• News
  • How Important Is Good Nutrition For Post-Cancer Recovery?

How Important Is Good Nutrition For Post-Cancer Recovery?

Patients who have recently had a cancer diagnosis will be advised on what course of treatment suits their case best, whether it is radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery or something else.  These technologies have come so far in the last few decades, and cancer survival in the UK has even doubled in the past 50 years.  Cancer Research UK also found that over eight in ten people who have a type of cancer that is easier to diagnose and treat survive for ten years or more.  While these intensive treatments are essential to shrink or kill the cancer cells, they can also be supported by good health. A patient who eats well, exercises, and does not drink or smoke too much has a higher chance of the cancer not recurring than someone who is obese, smokes or drinks an excessive amount of alcohol.  A balanced diet is one of the most important ways to keep healthy, helping the body respond better to the treatment, and, subsequently, improving the chance of survival. 

Maintains energy levels

The most common side effect of cancer treatment is fatigue, with patients often reporting weakness and tiredness after undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.  Some also can develop anaemia, as a result of their red blood cell count falling. Therefore, they lack energy, look pale, and suffer from shortness of breath.  Having a good diet, which is full of protein and carbohydrates, helps patients to replenish their energy levels and fight the debilitating fatigue.  Although patients should not expect to be as physically active as they were before their treatment straight away, having a healthy diet helps them to feel like themselves more quickly. 

Avoid malnourishment 

Lots of people also suffer from nausea, mouth sores, a loss of appetite or sickness after treatment, which can cause their energy levels to dip even more if they are not eating enough and taking in nutrients. Therefore, they may lose muscle mass and could even become malnourished.  Someone who is malnourished may have more difficulty healing after surgery or be able to fight any infections. Cancer patients become immunosuppressed after treatment, making them more susceptible to infections, but if they are not nourishing themselves properly, they are likely to become more seriously ill.  If someone is suffering from malnutrition, they might even be unable to finish their course of treatment. It can also make patients feel depressed and lower their quality of life. 

Reduce obesity

  Obesity is a huge risk factor for cancer, with the National Institutes of Health reporting that excess body fat has a 17 per cent increased risk of cancer-specific mortality. What’s more, between four and eight per cent of all cancers are connected to the patient being obese.   Someone is obese when their body mass index (BMI) is between 30 and 39.9, and severely obese when it is above 40. The number of obese people in the UK is increasing rapidly, with the Health Survey for England 2021 reporting that 25.9 per cent of adults in England are obese. This is an increase from 14.9 per cent in 1993.    Therefore, many cancer patients are likely to be obese when they undergo treatment. Although there is a high risk of undernutrition following treatment, it is also important for obese patients to try to lose weight safely to take themselves out of the obese bracket.    Being this heavily overweight not only impacts the success of the treatment, but may also increase the risk of recurrence. It might also lead to the patient developing another cancer after surviving this one.    Therefore, it is important that patients stick to a diet of wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, lean protein like poultry and fish, pulses such as lentils and beans, healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, and a low-fat dairy or vegan substitute.    Reducing the consumption of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, added sugar, and red meat can help those who are obese lose excess fat to improve their body’s response to treatment.    This healthy diet also provides them with the right nutrients to feel energised, replenish their body after treatment, and reduce the impact of side effects. 

Boost mental health

  Staying mentally strong during cancer is as important as it is to remain physically strong. Having to deal with the trauma, fear, stress, anxiety and loneliness after a diagnosis and during treatment can really take its toll on patients, particularly when they begin to suffer from the challenging side effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.    Fatigue, vomiting, hair loss, and a lack of sexual drive can all make people feel depressed, while insomnia, concentration difficulties and loss of enjoyment from meals can really affect their quality of life.    That is why doing everything possible to boost mental health is important, starting with eating the right foods.  Having foods that naturally boost serotonin, such as salmon, spinach, milk, nuts, soy products, eggs, seeds, and poultry, can really help patients feel more in control of their recovery.

Feeling any face pain or headaches?

Call us on 0208 713 0459 to book a consultation.