Loss of weight is a given during chemotherapy―the first line of treatment for cancer patients. Apart from facing difficulty in gaining weight, quite a few patients complain about energy-sapping fatigue that can adversely affect overall quality of life. To resolve these issues, following are the ways that may help gain weight and maintain high energy levels throughout the day.
Did You Know?Glucose acts as fuel for cancer cells, so discard sugary foods from your diet.
Cancer patients need to follow a diet high in protein in order to maintain weight. Protein foods provide a good dose of nutrition, and play a key role to gain muscle mass and increase weight. Moreover, proteins are necessary to promote healthy cell growth and restrict tumor cell growth. Boiled eggs, nuts, dairy products such as yogurt, walnuts, peanut or almond butter sandwich, protein shakes, and vegetables that include lentils, peas, and dried beans are some excellent sources of proteins.
One should avoid eating proteins from animal sources, as meat is usually forbidden for cancer patients. So, one should avoid any form of meat including fish and red meat (beef, pork, lamb). However, in some cases cancer patients show acute lack of proteins and may be advised to include skinless chicken in their diet.
Increase protein intake by having between-meal snacks. A handful of almonds has higher protein content than an egg, and moreover, can help to combat cancer-related fatigue as they are excellent sources of energy boosting minerals such as manganese and copper. Having a plain protein shake or simply a glass of milk is nutritious and energizing. Although commercial protein shakes are available, they are highly processed and contain excess sugar. So, instead, prefer homemade protein smoothies to suit your nutritional requirements. A midday snack of oatmeal can also provide a good dose of proteins. On the whole, frequently snacking between meals is one of the best ways to gain weight.
Staying optimally hydrated is critical to alleviate side effects of chemotherapy. So, make sure you drink adequate water as well as other fluids like coconut water, carrot juice, and green tea. However, stay away from caffeinated drinks and alcohol, as they can cause dehydration.
It is observed that quite a few cancer patients suffer from nausea and lack of appetite, which eventually leads to loss of weight. In such circumstances, taking appetite stimulants may be recommended to increase calorie consumption and gain weight. These stimulants should be taken only after consulting your doctor.
Although fatigue during treatment can act as a dampener, low-impact activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, and swimming, can actually help increase appetite and improve weight. With regular exercise, patients will be able to combat fatigue effectively and stay active.
A recent study reported in Cancer, an international journal in cancer research and oncology, has found that fish oil may play a key role in keeping weight loss at bay during chemotherapy. The findings give a strong hope that adding fish oil supplements to the diet may contribute in curbing cancer-related weight loss. Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid, that may protect against muscle loss. Omega-3s have shown the potential to build muscle mass, hence, their intake might promote muscle gain in cancer patients.
The study was conducted under the supervision of Vera Mazurak, Ph.D., at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. The study involved 40 patients suffering from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who were undergoing chemotherapy, out of which only 16 were put on a fish oil dose of 2.2 g of eicosapentaenoic acid. During the study that continued for up to 10 weeks, the muscle and fat measurement of patients were recorded periodically during the MRI scan. The researchers also noted the weight of the patients just before and after the study.
After the results were evaluated, an average weight loss of 2.3 kg was noticed in patients who were exempted from fish oil dosage. Whereas, a whopping 69% of patients put on the supplement did not show any loss of weight. On the whole, fish oil treatment during chemotherapy did help patients to maintain weight. Also, patients who showed the highest levels of eicosapentaenoic acid in their blood after the study had gained significant amount of muscle mass among the group. The study does suggest that inclusion of fish oil in the diet could decrease the chances of weight loss during chemotherapy.
Apart from eating protein rich foods, don't forget to include garlic, fresh green vegetables, and low glycemic fruits, such as apples, guava, strawberries, and blueberries, to promote overall health. A leafy green salad during meals is a great way to add nutrition to the diet. Moreover, avoid fried foods, processed meat, and sugary products (desserts, chocolates, cakes, pastries) for it promotes growth of cancer cells.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.