Altered nutritional needs
When you have cancer, your nutritional needs change. Since every type of cancer affects your body in different ways, there is no universal solution for how to adjust your diet. There are, however, some guidelines you can follow. Sometimes, the best combination for your condition seems a little strange when it comes to what is commonly understood to be a healthy diet.
Please, do not hesitate to consult your doctor and dietician if you have questions about your daily nutritional needs – they can help you understand your diet.
It's important THAT you eat
Studies show that about every other person diagnosed with cancer reports eating less over the course of their treatment. As you already know, a balanced diet requires balanced nutritional intake – and if you’re eating less, your diet needs to be adjusted accordingly.
It's important WHAT you eat
Your tumor can cause changes in your metabolism. The result is that you may suffer from inflammation, which impacts the way nutrients like carbohydrates, fat, and protein are processed and needed; additionally, you may experience side effects from your anti-cancer treatment like fatigue, reduced stamina, weight loss and even eating disorders.
You should rely on fat
For many people with cancer, fat is a particularly recommended nutrient. Because of the changes in your metabolism, it is a better energy provider than carbohydrates. Additionally, fats provide essential fatty acids and transport fat-soluble vitamins. Though the exact amount of fat you need every day is different, people with cancer should modify the quality and quantity of fat in their diet. If you suffer pancreatic insufficiency, don’t forget to take pancreatic lipase enzyme capsules correctly. In this case, ask your doctor or dietician about nutrition counseling and advice.
Not all fats are the same
Different fats have different properties that determine their nutritional value. Certain omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in a healthy diet: They help positively modulate the inflammatory response, lower blood pressure, stabilize cardiac function and may even prevent depression. Furthermore, they can stimulate the appetite and may help increase body weight. Their various actions on the metabolism may improve cancer treatment tolerance, thus possibly leading to better treatment outcomes and better treatment tolerance.
Your need in protein increases
Protein forms enzymes, protects our cells, is responsible for immune defence, builds up our muscles and transports vital substances within the body. When you have cancer, your need for this important nutrient increases: While 0.8 – 1 g of protein per kg of body weight per day is sufficient for a healthy person, in cancer patients, this requirement is increased to 1.2 – 1.5 g per kg per day. This is due to increased inflammatory and immune reactions in the body. Moreover, your muscle mass must be constantly protected from loss. This means your diet must be particularly rich in high quality protein to meet the increased demand.
What are your benefits?
A diet based on the guidelines above and adjusted by your healthcare team may help you avoid the negative effects of malnutrition on tissues, body structures and organ functions. Studies show that the overall outcome of the various steps in cancer treatment (from surgery to chemotherapy) may be better if the patient’s nutritional status is consistently maintained.
- Side effects of cancer treatment may be reduced.
- Energy intake (and, with it, body weight) could be improved.
- Treatment outcome may improve.
- Overall quality of life may improve.
- Long-term prognosis may be better.