrhea and / or constipation.
- Prevent or treat mouth problems.
- Feeling better.
- Achieve a high level of strength and energy.
- Maintain weight and nutrient reserves.
- Better tolerate the side effects related to treatment.
- Reduce the risk of infections.
Proteins. They are required for the growth and repair of body tissue, and to maintain a healthy immune system. After surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, additional protein is usually needed to heal tissues and fight infection. Among the best sources of protein include: lean cuts of red meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products, nuts, peas, lentils and soy foods.
Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body and offer the fuel it needs for physical activity and proper functioning of the organs. The best sources of carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables and whole grains) provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients to the body’s cells.
Fats. Should opt for monounsaturated fats (vegetable oils, canola oil) and polyunsaturated (sunflower oil or flaxseed) instead of saturated and trans fats:
Water. Water and fluids are vital to health; all body cells need to function. If it does not get enough liquid or if lost by vomiting and diarrhea, the body can become dehydrated. If this happens, the liquids and minerals that keep the healthy body can achieve levels of descompensation.
There are several strategies to combat some of the most common nutritional problems:
Poor appetite: eating small meals throughout the day, including snacks; consume as much food during the day as possible until the condition improves; offer patients their favorite foods, often; ingest liquids and solids separately; serve meals attractively.
Changes in taste of foods: add sauces or dressings to light preparations; avoid canned goods; using eggs, milk, polio or fish instead of beef; combine different foods with herbs or spices; not use artificial flavorings or spicy sauces.
Recurrent nausea and vomiting: in the morning: eat a piece of toast or a cracker and seafood 30 minutes after breakfast; ingest liquids and solids separately; consume defatted broth, juices, jellies or rice water to stay hydrated; avoid eating two hours before chemotherapy; split meals in the day and eat in small amounts; avoid spicy or fatty foods.
Chewing and swallowing problems: changing the consistency of porridge or pureed meals; include foods rich in calories in foods; mix the liquids and solids.
Dry mouth: include sauces, soups, creams and drinks with meals; suck on an ice cube or sour candies often; brush your teeth to prevent bacterial development; Drinking eight glasses of water a day.
Diarrhea: implement proper hydration with plenty of fluids, and develop a stringent diet (rice, mashed potatoes and carrot, apple, fish and chicken).
Constipation: is recommended adequate intake of fiber and exercise.
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