It is important for people with cancer to have a nutritious diet to keep their immunity strong and prepare them better for fighting the disease. There are a number of factors that may put cancer patients at a disadvantageous position compared to others as far as immunity is concerned. The disease and its treatment may also change the way the body's immune system works. Immune system is a body’s defence mechanism which might get affected in people suffering from cancer. Adopting the right eating practices may not help in getting rid of the disease, but it will certainly help the body deal with the ordeal better. Pumpkin seeds, garlic, olive oil, broccoli are among the foods with essential nutrients to help build immunity in cancer patients.
Why Immunity In Cancer Patients Is Low
According to American Cancer Society, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and other such procedures can damage mucous membranes. Mucous membrane is basically the moist inner lining that is attached to certain body organs such as nose, mouth, lungs etc. When the membrane is damaged due to these therapies, it is easier for germs or infection to enter the body. One of the side-effects of these therapies is that they can lead to short-term immune system damage. Certain types of cancer like leukemia or multiple myeloma can also cause harm the immune system. Cancer treatment many a time requires surgery which again makes immune system vulnerable for a long duration.
Why It’s Important For Cancer Patients To Eat Right
Cancer patients are many times not eating properly or nutritiously as treatments like chemotherapy can affect their appetite. The patients after getting the therapy might feel nauseous, be dehydrated, left with reduced appetite or not feel hungry at all. In certain types of cancer, a loss of appetite may be reported due to tumor in or around parts of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. According to American Cancer Society, some tumors release certain types of hormones that affect how the body recognizes that it's hungry. In absence of a balanced diet, the body's immunity may grow weak and it is important to boost it by taking appropriate diet.
In pandemic times, it has become all the more important to provide utmost care to cancer patients especially take care of their dietary needs.
Diet To Improve Immunity In Cancer Patients
Sakshi Lalwani, Founder of Sakshi Lalwani Diets & Dreams (SLDD), Healthcare consultant & Celebrity Nutritionist suggests eight foods to boost immunity in cancer patients.
- Pumpkin seeds: It is an excellent source of B vitamins like Riboflavin, Niacin, Thiamin, Pantothenic Acid, and Folates. Pumpkin seeds are also known to help in battling depression, thanks to L-tryptophan, a compound that plays a role in boosting your mood. It can also help in fighting off many conditions like kidney stones, bladder stones, and even cancer.
- Broccoli: This go-to green is high in an enzyme called sulforaphane, which has been shown to reduce cancer risk. Sulforaphane is a sulfur-rich compound which provides many health benefits. It’s best to eat broccoli raw or lightly cooked with garlic and olive oil for maximum benefit.
- Garlic: It’s a popular ingredient in many part of the world for rustling up many savoury dishes. It may not be the most socially friendly food (heard of garlic breath?), but the health benefits are worth it. Garlic works as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. It also contains the active ingredient allicin, which is believed to help reduce the spread of cancer by slowing blood supply to tumours.
- Olive Oil: The Mediterranean diet has long been regarded as one of the world’s healthiest and a new research adds strength to this belief. One of the reasons is inclusion of olive oil, according to researchers from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, who studied the effects of the diet on 4,200 women aged between 60 and 80 from 2003 to 2009. After five years, they found that women who followed the Mediterranean diet with olive oil had a 68 per cent lower risk of developing breast cancer.
- Salmon: Omega-3 essential fatty acids are believed to reduce inflammation, which in turn may help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Salmon is also a good source of vitamin A and even vitamin D, both of which are helpful in preventing and fighting cancer.
- Tomatoes: This juicy fruit is high in carotenoids, an organic pigment that is believed to lower the risk of breast cancer. Other foods with carotenoids include carrots, sweet potatoes, papaya, spinach and kale. Tomatoes are also high in the antioxidant lycopene, which helps to prevent “bad” fat levels in the blood.
- Oats: It boasts of ample amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and antioxidants, as well as more healthy fats than most grains. It also helps regulate your bowels because of its beta glucan, a type of soluble fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Oatmeal’s neutral flavor and creamy texture are especially advantageous if you’re experiencing common chemo side effects like dry mouth or mouth sores.
- Broth: Taste changes are normal during chemotherapy and water is commonly said to taste different. In these instances, broth is a great alternative to keep you hydrated. It’s made by simmering water with vegetables, herbs, and if desired meat or poultry, plus bones. During this process, electrolytes are released into the fluid. These charged particles, which include nutrients like sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium, help keep your body functioning properly. Sipping on broth can be helpful if you’re losing electrolytes through vomit or sweat.
Tweak Your Diet To Stay Healthy
Nutrition may not play a direct role in treating cancer but having the right diet is crucial for giving a boost to the immune system that might be under a lot of strain due to the disease. It certainly helps to tweak your diet to include healthier options for your meals. Avoiding junk food and consuming season fruits and vegetables are some of the lifestyle changes you can make to better deal with the disease. Apart from cancer, an improved immune system may keep other seasonal infections at bay which will further increase body’s overall ability to fight Cancer.
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