Mesothelioma treatment can be challenging, but it’s a necessary step to prolong your life if you have this disease. Understanding the obstacles you’ll face during treatment is essential, because then you can adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
One way to manage the side effects of treatment is by altering your diet.
Whether undergoing surgery or chemotherapy, patients should focus on consuming specific types of foods before, during and after treatment.
For instance, surgery often reduces weight and can make patients feel weak. However, a healthy diet can help you remain healthy enough to undergo an operation and regain strength following it. Chemotherapy’s main symptoms are nausea and decreased appetite, but there are nutritional practices to offset these effects.
We at Mesothelioma Guide want to prepare patients for their upcoming treatment. Our list of five diet tips will help you combat the common side effects of mesothelioma treatment and could prolong your life.
Focus on High-Protein Foods
Your body needs time to heal after mesothelioma surgery, but you can speed up the process by eating protein-rich foods. Many websites, including LiveStrong, suggest eating as much turkey, eggs, chicken and fish as possible. Vegetarians should consume soy milk, tofu, almonds, walnuts and peanut butter.
Chemotherapy often makes patients fatigued or even too exhausted to prepare meals. Many experts suggest preparing high-protein snacks for these instances. Doing so will ensure you don’t skip a meal, which is essential to keeping your body healthy enough to endure treatment.
There are simple ways to add protein to your diet, such as:
- Eating bread with hummus
- Combining cheese with apple slices or crackers
- Adding high-protein meats or vegetarian substitutes to salads and soups
- Using seeds and nuts as a supplement to yogurts, cereals and other meals
Plants and Potassium-Rich Foods
Growing muscles and regaining strength is a cornerstone of recovery from mesothelioma treatment. For this reason, plants and potassium-rich foods are essential. In addition to high-protein meats and vegetarian substitutes, patients should revolve their diet around:
- Sweet potatoes
- Mangos and oranges
Eat Smaller Meals More Frequently
Dr. Julie Lanford is a cancer expert with Cancer Services, Inc., which is based in North Carolina. She wrote an article for Conquer Magazine that suggests how patients should plan their meals.
While most people eat three large meals a day, Dr. Lanford says this is often a challenge for cancer patients. Mesothelioma chemotherapy usually makes people feel sick and tired, which means they’ll skip a meal altogether or not eat enough during one of their three large meals.
By eating five, six or even seven smaller meals throughout the day, you’ll better balance your intake of nutrients and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the daunting task of a larger meal. Since maintaining your body weight is essential during mesothelioma treatment, think “quantity of meals” rather than “quantity of food in the meals.”
A few tips to help you plan your meal schedule include:
- Eat a meal within an hour after waking up
- Snack every two or three hours
- Prepare meals ahead of time
- Use nutrition drinks as a substitute and simple way to consume proteins and other necessary nutrients
Lightly Exercise to Increase Appetite
Exercise is rarely a bad idea, and it can help you regain body strength and stamina after surgery. Exercise also helps quicken your digestive system and increase your appetite, which can combat the effects of chemotherapy.
The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggests around 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of “moderate-intensity physical activity every week.”
With your doctor’s approval, you can add light exercise to your daily schedule. Activities that could help include:
- Elliptical training
- Light weightlifting
Ask for Help From a Loved One
Handling mesothelioma treatment on your own is especially challenging. You’ll likely need help from a loved one during the process.
The point is this: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ll likely need a mesothelioma caregiver, sometimes even multiple of them, to complete daily tasks. Eating enough to regain and maintain body strength is one area where you could use help. A loved one could:
- Prepare your meals ahead of time to conserve your energy
- Motivate you to exercise (if approved by a doctor)
- Remind you to eat throughout the day, so you consume enough nutrients
Speaking of help, we at Mesothelioma Guide can do just that for you. If you’d like more mesothelioma nutrition and diet tips, we have a registered nurse on staff who’s available to patients. Email Jenna Campagna at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about what to eat, how much to eat and more suggestions.
- What Foods to Eat Before Surgery to Help Recovery. LiveStrong. Retrieved from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/476639-what-foods-to-eat-before-surgery-to-help-recovery/. Accessed: 08/08/19.
- What Should People With Cancer Eat?. Conquer Magazine. Retrieved from: https://conquer-magazine.com/issues/2019/vol-5-no-2-april-2019/948-what-should-people-with-cancer-eat. Accessed: 08/06/19.
- Eating Well During and After Your Cancer Treatment. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Retrieved from: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/eating-well-during-and-after-your-treatment. Accessed: 08/06/19.
- Six Ways to Stay Healthy After Cancer Treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/pdf/infographics/cancer-survivors-H.pdf. Accessed: 08/06/19.
- The Right Diet to Manage Mesothelioma. Everyday Health. Retrieved from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/mesothelioma/mesothelioma-diet.aspx. Accessed: 11/03/19.
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