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Undergoing Treatment and Beyond

The Importance of Nutrition During Prostate Cancer Treatment

This article is not intended to replace professional medical care or advice. If you have any questions or need additional information, please talk with your doctor.

Proper nutrition is essential for overall health and is especially important during prostate cancer treatment. For healthy individuals, eating enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, avoiding processed foods, sugar and salt, and limiting red meat and alcohol can often be difficult enough as it is. As the American Cancer Society (ACS) explained, both cancer and treatment have the potential to alter the way in which the body tolerates foods and uses the nutrients it receives. For those undergoing treatment, it is often even more difficult to maintain a healthy diet as side effects may effect the ability to eat certain foods or cause you to feel sick.

If you or a loved one is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, incorporating guidelines and tactics for maintaining nutrition should be part of the overall plan.

Treatment side effects and eating

During prostate cancer treatment, it is very common for a person’s eating habits to change. Apart from active surveillance, treatments for prostate cancer such as radiotherapy, prostatectomy and hormone therapy kill cancerous cells. However, these treatments also cause damage to healthy cells which in turn creates side effects. These may include, but are not limited to, dry mouth, sore throat, dental and gum complications, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. It can also result in changes to a person’s sense of taste or smell, which can impact the ability to eat certain foods, according to the ACS.

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These side effects can vary greatly from one individual to another. Some may experience just one of these or even none at all, while other prostate cancer patients experience many side effects. Similarly, the nutrition needs of patients can differ greatly from one case to another. As such, a cancer care team can help to create an individualized plan for nutrition and eating.

Though it may be difficult for some to eat during treatment, this is the time when nutrition is more important than ever. According to Prostate Cancer News Today, eating well during treatmentcan help to improve energy levels, reduce fatigue, fight infection and shorten recovery time. Proper nutrition can also help the body tolerate side effects better, as well as maintain body weight and the storage of nutrients.

Essential nutrients

During treatment, as well as before and after, there are several essential nutrients that the body needs. These include protein, fiber, minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins, water and phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, according to ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. Each of these help to improve the function of your body during treatment. Protein is important for repairing body tissue and promoting growth. Without it, the body begins to break down muscle to find the fuel it needs and as a result, recovery time may increase, explained the ACS. Eggs, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry and lean red meat are all great ways to get protein. Sources of protein that are plant-based, such as beans, flax and nuts, contain quercetin and lignans, both of which help to suppress the growth of many kinds of cancer including prostate cancer.

The body’s main source of energy – carbohydrates – can help with the proper function of organs during treatment. When choosing a carbohydrate, it is best to consume whole-grain products as they contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire seed of grain. Whole-grain cereals, breads and flours are good choices and other great sources include brown rice and quinoa. There are two types of fiber, both which help aid in digestion: Soluble fiber helps to keep the stool soft, while insoluble fiber keeps food waste moving out of the body in a timely fashion.

Vitamins and minerals are naturally found in foods and they help the body convert calories into energy. However, for those undergoing prostate cancer treatment who find it difficult to eat, there is the option to obtain these important vitamins and minerals through supplements or pills. If this is the case, talking with your doctor first is highly advised, noted the ACS.

Tips for getting the most nutrients

If the side effects of treatment are making it difficult to eat, there are several ways to work around that and still obtain essential nutrients. If a metallic taste is left in your mouth, brush your teeth prior to eating and opt for gum, mints and fresh citrus fruits in between, ZERO advised. It may also help to use plastic utensils or cook in glassware. When sore throat, mouth sores or a gum infection are making it difficult to chew, blending meats or vegetables to make them smoother is a viable option.

Sometimes, even water may not taste very good during or after prostate cancer treatment. If that is the case, it can be obtained through more flavorful liquids such as tea, sports drinks, milk or soup. Flavoring water by adding fresh fruit is also an option. Similarly, if food tastes different or plain, use spices and zesty flavorings to improve the taste. If eating becomes difficult altogether, focus on multiple smaller meals and snacks throughout the day rather than three large meals.

All told, nutrition is essential to health, progress and recovery during prostate cancer treatment. Work closely with your doctor, cancer care team and even a nutritionist to find an eating plan that is right for you or your loved one.