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Cancer Therapy Nutrition

By Angela Medieros, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

The effects of cancer therapy can be draining on the body and spirit. Side effects like diminished taste sensation and upset stomach affect one’s ability to enjoy food and stay nourished. Dietary changes throw off physical and emotional balance. With proper thought and safe experimentation, nutritional continuity can be enhanced.

Caregivers looking for additional help with nutrition can ask the primary care doctor or oncologist to refer them to a registered dietician. Cancer specialists have excellent resources and may be able to locate a dietician who specializes in nutrition for cancer patients.

Nutritional techniques that work for one individual experiencing a given type of cancer may be less effective for someone whose cancer is in the same location, but has spread to other areas. The reverse may be true also, as everyone has different food likes and dislikes. A willingness and tolerance to adapting diet changes over the course of therapy lies with both loved one and caregiver. Reducing the stress factor of meal preparation and selection is a primary goal, along with providing fulfilling options.

Head and neck surgeries, bowel resections and any removal of organs will affect the body’s ability to process foods. The stress the body undergoes during surgery (and before, when it is out of balance) requires healing time and nutritional support. In the case of part of the bowel being removed, there is less area and thus less time for the intestinal tract to process the food taken in. This is true for the stomach and any surgery involving the digestive tract. Proper chewing of food, slow and methodical, until the food has been “ground down” is a way of getting around the problem.

But chewing and swallowing can be affected by cancer therapy, too. Smoothies are often recommended to help load up on calories (keeping weight and energy stable). Minimal “work” is involved to consume a smoothie, and a variety of types can be created, with or without protein powders.

When snacking outside of the house, ask about smoothies (or their variations, in juice and coffee bars) that can have protein added to them. Sugar contents may be higher from one establishment to another, but adding protein will offset the high carbohydrates, as will choosing an appropriate size. Nutritional statements are usually available, and one need only ask for one or check online for each company’s “facts on snacks.”

Smoothies provide hydration, especially when mixed with ice (as they usually are). They also have the ingredients processed sufficiently that they may digest better.

Individuals with head and neck challenges can find chewing a difficult task. Digestion does start in the mouth, where enzymes are released to start absorbing nutrients. Reducing the workload reduces the potential to shy away from food, because it’s just too hard to deal with.

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