Vegetarian Diet and Cancer PatientsNews — On August 29, 2011 at 5:59 am
In the year 2009, a press release published by American Dietetic Association suggested that vegetarian diet is not only effective in preventing cancer, but might also work as a cancer treatment. According to most dieticians and nutritionist, people following a vegetarian diet after being diagnosed to be suffering from cancer can have a wide variety of food to choose from. The only thing that the dietician will take care of is that the food you are taking is meeting your daily nutritional requirement. This is because preventing malnutrition is extremely important to fight cancer.
The energy needs of a cancer patient or a patient undergoing cancer treatment is more compared to a normal human being. The body of the cancer patients demands extra nutrients for maintaining healthy muscle mass, repairing the damaged tissues and fighting the secondary infections. Decrease in appetite in patients undergoing cancer treatments like cytotoxic medications, radiation or chemotherapy makes the act of meeting the nutritional requirement of the cancer patient’s body more difficult. With guidance from a dietician, the daily caloric intake of cancer patients can be maintained successfully. A vegetarian diet containing all the essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates and proteins taken from plant sources is ideal for cancer patients.
The two most serious concerns for a cancer patient is malnutrition and weight loss. Treatment procedures like radiation and chemotherapy might result in side effects like change or reduction in the patient’s sense of smell and taste, which makes some of the foods they used to like before receiving the treatment unpalatable. Other ill effects of cancer treatments like pain in the throat and mouth, diarrhea, nausea end up decreasing the patient’s appetite, which in turn results in severe weight loss.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians i.e. individuals who consume dairy products and eggs besides vegetables can obtain nutrients like vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and calcium from milk products and eggs. They can also prepare a number of tasty protein rich food items using these food products. One example such a food an item is smoothies prepared by blending fruits and soft tofu. For adding more interesting flavors to this item, one can use almond or peanut butter; they will act as the source of healthy fat and protein. Most cancer patients find the vegetarian foods to be more alluring due to their taste alterations.
The most integral part of a vegetarian diet consists of vegetables and fruits. The antioxidants present in vegetables and fruits make the immune system of the cancer patients stronger and thus they can fight the disease more effectively. A strong immune system also helps these patients to combat the ill effects of cancer treatment. Fibers present in the legumes, vegetables and fruits on the other hand work by preventing constipation, which is a common side effect of certain cancer medications. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli contain phytochemicals that might possess the ability of inhibiting the growth of tumors. Cancer patients suffering from pain in the throat can prepare smoothies using these vegetables for making the process of consumption simpler and painless. The lacto-ovo vegetarians can add yogurt, cottage cheese or milk to the smoothies.
Avoiding weight loss after cancer treatment becomes extremely difficult for the vegans; eliminating eggs and dairy products from the diet makes meeting the daily nutritional needs of these patients extremely difficult. Food types like trail mix, peanut butter, fortified soymilk or soy-yogurt and tahini are some of the common sources of fat and protein that can be added to the diet of vegan cancer patients. The dried beans act as source of iron and protein for these patients; they can have them in form of puree if they find it difficult to swallow solids. At times, doctors recommend them to consume vitamin B12 based nutritional supplements for preventing vitamin deficiency.
As cancer makes an individual more susceptible towards developing a secondary infection, cancer patients must consume vegetables and fruits only after washing them carefully. Citrus foods might aggravate the cancer signs like esophageal inflammation and mouth sores; thus often doctors ask cancer patients to consume all acidic fruits including the citrus fruits.