Just as proper nutrition can help healthy individuals stay well, a vitamin-rich diet can also help people with cancer fight their way back to health.
Recovery from an aggressive cancer such as mesothelioma can be boosted by certain vitamins and minerals. Nutritional research shows that vitamins C and E boost the immune system, as does the mineral zinc. Foods rich in carotenoids also increase the number of natural killer cells within the body, which in turn increase the body’s ability to attack cancer cells.
Nutrition therapy can also be used to help patients maintain proper bodyweight and muscle mass. The stereotypical image of a frail cancer patient stems from the all-too-frequent atrophy of the body during treatment. Mesothelioma therapies do take a significant toll on the body, but proper nutrition (with a specific emphasis on macronutrients) can help patients stay strong enough to battle the cancer.
Nutritional Recommendations for Mesothelioma Patients
Asbestos Cancer patients need to focus on two aspects of nutrition:
- Taking in (and keeping down) adequate calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fats
- Choosing foods with a high vitamin and mineral content
Although patients can take in large quantities of calories through fast food or “empty” snacks, they must also focus on choosing foods that offer beneficial nutrients to their bodies. Patients should enjoy frequent servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Alcohol, caffeine, greasy foods and sweets should be eliminated or heavily reduced in a mesothelioma patient’s diet.
Maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet can become tricky when patients enter treatment. Common mesothelioma therapies like radiation therapy or chemotherapy often cause side effects such as nausea, digestive issues and fatigue that complicate healthy eating. However, patients are encouraged to prepare meals when they have the energy and freeze them for future consumption.
Some of the side effects that ultimately complicate healthy eating can actually be managed through nutrition as well. In a recent review of medical literature, 24 out of 26 studies indicated that cancer patients with high nutritional status also enjoyed a better quality of life after diagnosis.
Radiation therapists often recommend that mesothelioma patients eat soft, bland foods if radiation therapy causes a dry mouth or mouth sores. Medical oncologists, who administer chemotherapy, suggest high-fiber diets to counteract chemotherapy-induced constipation (or low-fiber diets for diarrhea). Nausea stemming from either of these treatments can be reduced through soothing foods such as oatmeal or peppermint tea.
For additional personalized nutrition recommendations, consider asking your treatment center if they provide access to an on-site dietitian.
Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.