The Fine Line of Food
An etiquette every person is taught is to never ask a woman her weight. For a woman diagnosed with breast cancer, that is something she is asked often, and a fact she is expected to track religiously. It’s a fine line to walk—the need to maintain a healthy weight while combatting the lack of appetite many cancer patients experience.
For a women living with breast cancer, food typically becomes a necessary evil. Poor appetite, as well as side effects of treatment (nausea, vomiting or mouth sores), offer little incentive to eat healthy, filling meals. Food also tastes different, and it’s difficult to eat when a person is feeling worn out.
If a person is
currently in breast cancer treatment, or remission, what the person
eats greatly affects the efficiency of her immune system, mood and
Each day may be different than the previous or next. A person’s health and weight before diagnosis affects the nutritional approach during treatment; so does the type, amount and length of the cancer treatment. Professionals recommend a patient pay attention to their body’s needs and the cues it sends. Flexibility is key, as is planning ahead.
If side effects of treatment are becoming a problem, it’s important to talk to the primary physician or recommended dietician. Dehydration, bowel changes and a weakened immune system can all lead to serious consequences if not addressed appropriately.
A diet needs to be individualized to your loved one’s needs. Appetite may be better in the morning hours for someone, while another person finds small meals throughout the day easier.
Making every bite count is a tip you should take to heart. Calorie-rich foods are a much better use of a good appetite day than eating snack foods that aren’t filling. Protein is especially important, as it helps build immunity and strength for the challenge of cancer treatment. Small, healthy snacks are not bad, however, between meals. String cheese, raw veggies, and nuts are great options.
Dieticians do recommend avoiding certain foods during intense breast cancer treatment. These include: raw or undercooked food, raw eggs, raw milk, soft cheeses, raw honey, sun tea and unpasteurized beer.
These professionals also caution cancer patients to avoid salad bars, delis, buffets, sidewalk vendors and potluck gatherings. These public situations increase the risk of contact with improperly stored, refrigerated or handled food.
Water and liquids cannot be underestimated in their importance during breast cancer treatments. Sports drinks with extra electrolytes are recommended as well. For additional calories, liquid meal replacements are used to help keep the weight up and calorie intake at the recommended level. Multivitamins are important, too. Dieticians can suggest recommendations for both.
To make life easier, buy in bulk to save trips to the store. Keep a grocery list handy for those visitors anxious to lend a hand during treatment. Grocery delivery services are a popular option today for people unable to leave home or looking to simplify life, which a breast cancer patient surely should do while in active treatment.
If after two days, eating is still a challenge, it’s time to call the doctor. Otherwise, know that some days will be better than others. It’s the overall balance that matters the most.
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Jennifer Bradley is a Staff Writer for Today's Caregiver Magazine, caregiver.com and the Caregiver Newsletter. You can subscribe to the magazine or receive their free newsletter by going to caregiver.com and signing up.