As researchers study the relationship between what we eat and our ability to fight diseases like cancer, the importance of good nutrition has become ever clearer. That’s why Mesothelioma Circle has recently highlighted nutrition tips for mesothelioma patients. Since March is National Nutrition Month, it seems like a good time to look at even more ways that mesothelioma patients can use good nutrition to help them in their fight against this deadly cancer.
The History of National Nutrition Month
Humans haven’t always understood the link between the food we eat and our health. Sailors often got scurvy, a disease that lowers immunity and can lead to death, because they didn’t eat foods containing vitamin C during long ocean voyages. Gout, which causes joints to become inflamed and sore, can be caused or made worse by a diet with mostly meat and few vegetables.
Although some humans recognized the connections between diet and health thousands of years ago, a concern with nutrition among the general public has become much more widespread in the past several decades.
In 1973, the president proclaimed National Nutrition Week. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (called the American Dietetic Association at that time), embraced the idea of a time in the year to give special recognition to the important role of nutrition in our lives. In 1980, the Academy enlarged this opportunity to spread educational messages about healthy eating by creating National Nutrition Month in the month of March.
National Nutrition Month 2018
The theme for the 2018 National Nutrition Month is “Go Further with Food.” The theme refers to avoiding food waste as well as the boost you get from eating nutrient-rich foods.
In the US, about one third of the food that consumers buy ends up getting tossed out, uneaten. A study in 2012 estimated the cost of this at $40 per person per month and about 33 pounds of wasted food. Fruits and vegetables, which are some of the most nutritious foods, are the most likely to go bad before they make it onto the dinner plate.
Being more thoughtful about what you buy and taking stock of what’s in your refrigerator can save you money while it helps reduce food waste. This is a big plus when your budget is already strained by the cost of mesothelioma treatment and missed work.
The other half of the message from this year’s National Nutrition Month is even more important for mesothelioma patients. It can be a challenge to eat well when you’re undergoing mesothelioma chemotherapy or other treatments that affect your digestion. It’s understandable that you might want to skip meals when you aren’t feeling well. But nutritious food is vitally important for mesothelioma patients. It supports you and keeps your system strong enough to withstand sometimes harsh cancer treatments. Eating nutritious food helps prevent muscle loss. The nutrients in healthy food give your immune system a fighting chance to keep cancer cells in check.
Although there has been a great deal of research on the nutrients in food, there is still much more we don’t know. Eating whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables ensures that you get all the nutrition these natural foods have to offer, including the nutrients that science hasn’t discovered yet.
Nutrition Tips for Mesothelioma Patients
Many traditional chemotherapy drugs attack fast-growing cells in your body because cancer cells grow particularly quickly. This can also disrupt healthy cells that tend to reproduce quickly, such as those in the lining of your stomach. This is what causes the nausea and diarrhea that some mesothelioma patients experience during treatment.
Mesothelioma treatments may change the way foods taste and make it hard for you to eat certain foods. While you may have been a hearty eater before mesothelioma, the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of chemotherapy or immunotherapy can kill your appetite. Some cancer patients suffer from malnutrition because of this difficulty in eating and digesting food. Poor nutrition is the last thing you need at a time when your body is gathering all its resources to fight mesothelioma.
You may want to supplement your diet with vitamin pills, particularly if you aren’t able to eat as much as you need to meet your body’s nutritional requirements. Before you add a supplement to your diet, especially during mesothelioma treatment, check with your doctor to make sure it doesn’t conflict with or counteract your prescribed medications.
Here are some commonsense tips to keep you well-nourished during mesothelioma treatment:
- If you don’t have as much appetite, make sure that you don’t waste your precious stomach space on empty calories. Choose foods that are rich in nutrients such as cheeses, nuts, lean meats, whole grains, and fresh vegetables.
- Some fruits and vegetables have more nutrition than others. Kale is particularly packed with vitamins and minerals. The blueberry is a nutrient-rich fruit that is also packed with cancer-fighting anti-oxidants. Consider adding some kale to your favorite soup or salad and throwing a few blueberries in your cereal in the morning.
- Pick a potato over pasta. Although potatoes are white and satisfyingly starchy, they are also stuffed with a wide variety of essential nutrients. A baked or boiled potato can be a satisfying and nutritious alternative to processed carbohydrates such as bread and pasta.
- Try something new. Seaweed, which is an important part of Japanese cuisine, is a nutritional powerhouse. Try adding seaweed strips or flakes to a soup. Sushi wrapped in seaweed is a nutritious meal and dried seaweed can provide a light snack packed with minerals and phytonutrients.
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Freshly made foods have more nutrients per bite.
Nutrition Can Be Sweet: Healthy Treats for Mesothelioma Patients
Refined sugars, like other processed foods, aren’t the best dietary choice for mesothelioma patients.
That doesn’t mean you need to give up sweet treats, however. Honey supports your health in a variety of ways. Research has shown that honey, particularly Manuka honey, may help your body defend itself against certain cancer types. A slice of apple with a bit of honey can make a delightful treat.
Dark chocolate is another nutritious treat. If you like your chocolate sweeter, try adding some Manuka honey to a square of dark chocolate for a healthful and yummy indulgence.
National Nutrition Month will end on March 31, but your attention to nutrition during mesothelioma treatment doesn’t have to. Eating a healthy diet every day is a great way to improve your capacity to fight back mesothelioma.