Mesothelioma and Food
Like many illnesses, and specifically types of cancer, mesothelioma is affected by a person’s dietary choices. Nutrition is something that can be used in conjunction with other treatment to reduce the progression of a cancer diagnosis. Nutrition is vital in helping a person’s overall well-being. This is especially true after a mesothelioma diagnosis. Regardless whether the cancer is being treated aggressively or if the patients opts for only symptom control, diet plays an important role. Though diet alone is unlikely to cure cancer, it helps in several ways:
- Improves overall health so the body is better able to battle cancer
- Improves overall health so the body is better able to withstand harsh treatments
- Improves energy levels
- Affect cancer cell growth positively or negatively
- Provides pleasure and an opportunity to share time with loved ones
One of the most important things you can do after you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis is to schedule an appointment with a nutritionist familiar with mesothelioma and its treatments. You can also conduct research of your own and discuss your findings with your doctor to help you determine how dietary improvements will benefit your situation.
Assessing Nutritional Needs
Eating well can be a challenge when undergoing cancer treatment. Consuming the proper amount of nutrients helps you feel stronger, but can also trigger adverse reactions during certain courses of treatment. It might also be difficult for the body to properly metabolize nutrients, which means it is very important for cancer patients to monitor their overall health. A nutrition evaluation helps you assess where you are and what changes might help. It includes charting of weight changes and amount of food consumed over time, recording of symptoms related to the illness and treatment, and how a person feels from day to day. It can be tough to keep track of issues related to nutrition and health when you have so much else going on with the treatment of your disease, but doing so can make a huge impact on the management of your disease over time.
Your meeting with a nutritionist will likely result in a plan to improve your overall health with dietary changes. The goal of nutrition therapy is to prevent or correct any malnutrition, prevent wasting of bone, muscle, and lean body mass, prevent or fight infection, maintain quality of life, and maintain strength and energy. Proper nutrition also helps you tolerate and recover from aggressive cancer treatments, such as radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. It is important to realize that nutrition for cancer patients is not one-size-fits-all. Each patient has different needs and what might be right for one could actually harm another. For instance, high fiber foods are typically considered healthy, but aren’t always the best choice for those undergoing radiation treatment that affects their digestive system. Ask your nutritionist for tips on achieving your nutrient goals without putting yourself at risk for side effects.
Loss of Appetite
Often during cancer treatment and/or progression, patients tend to lose their appetite or find it difficult to chew, swallow, or digest food. Food might also not taste the same because of the illness or because of changes in the body during and after treatment. It is important for mesothelioma patients to maintain a healthy body weight, so if you notice your appetite waning, find ways to ensure you are getting enough calories and enough nutrients in your diet. When you feel able to eat, choose foods with higher calories and protein contents. If you are only able to tolerant a few foods, it is alright to focus on those as your body adjusts. Sometimes liquid meals are easier to tolerate than solid foods, and they can be just as nutritious as other options. Your diet and nutrition is an important part of treating mesothelioma. Your choices can make treatment more effective, and can improve quality of life and extend the time you have to battle the disease. Even during the later stages of the disease food can be a source of pleasure for patients, as they focus less on keeping their illness under control and more on enjoying the tastes of their favorite foods. For information about the specific food choices you should make following your mesothelioma diagnosis, speak with your doctor and/or nutritionist.