Nutrition during and after cancer treatment

27/02/2024

Nutrition before, during and after cancer treatment not only helps improve health status but also plays an important role in optimizing treatment results. Providing proper nutrition allows the patient’s body feel more comfortable and healthy.

The role of nutrition for cancer patients

Nutrition plays an important role in the treatment of cancer patients. A balanced and appropriate diet is able to improve the patient’s quality of life, support recovery after treatment, minimize side effects from therapy and strengthen the immune system. Below are some specific roles of nutrition for cancer patients:

The importance of nutrition for cancer patients  (Pic: Freepik)

Prevent cancer progression: Cancer is uncontrolled cell proliferation due to genetic mutations. Improving nutrition, such as consuming more fruits and vegetables containing strong antioxidant compounds, can inhibit the excessive proliferation of cancer cells and limit the metastasis of tumors to healthy organs and protect healthy cells.

Support the recovery process after treatment: Nutrition plays an important role in the recovery process after patients have undergone therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other therapies. Adequate nutrition increases strength and health, reduces the risk of complications, and enhances the body’s ability to recover.

Minimize side effects: Cancer treatment often causes side effects such as loss of smell, loss of taste, difficulty swallowing, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and vomiting, etc. A good diet could reduce side effects from therapy following chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy. At the same time, a healthy diet is able to improve the patient’s mind and mood, as well as provide the energy needed for daily activities.

Nutrition principles for cancer patients

For effective cancer treatment, these 4 nutritional principles should be kept in mind:

Diverse and balanced diet

 Cancer patients require a diverse and balanced diet (Pic: Freepik)

A diverse, balanced diet is essential for cancer patients as it provides a diverse amount of nutrients needed for the body, from protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber. These ingredients support immune function, improve the digestive system, support the recovery process and promote overall health. According to nutrition experts, cancer patients should increase essential food groups such as:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Protein from food sources such as skinless poultry, fish, beans, nuts, healthy fats such as olive oil, seeds, fats from food sources such as salmon.

Divide your diet into small meals

Patients undergoing cancer treatment often have symptoms such as pale mouth, loss of appetite, nausea, difficulty swallowing, etc. Besides, one of the most common secondary symptoms, affecting 94% of cancer patients, is a condition of “quick full feeling”. Therefore, patients should divide their meals into 5-6 or even 7 meals if necessary, with each meal 2-3 hours apart. Dividing the diet into smaller portions enables easier eating, digestion and nutrients absorption for patients.[2]

Avoid excessive abstention

Cancer patients should not diet excessively as their body needs more energy and nutrients to strengthen the immune system to fight the disease. Therefore, a patient’s excessive diet can lead to a deficiency in energy and important nutrients, causing physical weakness and reducing the patient’s ability to recover. In particular, it can also reduce the body’s immunity, thereby increasing the risk of complications and affecting cancer treatment.

Supplement nutrition in various forms

In case traditional diet of cancer patient is not sufficient, doctors may prescribe nutritional supplements for the patient in different ways, such as:

  • Nutritional infusion: A method of transmitting nutritional solutions directly into the body by intravenous injection or placing a feeding tube into the esophagus. This method is usually only applied to late-stage cancer patients, after chemotherapy, when the body is so weak that it is unable to carry out personal activities and eat.
  • Functional foods: Functional foods can be prescribed when cancer patients are deficient in certain micronutrients or when unable to eat certain foods due to allergies, preferences, genetics or chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, …

Nutritional pyramid for cancer patients

Below is the nutritional pyramid for cancer patients according to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research).

According to research from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, the daily nutritional pyramid for cancer patients includes 7 layers:

Layers Total consumption in 1 day   Number of servings evenly divided over 1 day
1. Water – 1.5 – 2 liters of water 1
2. Vegetable – 200g vegetables

– 80 assorted salad vegetables

– 150g fresh fruit

1
3. Cereals contain complex starches – 150g whole meal bread

– 240g brown rice or pasta

3
4. Fat – 20 – 30 ml of extra virgin olive oil 1
5. Vitamins & minerals – 30g nuts

– 125ml yogurt

1
6. Protein – 150g fish fillet

– 100g fresh beans or 30g dried beans

4
– 120g egg

– 200g fresh cheese

– 200g white meat

2
7. Food should be limited – 100g red meat

– 50g of processed meat

Only eat once a week
– 100g sweet candies and biscuits Only eat every 2-3 weeks

Nutrition for cancer patients before, during and after treatment

Nutrition for cancer patients is subject to change depending on the stage of treatment: before, during and after treatment. Below is a general outline of nutrition for each stage:

A A healthy, balanced diet is essential for the overall health of cancer patients during treatment

Before treatment

Nutrition before cancer treatment is important to prepare the body and improve recovery after treatment. Below are some remarks on nutrition before cancer treatment:

  • Enhance nutrition: Prioritize a diverse diet, containing enough protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals to strengthen resistance and improve overall health. At the same time, patients should continue to maintain a diet rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients to support the immune system. The body needs a strong immune system to cope with therapy and deal with the effects of cancer cells.
  •  Maintain weight: Maintain or gain weight as needed to prepare for treatment and aid recovery afterward.
  •  Drink sufficient water: Drink enough 1.5 – 2 liters of water daily to keep metabolism stable.
  •  Reduce consumption of harmful substances: Avoid or minimize consumption of foods that may harm the body or cause side effects such as foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and processed foods.

During treatment

  • Supplement with energy and nutrients: Prioritize the use of easily digestible and light foods such as soup, porridge, fruits and foods rich in easily digestible protein. To ensure nutrition, patients should get enough food containing following groups of substances: protein – carbohydrates – fat – vitamins and minerals. In particular, it’s recommended for patients to eat more fish, vegetables, less meat, add vegetable oil, and drink lots of water to improve health and fight cancer cells. At the same time, patients can supplement nutritional products for cancer patients to increase treatment effectiveness. Nutricare’s Leanmax Hope nutritional product for cancer patients is the optimal choice trusted by many experts and patients. Leanmax Hope nutritional solution has been clinically proven to help increase weight and muscle mass after 8 weeks. Leanmax Hope supplements high energy, BCAA, Whey protein, easily absorbed MCT fats, supporting weight and muscle mass recovery, along with Nano Curcumin, Arginine, Vitamin C to help reduce inflammation and quickly heal surgical wounds. The product also helps cancer patients increase resistance, reduce fatigue with Omega 3, 6 and the Antioxidant system (Vitamins A, C, E and Selenium), support improved digestion and appetite thanks to the presence of soluble fiber FOS/Insulin and B vitamins.
  • Limit irritating foods: Avoid foods that irritate digestion or increase discomfort such as spicy foods, alcohol, and foods high in stimulants such as caffeine.
  • Maintain weight: Try to maintain your weight during treatment to avoid falling into malnutrition, which can weaken your body and slow recovery.

After treatment

  • Recover after treatment: After treatment, the top goal is allowing body quick recovery and improve overall health. Therefore, patients should continue to eat a balanced, varied diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, plant-based proteins, and low-fat meats. At the same time, listen to your doctor and adjust your diet appropriately to ensure you provide enough nutrients for your body’s recovery.
  • Supports health and enhances immunity: Continue to maintain a diet rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients to support health and strengthen the immune system.
  • Monitor weight: Monitor and maintain a stable weight to support health and recovery after treatment

Dietary notes for cancer patients

The diet for cancer patients is required to be carefully created to provide enough nutrients for the body and supports the treatment process. Below are some important dietary considerations for people with cancer.

Notes on nutrition for cancer patients

Consider while choosing foods:

  • Prioritize the use of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein-rich foods from chicken, fish, beans and dairy products.
  • Avoid foods high in saturated fat and sugar as well as foods containing preservatives and artificial flavorings.

Divide meals into small portions: Divide meals into small portions throughout the day to reduce the feeling of excessive fullness and allow the patient’s body to absorb nutrients better.

Drink enough water: Stay hydrated by drinking enough water, unsweetened fruit juices, and other fluids to help reduce the risk of constipation and support other functions after surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Pay attention to digestive system:

  • Choose easily-digested foods such as soup, porridge, steamed vegetables, skinless chicken, and seedless fruits.
  • Avoid foods that irritate digestion such as foods that are spicy, contain caffeine, or contain chemical additives.
  • Adjust your diet according to your health condition 

Limit alcohol and tobacco consumption:

Avoid alcohol consumption and limit tobacco use as they can increase the risk of cancer recurrence or development.

Monitor weight

Discuss with your doctor or nutritionist to tailor your diet to each patient’s specific needs, monitor your weight and adjust your diet accordingly to maintain a stable weight and improve overall health.

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2770876/

2.https://www.cancer.net/survivorship/healthy-living/nutrition-recommendations-during-and-after-treatment

3.https://tamanhhospital.vn/dinh-duong-cho-benh-nhan-ung-thu/

4.https://suckhoedoisong.vn/hieu-dung-ve-che-do-dinh-duong-cho-nguoi-ung-thu-16922120909380505.https://tytphuong13q10.medinet.gov.vn/quan-ly-benh-man-tinh-khong-lay/nguyen-tac-dinh-duong-cho-benh-nhan-ung-thu-c11493-89417.aspx

6.https://www.vinmec.com/vi/tin-tuc/thong-tin-suc-khoe/dinh-duong/thap-che-do-dinh-duong-cho-benh-nhan-ung-thu/

7. https://www.ncis.com.sg/Cancer-Information/Pages/Nutrition-for-Cancer-Patients.aspx

8.https://suckhoedoisong.vn/vai-tro-quan-trong-cua-dinh-duong-voi-benh-nhan-ung-thu

Maybe you are interested

ESPEN practical guideline: Home parenteral nutrition

This guideline will inform physicians, nurses, dieticians, pharmacists, caregivers and other home parenteral nutrition (HPN) providers, as well as healthcare...
See more

Improving America’s Diet and Health: From Recommendations to Action

Written and organized to be accessible to a wide range of readers, Improving America's Diet and Health explores how Americans...
See more