Eating well can be particularly difficult during mesothelioma treatment. You may have little appetite. You and your loved ones might not have the energy to prepare healthy meals. It’s crucial to pay attention to what you eat, however. Proper cancer nutrition can help you to feel better before, during, and after treatment.
Cancer nutrition doesn’t mean taking fancy supplements or eating strange and unpleasant foods. The American Cancer Society offers commonsense guidelines to create your own cancer nutrition plan. With a few adjustments to your normal diet, you can achieve good cancer nutrition. The key is to stock your kitchen with tasty foods that are packed with the nutrients you need to fight mesothelioma.
Basic Cancer Nutrition for Mesothelioma Patients
There isn’t one diet plan that works for every mesothelioma patient. Your cancer nutrition plan should be tailored to your tastes and your specific nutritional needs. There are, however, a few basic principles that every mesothelioma patient can follow.
- Eat foods dense in protein. After chemotherapy, radiation, or mesothelioma surgery, your tissues and organs need support to knit themselves back together. Protein provides dense nutrition that will help your body repair itself. Good sources of protein include fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, beans, and red meat (if it’s not too fatty).
- Choose healthy fats. Your body needs fat in order to absorb some vitamins and fats can give you extra energy. Not all fats are created alike, so choose vegetable oils such as olive, safflower, and flaxseed oil that contain healthy unsaturated fats. Dairy products (such as cheese and whole milk) and meats contain saturated fats. These can increase your chance of heart disease, so limit your intake of these fats to improve your cancer nutrition. Trans-fats are bad for your cholesterol levels. Avoid margarine foods that include partially hydrogenated oil to cut trans fats out of your diet.
- Unprocessed carbs are essential. Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for your body. Carbs include fruits and vegetables (which also contain a host of vitamins and minerals essential to cancer nutrition) and whole grains such as wheat, barley, and oats.
- Don’t forget liquids. The single best way you can support your body during cancer treatment is to stay hydrated. This is especially crucial if you experience vomiting or diarrhea, either of which can quickly dehydrate your body. If you aren’t able to eat as much as normal, try to drink more. Since we get about 20 percent of our liquids from the foods we eat (especially fruits and vegetables), eating less can deprive your body of liquid. Water is always a good idea, but nearly any liquid you can consume will aid your healing: broth or soup, tea, milk, or fruit juices can give your body the fluids it craves.
- Consider taking supplements. If you aren’t able to eat as much as before or if you have to eliminate certain foods, vitamins can supplement your cancer nutrition. Consider adding supplements, as recommended by your medical team.
Get help from your care providers to create a basic meal plan to provide your cancer nutrition. Ask your doctor or consult a dietitian or nutritionist. Ask your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet. Find out if there are any foods that you shouldn’t eat during your mesothelioma treatment.
Cancer Nutrition During Mesothelioma Treatment
Mesothelioma chemotherapy can change your sense of taste. Some patients become extremely sensitive to spicy or acidic foods. You might find that a food you have always enjoyed doesn’t taste good to you during cancer treatment. This might be the time to try out new flavors. If you didn’t like the taste of a particular food before mesothelioma treatment, you find that you like it now.
You may not feel up to eating as much as normal, so it’s more important than ever to eat foods that are packed with nutritional value. Cancer nutrition can help keep your weight up and your body strong.
Some tips from the American Cancer Society:
- Don’t eat a lot of smoked, pickled, or salt-cured foods.
- Don’t eat a lot of high fat foods, especially fatty meats.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. The recommended intake for good cancer nutrition is 2.5 cups per day. Eat a variety of different colors of fruits and vegetables to get a full array of vitamins and minerals. A colorful salad is a good food for cancer nutrition.
- Eat more plant-based foods. Trade a serving or two of meals for healthy plant proteins like legumes.
While you’re undergoing mesothelioma treatment, you may not be able to eat as much at mealtime as usual. Keep up your health by eating many small bites throughout the day. Snacking is good cancer nutrition.
Make sure the snacks you eat are packed with protein. Easy, high-protein snacks include yogurt, cheese, a hard-boiled egg, or trail mix. Add extra protein to the foods you love by mixing in cream or powdered milk. Put some meat in your miso soup. Add nuts to your bowl of ice cream. Best of all: you now have permission to put lots of butter on anything you eat, because it’s a great source of protein.
Eat the foods you want when you want them. Don’t be afraid to eat breakfast in the middle of the afternoon or have a steak first thing in the morning. Your body will tell you what it needs to eat and when. Listen to it.
To help save room for the cancer nutrition your body needs, don’t drink when you eat. Stay well-hydrated between meals or snacks, then put the glass down when you pick up the fork.
Cancer Nutrition and Your Immune System
During mesothelioma treatment, your immune system can take a hit. During this time, you need to take extra care to protect yourself from illness, including food-borne diseases.
Simple precautions are an important part of good cancer nutrition. Be sure and wash your hands very well before handling food (wash with soap for at least 20 seconds). This includes food preparation and eating. Ask your family to do the same. Store foods carefully, so no bacteria can grow on them. Only eat meat and eggs that are well-cooked. Avoid raw sprouts (these can sometimes carry illness) and wash all fruits and vegetables very well.
This is a good time to be a picky eater. If you think something might have gone bad, don’t be afraid to throw it away. It might feel like you’re wasting food but what you’re really doing is protecting your health.
Use Diet to Manage Mesothelioma Side Effects and Symptoms
The symptoms and side effects you experience will determine your cancer nutrition diet. If you’re dealing with diarrhea, which is a common side effect of chemotherapy, eat foods like Greek yogurt and bananas to slow down your digestion. Avoid raw vegetables and fruits, which can make this symptom worse.
Some mesothelioma treatments may make your throat sore. Warm broth, soup, or hot water with honey are nutritional and soothing. Avoid acidic foods such as tomato sauce and rough, dry snacks such as tortilla chips.
These simple steps can help you maintain good cancer nutrition during your mesothelioma treatment and beyond. Nutrition is the foundation of good health at any time in your life; it’s especially important during the stress of dealing with cancer