Nutritional Support Services

Eating Strong:  Getting the Most Fight From What You're Eating

If you are reading this, chances are someone close to you or maybe yourself has been diagnosed with cancer.  You want to help your body be the best you can.  What you eat is key to how your body will fight, survive and heal from the cancer treatment.

Whether the treatment includes radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery or a combination, your body is going to need a well-trained defense system to hold strong, replenish, and heal.

Everything you eat and drink changes the chemistry of your body.  If you are not putting into your body nourishment there will not be the nutrients needed to fight and heal.  You may feel more tired, eat less, your muscles may start to disappear, and even new sensations you have never felt before will trickle throughout your body.

If you eat only healthy food, it will not stop the side effects of cancer treatment, but it can definitely lessen them and keep your body stronger to fight where needed.

Also, you may be shuddering thinking the dietitian will be putting you on a diet with foods that taste like cardboard or look like brown mystery blobs.  Not true.  Dietitians are able to put together custom options for you to eat that include your favorite foods, foods specific to help with side effects, and food specific to your cancer diagnosis.  Most likely, the dietitian will find things you need to eat less of that will decrease the side effects and foods to eat more of that will boost how well your treatment works.

Improving Your Food Intake

One of the hardest battles on the eating front during treatment is the alterations in taste that occur.  Your taste buds basically go bonkers during treatment.  They may develop a metallic taste, be extra sensitive to hot and cold, or go dull altogether.  This means food tastes different and even may turn you off when you loved them before.  On top of that, many patients do not even feel like eating due to lack of appetite settling in stronger than most have ever experienced before.

There are steps that can be taken to revitalize your tastebuds.  What is happening is your tastebuds' sensory output is damaged so the brain picks up only a tiny signal and this is worsened by the fact that the brain was expecting a certain flavor sensation and was tricked.  It is like taking a drink of orange juie to find out it was really just water colored orange.

Think about when you are mixing the paint colors blue and yellow (in equal parts) and instead of getting a strong green color this time, you get a super light green; the green is barely detectable.  So foods that used to be on your favorite foods list may now even taste horrible to you or very weak in flavor.

Here are a few things you can do to help:

Metallic Taste:  Add a sweetener like maple syrup, agave nectar, honey glaze, or some sweet maranade; even a squeeze of lemon helps.

Too Sweet:  Add in a few drops of lemon or lime juice.  It amazingly mutes the sweetness.

Too Bitter:  Add a sweetener like maple syrup, agave nectar, honey glaze, or some sweet maranade.

Everything is Cardboard:  Use sea salt and a spritz of fresh lemon juice to bring the flavor of the dish discernible for your tastebuds.

Other considerations are the power of herbs and spices.  They are super powerhouses because they can bring out the flavor of foods, add new flavor to bland foods, and release cancer-fighting compounds called phytochemicals into your foods giving you a strong defense in your body.

Why Visit the Cancer Center Dietitian?

First, it is estimated that 80% of cancer patients develop some degree of malnutrition during their illness.  Malnutrition can lead to weight loss, increased complications during treatment, and delayed healing.  A dietitian can help you maintain your weight and more importantly your muscle mass which is truly the important weight you want to keep to fight the cancer with.

Secondly, there are many side effects your body will experience during treatment.  They often include fatigue, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, mouth sores, no appetite, and changes in taste.  No two patients are the same.  The Cancer Center Dietitian will meet you where you are in your treatment, in the side effects you are experiencing, and very importantly, find out your culinary preferences to include foods you like both the flavor and texture to create a custom plan for you.

She/he will not force you to eat foods you don't like.  And even better, you will get the opportunity to eat foods you may never have tried before that become your new favorites.

The best time to visit the Cancer Center Dietitian is early on in treatment and then regularly during treatment.  Contact the Genesis Cancer Care Dietitian 563-421-1900 or 563-421-1923 to get started on a plan customized for you to eat strong.


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