Cancer treatment can deplete your body of white blood cells, nutrients, and energy, and staying healthy while you deal with chemo is no small task. Given the right mix of nutrition and exercise though, you can keep weight and muscle mass while you fight cancer.
Here are five tips for maintaining your health during cancer treatment; as always, be sure to consult your doctor while making nutrition and exercise choices for your body.
Eating High Fat Foods May Be Necessary
Contrary to what people believed 20 years ago, eating fat is incredibly healthy — it just depends on what kind of fat you eat. A diet rich in fatty acids (this may include avocados, cheese, meats, etc) will help your body remain strong, energized, and you’ll be able to maintain weight better during your cancer treatments.
It’s trans fat that you need to avoid — so you’ll want to avoid fast food, fried snacks, and the like. Avoiding fat during your cancer treatment could cause you to drop a considerable amount of body weight, so if you want to keep healthy, ask your doctor about getting healthy fats into your diet. (See also: 6 Top Foods That May Help Fight Cancer)
High-Calorie Protein Shakes for Cancer Patients
We already discussed eating enough fat, but packing in enough calories and protein is an absolute MUST during cancer treatment.
Here’s the problem — this involves the act of eating solid foods, and cancer patients often deal with intense digestive and skin sensitivities, not to mention the possibility of mouth sores. So how can you get enough protein when the very act of eating hurts?
You may need to look into a high protein nutrition shake that includes a meal’s worth of calories and protein without too much sugar. Many nutrition shakes claim to have “great taste,” but they include unhealthy amounts of sugar — you should certainly speak to your doctor about the shake of your choosing.
Keep Exercising – Yes, Really
Enduring cancer treatments put your body in a catabolic state, which essentially means that your body starts to break down larger molecules that you typically wouldn’t want it too. This happens when your body is malnourished, and it will result in excessive muscle loss (and by extension, increasing weakness).
So what does exercise have to do with this? Wouldn’t exercise encourage your body to burn even more critical mass?
In fact, the benefits of exercise during cancer treatment are both direct and indirect. Exercise, of course, will help keep your muscles healthy and functional. But exercise will also increase your appetite and enable you to “keep down” more nutrient-rich foods. Eating enough protein and fat will keep your body from going catabolic, and you will need to exercise to keep your appetite up.
One more benefit of exercise is that it keeps your lungs strong (an especially important consideration for those undergoing lung cancer treatment). You don’t need to be lifting weights or going to the gym, but standing up and walking around will help you maintain your ability to breathe deeply. (See also: This Is How To Live With Cancer Without Fear And Stress)
Massages Healthy for Cancer Patients?
Even in the recent past, certain massage clinics would turn away a cancer patient because of the fear that a massage will dislodge tumors and cause cancer to spread. This is simply not true.
Massages, especially certain forms of muscle release work and lymphatic drainage techniques, can actually help a cancer patient stay healthy.
According to Hope McDonald, a massage therapist at the YAO Clinic, more sensitive patients, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, may want to avoid deep tissue massages and other more intensive treatments, as they can result in bruising and nausea.
But as a general rule, massage therapy is a safe and effective way to remain healthy and comfortable during treatment.
Avoid Cuts Even More Than Usual
Cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, will often deplete your immune system. You see, chemo is meant to kill the fast-growing cancer cells, but an unfortunate side effect is that it will destroy white blood cells as well. White blood cells fight infections.
If you sustain even a minor cut, you need to wash it thoroughly with warm water and soap, apply an antibacterial cream, and keep the cut covered with a bandage. It wouldn’t hurt to consult your nurse either — infections are nothing to mess around with, especially if you are in the process of beating cancer.
About The Author:
Michael is a freelance reporter and writer based in New York. He blogs about health and wellness, and when he isn’t writing, you’ll find him perusing bookstores in NYC’s East Village.