What and how cancer patients should eat, according to specialists

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Loss of appetite, nausea, metallic taste, little sense of taste ... The side effects of some cancer treatments often affect the diet of patients. It is an important problem since being well nourished and fed is very important to fight against the disease.

That is why the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) and the Alicia Foundation have developed a series of guides to give basic advice to patients. We reviewed some guidelines with Lorena Arribas, nutritionist-dietician of the Functional Unit of Clinical Nutrition of the ICO.

One of the basic pillars to fight the disease is food.

False myths about negative foods for cancer patients

The ICO team of nutritionists comes across patients with deeply ingrained false beliefs about the negative effects of some foods, legends that must be fought against. A good example is the dairy myth, with horrible press among patients.

To counteract this, cancer patients are recommended to take up to two servings a day. “Dairy products have a contribution of vitamins and nutrients that other foods do not have. The diet must be varied. There is no scientific evidence that in case of cancer, they should be eliminated ”, Lorena Arribas tells Comer.

There are more examples. "Many patients do not take sugar because they believe that it increases the size of the tumor, and this is totally false." Besides, this nutritionist points out to Comer, "there are some functions of the body, such as those of the brain, that need sugar to function."

Another false myth is that of tap water, according to which it would not be recommended in case of cancer due to its fluorine or chlorine content. Instead, according to the ICO, “it can be used for human consumption without fear. If tap water is consumed regularly, it can continue to be done safely during cancer treatment ”.

Not being able to drink sugar or tap water are also false myths

According to Arribas, it is imperative to differentiate between nutritional recommendations for disease prevention and advice during the treatment when cancer is already suffered. “For example, in prevention, you have to minimize the consumption of some types of red meat . On the other hand, in the case of head and neck cancer, nutrition is prioritized ”.

Eat-in company

One of the guides prepared by these specialists gives some general recommendations for all cancer patients. In addition to hydrating well, eating five times a day, using virgin olive oil, and other guidelines useful for the general population, they highlight the importance of eating in the company at least once a day.

Eating with family and friends and the same dishes as the rest of the guests "helps to normalize and relax mealtime, reducing stress and the feeling of feeling sick," they explain.

Not gaining weight, important in breast cancer.

Each type of cancer has some peculiarities. “Contrary to other patients with this disease, breast cancer patients tend to gain weight. In them, it is necessary to put a lot of emphasis on not gaining weight, following a Mediterranean diet, and exercising ”. This is a very repeated recommendation to the entire population, but this case is more important than it seems.

Gaining weight during breast cancer increases the chance that it will come back after being treated

"There are some studies that show that when you gain weight, there is an increase in relapses (reoccurrence) of breast cancer; there is a greater chance that cancer will reappear," explains Arribas. Breast cancer patients are recommended to eliminate soy and its derivatives (soy drink, tofu, soy sauce ...).

“It has been seen that it can compete with some types of chemotherapy. In other words, some portions of the soy could reduce the effectiveness of the treatments, ”says this ICO nutritionist.

Avoid malnutrition, key in cases of head and neck cancer.

Head and neck cancer patients, on the other hand, lose a lot of weight and get naked. “That's why we emphasize that they eat, even if it seems very basic. The location of the tumor in many cases plays against ”.

These patients "are urged to increase their protein consumption and eat five meals a day, to take advantage of the time when they have an appetite and are particularly craving something." In these cases, it is necessary to “prioritize fighting against malnutrition, rather than prioritizing influencing the type of diet. That's why I don't care if they eat a cocoa-filled bun, ”Arribas told La Vanguardia Digital.