Balancing Nutrition and Hydration in Cancer Treatment

Being diagnosed with cancer is often a very traumatizing experience, and especially when it’s a type of cancer with a poor prognosis. The diagnosis itself can take a severe mental toll, but once treatment starts, the heavy physical toll becomes more apparent. Fortunately, there are some steps patients can take to improve their condition during treatment and recovery.

Common Cancer Diagnosis

The most common cancers in America include skin cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer. Less common cancers that are still in the top ten include kidney cancer, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, thyroid cancer, endometrial cancer and pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is a particularly dangerous cancer that rarely has early symptoms and is often not diagnosed until it’s in the late stages. Another cancer like this is pleural mesothelioma. This is the most common type of mesothelioma, but it’s still considered a fairly rare cancer. The biggest risk factor is asbestos exposure. It’s an aggressive cancer that does not show many early symptoms. Many patients are not diagnosed until they are in the last stages. Although pleural mesothelioma affects the lungs, it should not be confused with regular lung cancer. The biggest single risk for lung cancer is cigarette smoking. It accounts for nearly 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. Survival rates for lung cancer are over 50 percent when it’s caught in the earliest stages. No matter what type of cancer a person is diagnosed with, it’s often a devastating thing to hear.

Staying Hydrated

As previously mentioned, cancer treatment and recovery can be a very difficult time physically. Patients often lose their appetite and have difficulty staying hydrated. Chemotherapy has the side effect of dehydration, and it can also cause vomiting and diarrhea, which also cause dehydration by themselves. Some common symptoms of dehydration include:

– Dry mouth
– Feeling thirsty
– Drowsiness
– Headache
– Dizziness
– Dry eyes
– Decreased urine

Doctors almost universally recommend at least eight glasses of water per day. It’s also possible to stay hydrated by consuming certain foods and not consuming others. For example, milk, low-sodium broth and 100 percent pasteurized fruit juice can add significant water to the diet. However, it’s important to realize that fruit juice often contains a lot of sugar and calories. It might be more beneficial for some patients to consume zero-calorie sparkling water instead. It’s also a good idea to cut back on caffeine and alcohol, which both exacerbate dehydration. Another option is to eat food with higher water content. Some of these foods include celery, watermelon, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce and radishes. Many fruits and vegetables are made up of nearly 90 percent water, which is one reason why plant-based diets are strongly recommended for cancer patients.

Improving Appetite

One significant problem during cancer treatment and recovery is a loss of appetite. Patients consistently deal with feeling nauseous and food tasting bad, which makes them less likely to eat. Unfortunately, this weakens the body even further and causes mental confusion and muscle loss. The following are some basic tips to improve appetite:

– Get plenty of rest
– Do light exercise before eating such as a short walk
– Choose foods with a tantalizing aroma
– Drink plenty of water throughout the day
– Try to eat several small meals during the day instead of three larger ones
– Drink a nutritional supplement instead of a meal
– Take a multivitamin
– Arrange plates and food to look pleasant and inviting
– Use a large plate and put small food portions on it
– Avoid eating red meat and heavy foods
– Avoid sugar and salt by using flavorful herbs

One of the biggest problems with reduced appetite is nausea. Patients can combat this by taking anti-nausea medication at the first sign of it. They can also avoid eating favorite foods when feeling nauseous. It’s important to not associate favorite foods with feeling sick. Medical marijuana is another possibility as it reduces pain and stimulates the appetite.

Even though a cancer diagnosis is a terrifying thing, there are positive steps that patients can take to help them through treatment and recovery.

  • Article written by Evan Bennet