New Delhi: A breast cancer diagnosis often leads to a change in your relationship with food. Treatment-related symptoms, disrupted routines and increased stress can affect your appetite, causing you to eat more or less than normal. The main question one wonders is, what should I eat while living with breast cancer?
Maintaining a healthy diet during your breast cancer journey offers a multitude of benefits. This includes helping you maintain a healthy body weight, ensuring the well-being of your body tissues, alleviating cancer symptoms and treatment side effects, bolstering your immune system, sustaining your strength while reducing fatigue, and ultimately enhancing your overall quality of life.
Dr Krishana Mohan MVT, Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist, BasavatarakamIndo American Hospital Hyderabad said, "During treatment, many patients don't feel like themselves, which can lead to heightened concerns about dietary choices. I've observed that 50 per cent of patients with breast cancer become particularly anxious about their food choices. The crucial aspect is to ensure that you incorporate all the necessary nutrients and maintain a balanced diet in consultation with both your oncologist and nutritionist. Additionally, exploring advanced treatments with fewer side effects and symptoms can not only reduce the impact of side effects but also improve your overall quality of life.”
Here are strategies for maintaining your diet during breast cancer treatment:
Don't Skip Water: It is important to stay hydrated during cancer treatment. For that, you should at least try to consume 2 to 3 liters of fluid per day. It is also important to avoid caffeine fluids whenever possible. Staying hydrated will help regulate your body's temperature, blood pressure, and electrolyte balance. It also helps prevent or minimise constipation and allows your organs to filter out wastes and toxins.
Add more plant-based foods to your diet: Eating various plant-based foods can help support human health as they contain phytonutrients, which are important for fighting breast cancer. These foods include fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. It’s important to eat a balanced diet rich in phytonutrients.
Choose the Right treatment for yourself: It is important to choose the right treatment plan as each option has certain side effects. For instance, chemotherapy can lead to a loss of appetite. Therefore, having an extensive conversation with your doctor about the treatment options available and how they align with your health and symptoms is crucial. Advance therapy options can minimise the side effects like loss of appetite and provide insight into what you can expect during the treatment process.
Eat small meals throughout the day: During treatment, it’s important to consume enough calories to gain energy. Eating small meals five to six times a day is a good practice. Your body can only take in a certain amount of nutrients daily. Hence, it's better to distribute your meals throughout the day. Moreover, if you have a poor appetite, a smaller meal or snack would be more appealing and encourage better intake.
Increase protein and nutrient intake: If you are fighting cancer or are undergoing cancer treatment, your protein intake needs are higher as it helps maintain strength. Proteins help preserve body mass and can be found in pulses, meat, fish, seafood, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy, and dairy products. Small amounts of protein are also present in vegetables and whole grains. A person's needs vary depending on several factors, such as age, weight, height, and activity level.
It is essential to monitor your diet on a daily basis as it may change throughout your breast cancer journey. Additionally, it is necessary to support your treatment and diet with some form of movement. Yoga and meditation are seen as a great complementary therapy for metastatic breast cancer patients. Lastly, it is necessary to maintain open communication and consult a doctor for personalised guidance. This can help you make informed decisions about your diet to optimise your health and well-being during and after treatment.