Supporting Your Cancer Journey

With Healthy Eating

30th May 2018, Jenni Allan, Freelance Author

Close to 100,000 Malaysian residents are living with cancer at any one time. With growing research and investment efforts into the area of cancer, a lot has been said about the awareness and proactive steps taken to help prevent cancer; these range from regular examinations to avoidance of risk factors such as smoking. However, for millions of cancer survivors, healthy living habits including a nutritious diet, are just as important is helping them overcome the medical condition and lead a high quality life. For cancer patients, treatments including chemotherapy and radiation can take a toll on the body. With this in mind, here is what a healthy diet looks like for cancer patients.

A Personalized Diet

Whether you are currently undergoing treatments or have done so in the past, cancer patients should aim for a balanced diet rich in vitamins, carbs and protein. Your diet plan and needs should be altered according to your treatment stages. Lean protein sources such as fish and dairy are great for their ability to promote cell growth and repair. Protein also helps with other side effects of treatment such as the loss of your hair and anemia. The Malaysians Dietitians Association recommends eating no more than 18 ounces of red meat per week, a guideline that is supported worldwide by organizations such as The American Institute of Cancer Research.

In addition, your diet should be rich in carbohydrates to replenish your energy. Radiation and chemotherapy is notorious for sapping your energy and these foods are great ways to feed your body the energy it craves.  However, keep in mind to choose good carbohydrate sources such as whole grains and brown pasta. In addition the fiber, whole grains energy source diminishes slower. If you find yourself struggling with loss of appetite, try eating small frequent meals to achieve your nutritional goals.

Support Your Immune System

Patients living with cancer can often have compromised immune systems or as mentioned before, struggle with loss of appetite. Therefore it is ideal to tailor your diet to fulfill those areas that are lacking. Fruits and vegetables such as oranges, carrots and kale are great, simple ways to incorporate a healthy serving of vitamins and minerals each day. If you find yourself still lacking, you can also add a nutritional supplement to your daily routine. However, keep in mind that cancer patients should avoid excessive doses of supplements if undergoing treatments.

Focus on Your Fluids

Finally, make your fluid intake a priority. Both the condition and its treatments places the patient at risk of dehydration. The importance of staying hydrated should not be underestimated. It helps your body regulate your temperature and get rid of toxins; particularly important during cancer treatment. Aim for at least 64 ounces of fluid each day. Your fluid intake is not limited to just water either. Teas and fruits such as watermelon are some great alternative ways of staying hydrated. The side effects caused by chemotherapy can increase your risk of dehydration. As a result, make it a priority to  increase your fluid intake, especially during treatment.

Don’t Forget Your Activity

As important as your diet may be in your fight against cancer, it is also equally important to maintain regular activity. The key lies in adjusting your workouts to your stage of treatment. Low intensity activity such as walks around your neighborhood can help you for those days where you struggle with your energy levels. According to The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, inactivity can lead to loss of muscle mass and range of motion. Regular exercise also aids in improving your balance. It is recommended that you speak with your physician before beginning exercise after any treatment regarding the possible side effects including joint soreness.

Taking steps to lead a healthy lifestyle before, during and after cancer treatment can have great effects on our quality of life and chances of surviving. By taking a good look and being proactive about our eating habits, we are essentially giving our bodies the right tools needed to function and fight cancer. Speak to your doctor or treatment center for referrals to a dietitian. With their help, you can tailor a personalized diet plan for your needs.

By Jenni Allan