Many, many cancer patients struggle with gastrointestinal symptoms during
their treatment. Chemotherapy can be exceedingly hard on the body, and
often the associated gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, loss of
appetite, constipation, and vomiting, can cause significant harm to patients.
These symptoms can lead to malnutrition, at a time when it is incredibly
critical for their healing to remain well-nourished.
What Is Nutritional Therapy
Nutritional therapy is one way that many healthcare providers are trying
to combat the effects of chemotherapy and to help patients feel stronger
and healthier throughout their recovery. According to the
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, many chemotherapy patients benefit from nutritional therapy as a part
of their treatment plan. There are a few different forms of nutritional
therapy in use to support chemotherapy patients.
One form of nutritional therapy is by approaching the nutritional needs
of a patient through their diet. Dieticians can work with oncologists
to make the necessary modifications to your dietary plans and ensure that
your nutrition needs are fully met, and that your treatment won’t
be interrupted by gastrointestinal problems or malnutrition. Your dietician
will identify your nutrient goals and work with you and our doctors to
develop a unique dietary plan that is personalized to your needs.
Another way that your treatment team may support your nutritional needs
is with supplements or
IV nutritional therapy. For patients who struggle with gastrointestinal symptoms caused by life-saving
chemotherapy treatments, IV nutritional therapy can provide important
micronutrients that may not be properly absorbed through the patient’s
diet. Nutritional therapy infusions often include Vitamin B, Magnesium,
Vitamin C, and Phospholipids, which support immune functioning and promote
The Benefits of Nutritional Therapy
Considerable research supports nutritional therapy and its role in encouraging
healing. According to the
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, some of the benefits of nutritional therapy for chemotherapy patients include:
- Maintaining strength and energy during recovery by addressing the body’s
caloric and nutrient needs
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Preventing treatment-related side-effects
- Lowering the risk of infection
- Encouraging a faster, more complete recovery
What Nutritional Challenges Do Chemotherapy Patients Face?
Chemotherapy can be a challenging course of treatment for many patients. The
American Cancer Society notes that chemotherapy treatment is often accompanied by serious side
effects that can make it a challenge for patients to eat, including:
- Mouth sores and sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Dental and gum sensitivity
- Changes in sense of taste or smell
- Nausea and vomiting
It can be difficult for patients to find foods that are palatable and meet
their full nutritional needs. This is why oncologists may recommend IV
nutritional therapy to supplement the patient’s diet.
What Nutrients Are Needed for Recovery?
Your body is a complex system, and you require many different nutrients
to function optimally. A well-rounded nutritional plan will evaluate your
unique needs and make sure that your needs are met completely every day.
American Cancer Society explains how different types of nutrients affect your recovery. These
Protein: Used in building tissues, protein is used in maintaining your immune system,
growth, and rebuilding muscles. When you don’t get enough protein,
your body will begin to break down muscles to get it. After chemotherapy,
radiation therapy, or surgery, protein is necessary to heal damaged tissues.
Poultry, lean red meat, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products, and nuts are
excellent sources of protein.
Fats: Fats make a rich energy source for your body. Fats also insulate the body,
store energy, and transport fat-soluble vitamins throughout the body.
Vegetable oils such as sunflower and olive oil are good sources of unsaturated
fats, while meat and dairy products can provide saturated fats. The majority
of your fat intake should be in the form of unsaturated fats.
Carbohydrates: These nutrients are the main form of your body’s energy. Carbohydrates
are fast energy for the body and often are found in fruits, vegetables,
and whole grains. These sources of carbohydrates also are excellent sources
of vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
Water: All cells in your body require water to function, but many cancer patients
struggle with dehydration. Vomiting and diarrhea can make it challenging
to drink enough water. It is important to try and drink eight 8-ounce
glasses of water, but every liquid you consume, including broth, soup,
and gelatin, count towards your liquid goals. Electrolytes also can become
necessary if you lose significant amounts of fluid.
Vitamins and minerals: Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, serve countless functions
in the body. There are micronutrients responsible for nerve signaling,
digestion, bone growth, immune functioning, muscle contraction, and much
more. Much of your mineral and vitamin needs should be met with whole-food
sources, but your dietitian may recommend supplements or a multivitamin
if you are suffering from deficiencies.
Antioxidants: Some vitamins, such as vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals like selenium
and zinc are considered antioxidants. This means they attach to cancer-causing
free radicals and prevent these cells from attacking healthy cells. Fruits
and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants.
If you’re currently being treated for cancer, you may wish to discuss
your nutritional needs with our doctors. Self-treating your nutritional
needs with supplements can be dangerous, but our experienced
alternative cancer treatment team can help you safely use nutrition as a part of your healing process. Our
team is here to provide you with accurate, reliable information and help
you make the best possible choices for your own health.
Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with our team at Arizona Center
for Advanced Medicine to learn more! Our team is dedicated to your health
and wellbeing, which is why we blend the best of traditional and alternative
medicine for a holistic approach that treats the entire patient—not
just the symptoms. Discover our Scottsdale integrative medicine center
Contact our team
now by calling (480) 240-2600.