Food is part of the fabric of everyday life. Nourishing, sustaining, comforting, it is also something we tend to take for granted. Yet food can also be a powerful part of good health.
Eating well is especially important for people with cancer. Regardless of cancer type, eating a diet rich in good foods can boost your immunity, strength and health.
More people are living well after cancer treatment than ever before – either being disease-free or living with cancer. Eating well plays a vital role in good health beyond diagnosis. In Nutrition and Cancer we will explore some of the ways that food is known to have an impact on cancer and well-being.
Why is a good food important to me now?
There are very specific reasons why a healthy diet is good for you during treatment and beyond.
* Helps you feel better – physically, emotionally and mentally
* Supplies the body with the vital nutrients you need
* Provides energy, strength and stamina
* Helps you to heal and recover more quickly
* Keeps the immune system and body functioning as best it can
* Provides nutrients that may slow cancer growth and help prevent recurrence
* Helps the body cope with treatments and the side-effects of treatments
* Enables you to keep up a healthy weight
* Can help with low mood and depression
What difference might cancer make to the way I eat?
When someone has cancer, there are often changes in the way their body uses food for energy. Many of these changes are to do with cancer itself. For some people with certain types of cancer, or at latter stages of cancer, there is a much greater need for calories and foods that build up your body and give you energy. Almost everyone with a diagnosis of cancer will need to maintain or even increase their daily calorie intake. It is important to try and keep at your same weight while you undergo active treatment, even if you are overweight. Your treatment team is best placed to advise you on your needs.
It can take a bit of effort and planning to eat well. If you are having treatment-related eating problems such as fatigue, poor appetite or nausea, the best thing is to eat and drink whatever you feel able to, when you are able to. Don’t worry if you can’t go for your ‘five-a-day’ fruits and vegetables right now.
A diagnosis of cancer often motivates people to look at the way they live their lives. Even if lifestyle is not a direct factor in their cancer, some people decide to make changes that may help the way they recover from or live with cancer. Quite often people change what, and how much, they eat.
Making decisions about what to eat can be difficult. A lot is written about how certain foods may cause, or prevent, cancer. Because we eat such a variety of foods it is very difficult to separate out the effect of any individual food on cancer risk. However, research strongly suggests that eating a healthy diet, being the right weight and committing to regular exercise may help in preventing cancer recurrence. These strategies may also help your quality of life if you are living with advanced cancer or other chronic illnesses.
Recommended Reading: American Institute for Cancer Research “Living with Cancer” online resource – for during treatment and post-treatment guidance. And this post from Cancer Research UK, titled “Don’t Believe The Hype: 10 persistent cancer myths debunked,” can put your mind at ease about all of the misinformation on the Internet and through ill-researched books –
This section is a work in progress. I will gradually add tips, documents and opinion(ated) articles that relate to cancer prevention, treatment, recovery and living with cancer. Stay tuned!