Cancer treatment can be a tumultuous experience, and good nutrition during chemotherapy can make a difference. A balanced diet can help you keep up your strength and support your recovery. But getting that nutrition can be tricky since the side effects of chemotherapy can make it difficult and unappealing to eat, so you might not be getting all the nutrients that your body needs.
With the right knowledge in hand and proper planning in place, you can fuel your body with a diet that helps you feel the best you can.
How Chemotherapy Affects the Body
Chemotherapy is a treatment used to target and destroy fast-growing cancer cells, but it also harms normal healthy cells in the process, which can take a toll on your overall health.
"Chemotherapy affects areas like the gastrointestinal tract, including the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach and intestines, and can cause unwanted side effects like dry mouth, sores in the mouth, trouble swallowing, issues with digestion, diarrhea, constipation and weight loss," said Abby Sauer, MPH, RD, an Abbott dietitian.
Nausea and vomiting are also known side effects of chemotherapy, which can make it difficult to take in the nutrition you need during treatment. But according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), those who go through chemotherapy may not experience all of these side effects, and some may not experience any at all. Additionally, your doctor may be able to help you manage some of these side effects with certain medications.
But to stay healthy and energized through this process you need to keep up with a nutritious diet — one that begins before any treatment is administered.
Good Nutrition During Cancer Treatment
"Nutrition is not just important during cancer treatment — it's vital before treatment, once someone is diagnosed, during treatment and throughout recovery," Sauer said.
According to Sauer, your diet during chemotherapy should provide all the right nutrients for a balanced diet while focusing on four key elements:
During treatment, you may need to consume more calories than normal to keep up your energy, so it’s crucial to maintain intake, as much as possible. Also, during chemotherapy, you'll need more protein in your diet in order to maintain or rebuild muscle that can be compromised during treatment. Fiber helps support good digestion all of the time, but it's especially important during chemotherapy because it helps keep you regular. Additionally, getting sufficient intake of fluid and electrolytes is crucial to staying hydrated.
"Keeping up with good nutrition is important for nourishing the body, providing you with energy to get through the day, and replenishing the nutrients you lose through the treatment," Sauer added.
How to Get the Nutrients You Need
Even with a solid support system, chemotherapy is draining. And good nutrition can be hard to achieve for people who aren't feeling their best. So in addition to the four key elements of a balanced diet, Sauer also suggested a few best practices to stay nourished while going through treatment:
"It's important to work with a healthcare team, especially a registered dietitian nutritionist, to determine your individual nutrition needs," advised Sauer.
Sauer also emphasized that part of eating enough during chemotherapy treatment is understanding your personal needs. "Figure out the right foods that work at the right time. If you feel good in the morning, maybe that's the time to get as much nutrition in as you can. It's about getting your meal intake to fit around your symptoms," she explained.
And remember, you're not in this alone. "Ask family, friends, loved ones and coworkers for help," Sauer said. "If you don't have the energy to eat or prepare a meal, let people help you."
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Half of Americans Living with Diabetes May Not Get Enough Protein
Like everyone else, people living with diabetes should strive to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. You don't need to cook one meal for yourself and another for the rest of your family. Well-balanced meals, which include lean protein, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains, are healthy for everyone and help manage blood sugar.
Small Dietary Changes Can Help Lower Your Blood Sugar and Manage Diabetes
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes and another 1 in 5 people don’t know they have the chronic condition. As the rate of diabetes continues to rise, it’s more important than ever to adopt healthy habits and strategies to manage diabetes. Keeping your glucose in check is of the utmost importance when you're managing type 2 diabetes. Often, ensuring your glucose levels stay within a healthy range requires a multifaced approach of a healthy eating plan and exercise along with potential medication. Managing diabetes doesn't have to feel like work, though. In fact, even slight behavior and eating plan changes may have a significant impact on your glucose management. And according to a new pilot study, diabetes specific nutrition as part of a balanced diet shows promise to help improve glucose management. How Diabetes-Specific Nutrition Shakes May Help Pilot data from Abbott and published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care illustrates the important role diabetes-specific nutrition and continuous glucose monitoring can play on glycemic response management of people with type 2 diabetes. The study found that when participants with type 2 diabetes replaced their typical breakfast and an afternoon or evening snack with a diabetes-specific meal replacement, they experienced a lower glucose level after breakfast. The real-world study also demonstrates how continuous glucose monitoring with Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre® Pro can help physicians conveniently monitor glucose trends and patterns to make more informed treatment decisions for people with diabetes. The small randomized controlled trial looked at the impact of two daily servings of Glucerna Hunger Smart® shake, a diabetes-specific nutritional formula, on participants' glucose levels. Eighty-one adults with type 2 diabetes were enrolled in the study and followed a two-week intervention. In the baseline phase (days one through six), participants continued to follow their regular eating pattern. During the intervention phase (days seven through 14), participants were randomly divided into one of three groups: Group A: Control group with no dietary intervention. Group B: Participants drank one Glucerna Hunger Smart shake as a breakfast meal replacement and a second shake as a mid-afternoon snack. Group C: Participants drank one Glucerna Hunger Smart shake as a breakfast meal replacement and a second shake as a snack before bedtime. In assessing the glucose levels of participants throughout the study, researchers found that drinking a Glucerna Hunger Smart shake twice daily was associated with a 47% reduction in post-meal peak glucose after breakfast, as compared without/before Glucerna Hunger Smart[TS1] . What Does This Mean for Those Managing Type 2 Diabetes? Abbott’s Glucerna brand is one of the most clinically studied diabetes specific formulas with more than 50 clinical studies spanning 30 years.* This research shows that although diabetes is a complex disease, one tool that may make it easier to manage is with the help of a meal or snack replacement such as Glucerna Hunger Smart shakes. Scientifically formulated with CarbSteady®, a unique blend of slow-release carbohydrates to help minimize glucose spikes and 15 grams of protein to help satisfy hunger, Glucerna Hunger Smart shakes can serve as a meal or snack. It also packs zinc, vitamins A, C, D and E to support immune health, as well as 6 grams of fiber in 180 calories, and nutrients to help support immune health. While incorporating this nutrition shake to your everyday routine, as part of a balanced eating plan, may help you manage your blood sugar levels, there are a few other ways you can keep your health on the right track.