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Why is nutrition so important during the cancer diagnosis process and treatment?!

This is not about nutrition which could potentially ‘cause’ cancer, and the myths and realities around that, it’s about nutrition beyond diagnosis and why you, or someone you know should really be paying attention to it just now.

We want to make the treatment as successful as possible; we need to keep you strong and healthy enough to be able to stay on the treatment plan. I have said before on this platform that the harsh reality is that to be able to withstand cancer treatment we actually have to be in a pretty healthy and strong position. This is the reason why I do what I do in terms of prehabilitation. Very, very soon after diagnosis people are referred to me and we get to work on some physical activity to put them in the best position possible to be able to go through what they are about to.

We often see people with red blood cell counts dropping, when this dips too low it has huge implications for immunity and can become very dangerous and therefore, they cannot keep to their chemotherapy schedule which would weaken their immune system further. Keeping on top of optimal nutrition during this time is huge to maximise opportunity for bloods to remain high.

It also goes without saying that we all know how our nutrition choices affect how we feel from day to day, put in something as turbulent as cancer into the equation too and we exacerbate that tenfold. A huge reason why we would work to focus on nutrition during this time is to maximise patient quality of life.

We can work to mitigate some side effects of cancer treatment through our nutrition. Many will experience nausea, appetite changes, soreness in certain areas, sense and taste changes – all of these will have an impact on an individual’s nutrition – to neglect it as a huge part of our health at this time would be all kinds of wrong.

There are so many hints, tips and little titbits that we can work on to make this time a little more bearable for you and you individual situation – please never hesitate to shout if you want to chat in this respect.

Let’s nourish those healthy cells in that bod optimally too so that we can get you back on your feet and fighting fit in no time after treatment but also ready for that next bout of treatment whatever stage you are at!

We know that fatigue and nausea whatever kind of treatment you are going through is super common to present itself at some time – this isn’t the kind of tiredness after a long day of work or a little bit of a sicky feeling, it’s something unexplainable and pretty next level. This makes nutrition so, so difficult. If this is you, I promise you are not alone. Being too tired to prepare food or even eat is normal and there are ways that we can create strategies to help you through optimally.

Something I often also talk about with my pregnant ladies is energy intake, the same applies really with cancer treatment. Sometimes when we are nauseous and tired, with the best will in the world to eat well to support our growing babies or our poorly bodies we simply cannot muster the energy or the inclination to eat – at this time it might not look like the ideal plate but getting some energy in to allow your body to do what it needs to do is absolutely pivotal and that’s okay. Dry toast all you can stomach? Get it in you.

As with everything that I do, cancer or not, no food is off limits while we are here – if it feels good, eat it – everything in moderation.

Beyond there, as we begin to feel a little more human, we can think about greens, fruits, other veggies, protein, omega threes, all that delicious stuff for that body to optimise its recovery.

As cancer patients we have SO much going on, it’s unlikely that we want to be tracking our nutrition intake and all that jazz unless that’s your jam, we don’t want to overcomplicate things, therefore we can work on an approach that works for the individual whatever that may look like – it might just be striving for one more portion of fruit than we managed last week or popping some extra greens with tea every night. We do not need additional stress at this time.

It isn’t fair all this, isn’t fair for anyone but let’s make the best of it all and keep ourselves feeling as fabulous as possible because you bloody well are. We can’t cure cancer with nutrition on its own but we can make you FEEL as good as we can.

There isn’t a huge amount of research in this area with niche approaches such as fasting, not in humans anyway so let’s not sweat the small stuff. Of course, if it makes you feel better and does no harm to treatment or your condition then that’s okay but let’s perhaps not get stuck into approaches that make us miserable to no end – you know by now that isn’t what we’re about here. There is in fact, a danger with some of these approaches that we are under fuelling and missing out on vital nutrients to help us to get through that treatment – never a good recipe to get you back on your feet ASAP.

Intentional weight loss during treatment is not something we want to focus on either – the body needs nutrients and fuel at this time. Don’t panic about some weight loss if it happens but if you feel that you would like to or need to lose weight, now is not the time. We can work to build you up and get healthy first THEN we can work on health at an appropriate weight for you.

Let’s talk supplements then to finish – the research is again, sparse for beneficial supplements. First and foremost, we focus on food. A good quality multivitamin may help as an insurance policy to cover all bases but otherwise it is simply individual – as always, right?! Vitamin D always feels like a good call with supplementation to me, most of us in the UK are deficient but otherwise it’s entirely dependent on YOU, your treatment and your condition. If your bone density is affected by treatment, we can look in that area for example. There are some crazy myths going around in this area. Please, please don’t get caught up in wasting time and pennies on ‘remedies’ you read in the media, read the research – or send it to me to read, I’m more than happy to help! Whole foods beat supplements just about every time.

This time is pivotal to look out for yourself, one of the main considerations being your nutrition – this is your health and quality of life after all. Any questions or anything I can do, please just pop me a message!

Peace and love, A x

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