Role of diet before, during, and after cancer treatment

Diet plays a crucial role in preventing, and even curing cancer to a considerable extent

Eating a healthy diet is extremely important before, during, and after cancer treatment. Cancer treatment, which typically involves surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and/or biological immunotherapy, can adversely affect a patient's appetite

Research shows that 40-80% of cancer patients suffer from malnutrition depending upon the type of cancer, the location and stage of the disease, and the nature of the treatment.

Furthermore, malnutrition can impact the effectiveness of treatment, quality of life, and in worst cases, even adversely affect the survival rate of a patient. Therefore, the doctors and caretakers must ensure that appropriate changes are made in cancer patients’ diet so that they get sufficient nutrition.

Although diet plays an important role during and after cancer treatment, research also suggests that dietary changes can reduce the chances of developing cancer.

When taken in moderate quantities, most food items are fine for the body; however, excessive intake of certain kinds of food can take a toll on your health. For example, excess consumption of sugar over a long period of time can cause obesity and, in some cases, even cancer.

Although sugar is necessary for a body's normal functioning, we'd always recommend you to have healthy forms of sugar, which includes fruits, certain vegetables, whole-grain bread, and also low-fat dairy products.

Similarly, even processed foods, including chips, biscuits, tinned vegetables/meats, soft drinks, and packaged breakfast cereals, contain little or no good nutrition. However, they may cause obesity or inflammation, which, in turn, can result in cancer.

That said, it's not necessary to avoid all kinds of processed food. It depends upon what ingredients have been added in what quantities to a certain food item while processing it. Before buying a packaged food item, do go through the information about its ingredients in detail.

Researchers have also concluded that consumption of processed meat on a regular basis increases the risk of colorectal cancer. A team of medical experts from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found a link between processed meat consumption and colorectal cancer sometime back.

In order to process meat, manufacturers use chemicals and other ingredients to enhance its taste and texture. Such products may be tastier to eat, but their consumption comes with an increased risk of developing various kinds of cancer.

Therefore, they fall in the category of cancer-causing foods, which is advisable to avoid because it can cause inflammation or obesity, which can lead to cancer.

Research also shows that consumption of certain food items may prevent cancer; therefore, these are called cancer-preventing foods. For example, broccoli protects against cancers of prostate, colon, lung, breast, and bladder. Similarly, tomatoes protect against prostate cancer.


Best dietary practices during and after cancer treatment

When a person goes through cancer treatment, it's very important to maintain a healthy weight, a good immune system, and an overall balanced lifestyle. In order to do that, it is essential to follow the basics.

For example, eat a balanced diet, which mostly comprises vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. During cancer treatment, it's really important to eat high-protein food because they are essential for the repair of cells and muscle building.

You can have plant-based proteins from cereals and legumes or you can even have animal-based proteins. You can include chicken and fish in your diet when it comes to meat, but avoid having red meat, like beef, pork, and lamb.

It's better to eat at frequent intervals but eat small portions. So, rather than having three big meals a day, have six small meals. Also, remember that each person is unique in terms of what he/she can eat.

Therefore, it's always better to maintain a food diary to record what you ate, how much you ate, frequency of eating, certain food allergies you may have, etc. Such a detailed record may come in handy for a nutritionist to understand your diet and suggest changes, if necessary.

If someone is taking cancer treatment, we'd always recommend having fresh food. Having refrigerated food is a big NO. It's better to buy fresh vegetables and fruits daily to consume.

During cancer treatment, it's necessary to avoid constipation by keeping bowel movements healthy. Food items, which are difficult to digest, should be avoided. For example, high-fat dairy items and pickles are avoidable.

High-fat dairy food is difficult for most people to digest. But if you still want to have it, go for low-fat dairy. Select skim milk, low-fat yoghurt, and reduced-fat cheeses. These varieties are much easier to digest than their high-fat variants. Pickles with a lot of preservatives, salt, spices, and oil are hard to digest for most people. Therefore, they are foods, which cancer patients should avoid during the treatment. After the treatment, it depends upon multiple factors, like the speed and progress of recovery. If you want to have pickles after the cancer treatment, do consult your doctor or dietician.

Like we already mentioned, no two people are alike. Therefore, it's best to consult a doctor or a dietician to get a diet chart based on your preferences, instead of following a generalised approach.


Other steps for better nutrition during and after cancer treatment

Depending upon the kind of cancer and the after-effects of treatment, it may become difficult for a patient to swallow food. In such a case, it's best to soften the food by boiling it or pureeing it. The objective is to provide sufficient nutrition to a person; it's not important whether nutrition comes from solid food or pureed food.

It's best to avoid highly oily, acidic, and food with a strong smell, which is difficult to consume and digest. Remember, it's really vital to maintain good gut health during cancer treatment. Therefore, avoid any food that can give you constipation.

Also, stay hydrated by having lots of liquid. It's best to keep a separate water bottle to know exactly how much water you're consuming. In winters, people often cut down their water intake without even realising it. That's why it's important to keep a check on your water consumption because it can affect your digestion.

At times, cancer treatment can have an impact on your taste buds. As a result, you may end up liking foods you didn't like earlier and vice versa. Be open to changing your diet based on new tastes. You can always add mild spices and herbs, like mint, coriander, rosemary, turmeric, to enhance the taste of food. But do avoid spicy chillies and condiments, which may be difficult to digest.

Like we already said, the objective is to get adequate nutrition. It's better to be flexible and tweak recipes based on your taste buds. But, don't neglect diet or nutrition during cancer treatment.

A good diet and a balanced lifestyle, along with treatment, will help your healthy cells beat the cancerous cells, resulting in full recovery from the disease.


Contact Denvax for immunotherapy-based cancer treatment

Denvax has earned a reputation for providing personalised cancer treatment to patients. Its team of expert doctors uses a patient's own immune cells (dendritic cells) to provide immunotherapy to reduce the progression of cancer and also to cure it permanently.

Dendritic cells are a patient's own immune cells that help trigger an immune response to fight cancer. Denvax uses a targeted therapy, which doesn't affect healthy cells. As a result, it helps in providing an improved quality of life to patients.

Denvax offers immunotherapy-based treatment to a number of patients in India through its cancer care centres at Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, and Lucknow.