What we eat determines how much energy our bodies have, and what resources they have available for rebuilding cells, fighting infections, and maintaining normal function. Because the process works fairly well even when we eat poorly, it is easy to underestimate the importance of good nutrition. When the body is fighting something, whether it be the effects of cancer treatment or the cancer itself, the effects of either good or bad nutrition are magnified.
More doctors are recognizing the importance of a good nutritional status in the fight against cancer. Some even suggest that taking a short period of time to improve the nutritional status of a malnourished patient before starting treatment may improve the success rate sufficiently to make up for the time lost. At the very least, most patients are now assessed for nutritional status before treatment begins.
People dealing with cancer treatments often suffer from a lack of appetite. For this reason, caloric consumption may be the focus of cancer nutrition, which is very different from traditional nutritional wisdom. Protein deficiencies are also common, and can be especially important because protein is one of the building blocks used in cell growth and repair. Other concerns relating specifically to cancer nutrition may involve food interactions with medications, or to the effects of a specific type of cancer on the body. Nutrition for mesothelioma patients may be different than for breast cancer patients.
Nutrition therapy is considered a supportive treatment for cancer. This means that it does not directly affect the cancer itself, but it can influence the success of other treatments. People who have nutritional support from their doctor and know the importance of eating well during this critical time can help their treatment be as successful as possible. Eating well is also positively correlated with feeling better, both mentally and emotionally.
The usefulness of nutrition therapy doesn't end at remission. Although nutritional needs may change with the end of treatment and the remission of the cancer, it is still important to eat well. Patients can feel the effects of treatment both physically and psychologically for a long time after it is over, and good nutrition provides support for both the body and mind to heal.
Jillian McKee has worked as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June of 2009. Jillian spends most her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine when used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment. Read more and connect with Jillian here: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/jillian/bio.htm