Having good nutrition is the basis of health for all phases of life. However, before a diagnosis like cancer, consuming the right foods can play a very important role in helping the patient cope better with their illness.
According to Dr. Gabriel Gómez, Abbott's Regional Medical Director for Latin America, "maintaining balanced nutritional intake after diagnosis can help effectively prevent weight loss and muscle loss." Maintaining and even improving weight, muscle mass and strength are indicators of an adequate evolution towards the maintenance of health. "
An adequate nutritional status and the amount of muscle mass during the illness of diseases such as cancer will determine beneficial data for the person. Modes of multimodal treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, radio, immunotherapy or the union of several or all of these require that the person has a body composition appropriate so that treatments can be tolerated and their function of recovering health .
Unfortunately, being well-fed can be a challenge, since some treatments and the disease itself can affect appetite and the ability to eat. It is important to ask the oncologist if he or she recommends a visit to a nutritionist who offers advice on the food plan during this critical moment. Here are five recommendations on diet during the treatment of cancer.
1. Try to keep the same caloric intake and protein: It is important to observe the consumption of proteins and calories during treatment. Both nutrition components are vital to avoid losing weight and lean muscle mass, which are common side effects in these cases.
Although the amount of calories and proteins varies depending on the person, it is recommended to maintain a similar or slightly higher intake than before the diagnosis. However, if significant weight loss is observed before or during treatment, care should be taken to further increase this amount.
2. Loss of appetite: The illness and its treatments usually induce a loss of appetite and the food has a distorted, bitter or metallic flavor, which can lead people to abandon their usual eating habits. These changes in diet are only evident until avoidable and harmful weight loss occurs. Regardless of the weight prior to the diagnosis of the disease, this is not an appropriate period to lose weight or restrictive diets.
To combat the lack of appetite, it is recommended to try different foods at the beginning of the day, which is the time when the body is more likely to receive food. Given the appearance of vomiting or the inability to obtain complete nutrition through a normal or modified diet, it is recommended to add a complete nutritional supplement that is designed to provide macro and micronutrients. Cancer patients who add oral supplements to their diet are better able to achieve their nutritional goals.
These supplements also have a higher amount of protein so that people can maintain their muscle mass and regain strength and energy during treatments.
3. How to fight stomach disorders? In addition to changes in appetite, gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may make it difficult to withhold nutrients needed during the treatment of this disease.
To combat stomach problems it is recommended to eat frequent foods during the day instead of depending on three large meals. When choosing a food, it is recommended to choose those with higher caloric and protein content, such as apples sliced with peanut butter or apples and cheese.
4. About sugar: According to the US Cancer Institute, sugar does not cause cancer, it does not accelerate the growth of cancer or interfere with cancer treatments. Some diseased cells simply have more channels of glucose receptors in their membranes compared to healthy cells. From a scientific perspective, this only affects how researchers detect cancer cells, not how cells grow, reproduce, or affect diet.
However, high-sugar foods, often refined, lack the necessary nutrition to keep the patient healthy throughout the treatment. This is what we call empty calories, which should be avoided because they only provide carbohydrates and not other important nutrients. It is important to focus on eating healthy and balanced foods and not giving as much importance to the small amounts of sugar they may have.
5. What about soy? There are many myths about soy and its relation to the possible involvement of hormones in the body. However, products that contain soy protein have not been associated with the development of cancer or its growth, as many assume.
Many studies have found that soy prevents cancer, such as premenopausal breast cancer. Soy is also high in protein, which means it could help prevent muscle wasting and keep the patient strong during treatment.