“The following is a blog guest that wanted to get her message on healthy eating and cancer recovery. Having had cancer myself, I understand how important good nutrition is for recovery and maintenance. Thank you Jillian for wanting to add to my health posts. “
It has long been known that a poor diet is positively correlated with cancer risk. However, medical experts have been slow to prescribe a proper diet as part of a cancer treatment. Research over the last decade has attempted to quantify exactly how diet impacts cancer diagnosis and recurrence rates as well as how some treatments can contribute to malnourishment.
Micronutrient Deficiencies Common in Cancer Patients
The first evidence came in the form of epidemiological studies that showed newly diagnosed cancer patients who had poor diets (defined by the USDA Food Pyramid). Specifically, most were eating 1-2 servings, versus the 5 recommended, of fruits and vegetables each day. Studies suggest poor diet contributes to about one-third of preventable cancer diagnoses. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are increasingly believed to be at the heart of this. The hypothesis has an experimental basis in that micronutrient deficiencies can cause damage to the DNA.
What Does This Mean for Patients?
Optimally everyone should learn the role of diet for cancer prevention and begin eating healthy right away. This is highly unlikely given the widespread availability and marketing of heavily processed foods, red meat, and foods rich in simple carbohydrates. The next best thing is for diagnosed cancer patients to embark on a healthy diet. Doctors should perform tests for common deficiencies and prescribe the foods, supplements, or multivitamins to correct them before beginning treatment.
Once underlying deficiencies are corrected, patients must realize certain treatments will result in certain deficiencies. Chemotherapy, for instance, promotes stomatitis, alimentary tract disturbances, and anorexia. Nausea and loss of appetite are also common symptoms reported by patients. Theoretically, chemotherapy can result in deficiency of vitamin K and several B vitamins. Treatment staff and patients must become aware of the symptoms of deficiency and how these symptoms differ from those caused by cancer and treatment. This way they can correct and reverse further damage.
Ensuring Nutrition in High-Risk Cases
As mentioned, some types of treatment can damage the digestive tract and lead to deficiencies. Those patients require a higher degree of monitoring during the treatment phase. They should follow steps towards managing digestive symptoms. Besides the often-debilitating effects of cancer, palliative care often uses chemotherapy and radiation to manage symptoms and prolong life. Nutrition for mesothelioma patients and others in palliative care will likewise reduce the severity of symptoms and increase one’s quality of life.
Blood cannot be used to test for many vitamin deficiencies, but it is useful for some. A nutritional profile combined with observation can uncover other missing micronutrients. With proper nutrition, patients can expect a reduction in the severity of symptoms and reduced rate of recurrence, both great reasons to start eating right.