5 Reasons Why Nutrition Matters (A Lot) During Cancer Treatment

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March is National Nutrition Month, a perfect time to focus on important health reminders as well as new technologies that are available to help people remove barriers to good nutrition. For cancer patients, nutrition is especially important in building strength throughout recovery, yet many treatments change the way food tastes and how foods are digested. LUNGevity Foundation, the nation’s leading non-profit lung cancer organization, is partnering with Savor Health, the digital health company behind Ina®, an AI-driven personal nutritional guidance app that is being offered free during the COVID-19 crisis.

Registered Dietitian Marissa Buchan (MS, RD, CSO, CCRP and Chief Operating Officer at Savor Health) offers 5 reasons why EVERYONE should work towards good nutrition—especially if they have had a cancer diagnosis or have a chronic health condition. 

1.       To Help Keep Symptoms at Bay  

Symptom management is one of the most important concerns of cancer patients and their caregivers. During treatment, cancer patients can experience fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, taste changes, and more, which all worsen quality of life.  Research has shown that cancer patients receiving nutritional support have a significant reduction in the occurrence and severity of these symptoms and use fewer over the counter medications. Along with the treatments recommended by a medical team, nutrition is one of the best tools to fight the symptoms of cancer treatment. 

2.       To Reduce Inflammation in the Body  

Inflammation is the body’s way of fighting off things that can harm it.  If the body is constantly under siege, it will weaken over time.  When going through cancer treatment, our bodies to be strong.  One of the main causes of inflammation in our bodies is our diet, particularly a diet that can lead to overweight and obesity. A balanced diet can help us maintain a healthy body weight, steady our blood sugar levels, keep our immune systems strong, and lower inflammation in the body. Anti-inflammatory foods include colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like those found in nuts, olive oil, and salmon.  Try to limit pro-inflammatory foods like processed meats, refined sugars, white flour, fried foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages.  And don’t worry, occasional treats won’t derail your diet—it’s what we do most of the time that matters most. 

3.       To Aid in Recovery after Surgery or Treatment  

Surgery and treatment are never a walk in the park.  We need to rest while our body repairs.  Most people know how to rest, but how can we nutritionally help our body repair and rebuild healthy tissues? The best thing we can do is eat healthy sources of protein. Studies have shown that proper protein intake can shorten your length of stay in the hospital.  Healthy sources of proteins include beans, legumes, tofu, nuts, quinoa, Greek yogurt, eggs, fish, and poultry.  Not so motivated to eat? Try a homemade protein smoothie by blending plain Greek yogurt and a spoonful of nut butter with your favorite fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. 

4.       To Keep Your Weight in a Healthy Range 

When it comes to your weight, think of “The Three Little Bears” –we want it just right.  Many lung cancer patients tend to lose weight during treatment.  Unfortunately, studies have shown even a 2% amount of weight loss can have a negative outcome and the more weight loss, the worse the outcome. But the good news is, keeping your weight in a healthy range can lead to better outcomes. If you’re struggling to maintain or gain weight, try eating frequently and adding avocados, nut butters, and olive oil to your diet.  

5.       To Help You Live a Longer, Healthier Life! 

Along with the right treatment regimen, a healthy diet can actually help you live a longer and better life. Several studies have shown that patients who received nutrition support had significant improvements in survival and quality of life. So, what can you do?  Work with your medical team and dietitian to find a healthy diet and safe exercise plan that works for you!

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