Going through cancer treatment is a harrowing experience, and many people worry that they will never feel the same again after undergoing chemotherapy. While there are no cure-all options for the side effects of cancer treatment, focusing on better personal health can have a positive effect on cancer patients. Nutrition is especially important for relief from the side effects of cancer treatment.
Loss of Cognitive Function
Cancer survivors like to keep the treatment process light by referring to a loss of cognitive function following chemotherapy as “chemo brain.” Making a joke out of the ill effects of cancer treatment is a great way to stay positive, but many people wish that they could find a way to regain the mental clarity that they enjoyed before undergoing treatment.
A foggy memory and reduced ability to concentrate can be remedied through the consumption of vegetables. Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance reports that studies have linked eating vegetables and maintaining brain function. Tasty foods that are high in antioxidants can also contribute to a sharper mind. Foods that boast a high level of antioxidants include dark chocolate, concord grape juice, blackberries, spinach and salmon. Coffee and curry can also help with brain function.
Hair Thinning and Loss
The most well known side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss. Struggling with hair loss while recovering from cancer can be difficult, but hair may grow back faster if certain foods are included in a cancer patient’s diet. Foods that have omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D promote hair growth. Many types of fish have these nutrients.
LIVESTRONG.com notes that hair is made up of protein, and eating healthy foods with high levels of protein can help hair grow back. Beans, lentils, eggs and lean meats are all excellent sources of protein. Avoiding certain foods may also help hair grow back. Excess amounts of sugar can hinder hair growth.
Some patients may need to talk to their doctor about a vitamin supplement that can help hair grow back. Fox News suggests that patients talk to their doctors about a supplement that includes vitamins A, B6, B12, C and E to help curb the effects of chemotherapy. Nutritional supplements containing folic acid and biotin can also help.
Increased Susceptibility To Infection
One unfortunate side effect of chemotherapy is an increased susceptibility to infection. Patients need to practice care to avoid becoming ill during the treatment process, and it is possible for patients to be more susceptible to infection after chemotherapy is done. Preparing foods carefully and including healthy foods in a daily diet can help patients avoid infection.
Macmillan Cancer Support recommends that patients read the label of every food that they eat before consuming anything. Freshness dates and preparation instructions should be followed carefully. Raw foods should always be separated from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination.
Fruits and vegetables need to be rinsed thoroughly before they are eaten. This is even true when produce has been washed before it was purchased. Eating a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day can also help a person boost their immune system to fight infection after chemotherapy. Fresh produce is full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
The side effects of cancer treatment can be a struggle, but good nutrition is one way that helps patients improve their overall health during the treatment and recovery process. A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and foods that are high in antioxidants can help patients handle decreased cognitive ability, hair loss and an increased risk of infection following chemotherapy.
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Bio: Joining the MCA in 2011, David Haas is the Director of Awareness Programs. In addition to researching much of the information available to our site’s visitors, David often blogs about programs available and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. David is a fitness enthusiast who frequently runs, climbs, and bikes for enjoyment. He is also very involved in outreach associated with awareness about the dangers of asbestos for many different organizations and groups of people.