Nutrition Information Just For You
Do you have Crohn's-Colitis, Short-bowel syndrome, or IBS/IBD? Learn how changes in food preparation and avoiding trigger foods can help you.
Nutrition in Cancer Care
While some doctors offer nutrition advice during the cancer journey, registered dietitians are the go-to experts for thorough providers who typically provide more thorough nutritional guidance specific to individual needs. Implementing a safe and healthy dietary plan can improve overall health and quality of life.
There are many things to consider around how to optimally eat and hydrate during cancer treatment. Some cancer treatments can lead to malnutrition or cause side effects that affect nutrition, such as anorexia and cachexia.
Good nutrition is especially important
Good nutrition is especially important for cancer patients and survivors.
Nutrition is a process in which food is taken in and used by the body for growth, to keep the body healthy, and replace tissue. Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help a patient feel better, respond better to treatment, and stay stronger. A healthy diet includes eating and drinking enough of the foods and liquids that have important nutrients (vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and water) the body needs.
The healthy eating plate shows the balance of food groups that promote health. A dietitian with knowledge of cancer care can assess individual needs and provide more specific guidance. For example, if a person is weak and an assessment shows low protein stores, the dietitian can lay out a plan for increasing dietary protein intake. If a person is on immunotherapy, a dietician might draw upon new research suggesting that a plant-based diet will enhance treatment response and develop a plan accordingly.
Image Credit: Courtesy of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School
Learn About Essential Nutrients
It is important to learn about essential nutrients and managing a healthy weight.
Nutrition counseling with a registered dietician can improve patient balance of essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. It can also help maintain a healthy body weight. Some patients struggle with cancer-related malnutrition concerns as they begin treatment, others find themselves gaining weight despite efforts to stay healthy. At either end of the weight spectrum, poor nutrition could impact quality of life and even prognosis.
Image Credit: World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Seek Nutrition Counseling
A qualified professional can offer nutrition counseling.
Ask your medical team to help you find a registered dietitian (RD) or a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), and specifically one who has experience in cancer care. You can also find a dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Dietitians and other nutrition experts can help you create a diet that meets your specific nutritional needs. If you have trouble finding a dietitian right away, talk to your medical team for more information.
Content has been developed in partnership with MSAC member Dr. Cynthia Thomson, Ph.D., RD