As patients and their loved ones begin the mesothelioma treatment process, they want to do everything possible to give the patient the best fighting chance in the journey ahead. Families often change many aspects of their lives—including reorganizing their schedules, their finances, and even the physical layout of their homes—to ensure that their loved one has every resource and advantage available.
However, one lifestyle change that can give mesothelioma patients a leg-up is often overlooked: changes in diet. As is the case with many health conditions, the right diet and nutrition can significantly bolster mesothelioma patients’ ability to stay strong through treatment. Eating right can protect patients from infections, speed up surgery recovery, decrease the risk of negative treatment side effects, and increase reserves of physical and mental energy—all of which can support quality of life and positive patient outcomes.
- Protein, Protein, and More Protein: Getting as much healthy protein as possible from a variety of different sources is one of the most important parts of the mesothelioma diet. Cancer dieticians stress that a high-protein diet can help the body retain muscle mass despite the decreased appetite, increased metabolism, and tendency toward malnutrition common in mesothelioma patients. High-calorie, protein-rich foods can also support immune function, and Omega-3 fatty acids are especially recommended to fight mental fogginess, or “chemo brain.” Proteins like fish are also a good source of Vitamin D, which studies have suggested may decrease the aggressiveness of cancer cells.
In order to maintain weight during chemo and related cancer treatments, mesothelioma patients should try to eat 0.65 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day (so, for example, if you weigh 175 lbs., you should try to eat 114-131 grams of protein daily).
Foods to include:
- Lean beef and pork
- Cooked eggs (any style)
- Full-Fat Greek Yogurt
- Peanut butter
- Nuts, especially Almonds and Walnuts
- Beans, Lentils and Peas
- Nutrient Dense Fruits and Veggies: It’s also essential for mesothelioma patients to get as many vitamins and minerals as they can. Fruits and vegetables can provide unparalleled bang for your buck as far as nutrients go, so mesothelioma patients should incorporate as many fresh or frozen fruits and veggies into their diet as possible. Many fruits and veggies are powerhouses of antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, B Vitamins, Vitamin K, iron, potassium, fiber, manganese, thiamine, folate, and other nutrients that are essential for mesothelioma patients.
Foods to Include:
- Kale and Spinach
- Yams/Sweet Potatoes
- Balance Your Carbs and Sugars: It is a popular myth that cancer “feeds on sugar.” In fact, all cells feed on a basic type of sugar called glucose in order to survive—including healthy cells. However, there may be links between spiking insulin levels and the growth of cancer cells. Therefore, while mesothelioma patients should not try to cut out all sugar from their diets, they should:
- Moderate the consumption of processed foods that list corn syrup as one of the first ingredients
- Focus on complex carbs, like whole grains, rice, and oats, since release sugars slowly and prevent insulin surges
- Avoid eating carbs alone or on an empty stomach. Instead, combine with fiber, fat, and protein to cut down on sugar spikes (i.e., rice with roast chicken; apple slices or crackers with nuts or peanut butter).
- Keep Your Calories Up and Keep Eating Throughout the Day: Mesothelioma patients often have trouble eating, especially during treatment. Both cancer and chemotherapy can cause severe nausea and other unpleasant side effects, which can make people want to eat less or skip meals. However, it is absolutely essential for mesothelioma patients to maintain their body weight—or to come as close as possible—during their treatment. In order for the body to be able to withstand treatment and heal, it has to be healthy, with reserves of muscle and healthy nerves. Consuming a sufficient number of daily calories is essential to keep your body in fighting shape.
Try to eat and drink continually throughout the day, having five to seven small meals or snacks rather than three large meals. Keep a beverage on-hand and try to encourage as much hydration as possible. This will keep your body steadily supplied with calories and nutrients.
You should also be ready to combat the unique issues that mesothelioma and other cancer patients face when attempting to eat. Patients often experience side effects in addition to nausea that may make it difficult to eat. Each of these need a work-around. For example, taste often changes with chemotherapy, and foods may suddenly taste bitter or overly sweet. To combat this, add new spices or sauces, or combine foods into different textures until you find something new that tastes better. Add salt to food that tastes too sweet and sweeten suddenly bitter-tasting food with juices and nectars. You can also chew gum, suck on hard candy, and try sour or tart foods to kickstart your taste buds.
As always, it’s essential to consult your doctor about any changes you intend to make to your diet.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Mesothelioma, call 800-655-2117 today for a free case review.