Patients who are battling the deadly asbestos cancer known as mesothelioma face a dilemma when it comes to their nutrition and eating habits: at the very time when they need to ensure their strength and optimum physical health through eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, they may be losing their appetite or even experiencing nausea. It is critical, therefore, that both patients and caregivers fully understand the role that nutrition can play in their cancer regimen, and make every effort to maintain a healthy diet. Proper nutrition can help a patient better tolerate treatment for their cancer, as well as simply helping them to feel better on a day-to-day basis throughout the treatment.
There are many nutrients that are important for cancer patients, including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fats, water and antioxidants. Unfortunately, simply having cancer may change how your body metabolizes carbohydrates, fat and protein. Combined with nausea or loss of appetite, this can severely – and negatively – impact a patient’s weight. Another problem that some patients may experience is difficulty swallowing, which is one of the particular symptoms associated with mesothelioma and which can, for obvious reasons, contribute to weight loss.
If you have been diagnosed with malignant pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, there are several approaches to your nutrition that you may want to experiment with. First, try to eat when you’re feeling well, in order to “stockpile” nutrients and calories against the times when you don’t have an appetite. You may also want to eat many small meals or snacks throughout the day – don’t feel as though you must stick to a strict schedule of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Similarly, if you are not interested in eating traditional breakfast foods in the morning, there’s no need to do so. Remember that in many cultures, noodle or rice dishes, beans, meats and other foods that we think of as dinner foods are traditionally eaten for breakfast. Eat what appeals to you, when it appeals to you.
That said, it’s also important to get the most nutritional bang for your buck. Try to steer clear of the empty calories provided by things like soda, white bread or white noodles, processed foods, and most fast food items. Instead, concentrate on the foods that will offer you the most nutrients in the smallest package. Whole grains; lean proteins like turkey, chicken and beans; leafy green vegetables; orange vegetables such as squash or sweet potatoes; fruit, especially antioxidant-rich berries; sea vegetables; and whole-milk dairy products all have high nutritional profiles and can help you gain strength and endure taxing cancer treatments.
Calories are also important. Opt for whole-milk cheeses, yogurts, butter and sour cream instead of their low-fat counterparts. Choose healthy fats such as olive oil, grapeseed oil and coconut oil for cooking or dressing salads. Avocados and nuts are nutritional powerhouses that provide vitamins, minerals and calories. It’s very easy for cancer patients to lose weight, so now is not the time to be eating a restricted-calorie diet. Try to find a balance between calorie-rich and wholesome foods. Additionally, if you feel nauseated during or after chemotherapy, try eating a small meal before the treatment.