Guest Post: Nutrition and the Fight Against Cancer

About a week and a half ago, I received a request from Jillian McKee, a Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, about sharing some information about how beneficial eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle is for someone going through the battle of cancer. Thrilled with the prospect of sharing such helpful information, I quickly agreed. Before I jump into my very first guest post, I’d like to share some information about the author.

Bringing a wealth of personal and professional experience to the organization, Jillian McKee has worked as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June of 2009. Jillian spends most her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine when used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment.

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So without further ado…

The Effects of Nutrition When Battling Cancer

Good nutrition is essential for all cancer patients, including those with mesothelioma and breast cancer. Cancer and its treatments can adversely affect the way one eats and the way the body uses nutrients. The nutrient needs of cancer patients vary from person to person, and nutritionists, doctors and nurses can help identify the best nutritional plan. Getting the proper nutrition for cancer management includes eating a variety of foods with proteins, carbohydrates, fats, water, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Whether newly diagnosed, undergoing therapies, in remission, eating well can help patients:

-Heal and recover faster
-Maintain weight and body’s storage of nutrients
-Keep up with energy and strength
-Lower risk of infection
-Feel better
-Better tolerate treatment-related side effects

Proteins are the amino acids responsible for repairing cells, cell growth and a healthy immune system. Without the proper proteins, muscle is lost for energy the body needs. A diet without protein can cause further illnesses or a longer recovery. People with cancer require more protein. After therapies, extra protein will help tissues heal quicker and resist infection. Excellent sources of protein include fish, eggs, nuts, dried beans, soy foods and lentils.

Fats play an important role in nutrition and are a rich source of fuel for the body. The body breaks down fats and uses them to transport vitamins through the blood, insulate body tissues and store energy. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthier than trans-fats and saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can be found in peanut, corn, sunflower, safflower and flaxseed oils. Trans-fats and saturated fats can increase cholesterol and should be avoided.

Carbohydrates are a main source of energy and give needed fuel for proper organ function and physical activity. Carbs supply fiber, phytonutrients, minerals and vitamins for the body’s cells. The best food sources for carbs are whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Good whole grains are found in barley, brown rice and quinoa. Whole grains contain fiber and help keep stools soft to eliminate waste quickly.

Water is vital; all body cells need water to function properly. Many times, cancer therapies cause vomiting or diarrhea, then leading to dehydration. When this occurs, the body’s normal function become out of balance. Typically, it is recommended to have eight glasses of water a day; however, cancer patients may require more to maintain homeostasis. Keep in mind that soups and milk count toward fluid goals.

Vitamins and minerals help the body function properly and most are found in natural foods. Vitamins and minerals can be purchased in liquid or pill form. People who eat balanced diets typically get the needed vitamins and minerals. However, it can be difficult for cancer patients undergoing treatment to eat a balanced diet due to side effects of treatment. Many doctors recommend mineral supplements or daily multivitamins in these cases.

When considering supplements, discuss your options with a doctor. Some patients take large amounts of dietary supplements to try to destroy cancer cells or boost their immune systems. These substances can be harmful in large dosages. In fact, large dosages of these substances can cause radiation treatment and chemotherapy to be less effective. If the oncologist says it is okay to take vitamins or minerals during therapy, choosing a supplement with no more than 100 percent of the daily-recommended allowance is best.

Antioxidants include vitamins E, C, A, selenium and zinc. These agents attack free radicals and prevent the free radicals from attaching to healthy cells. Good sources of antioxidants include vegetables and fruits. Cancer patients seeking to take vitamins with antioxidants are recommended to speak with their doctors because large dosages can interfere with treatment.

To stay connected to Jillian McKee:

Thank you Jillian for contacting me and for all of the hard work you do. You are an absolute inspiration.