Staying Healthy During Cancer Treatment
How to Keep Your Strength Up During Cancer Treatment
The treatments administered for cancer, including radiation and chemotherapy, can cause fatigue and nausea. While these side effects can make it difficult to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, it’s important you continue to eat healthy foods as much as possible and get some exercise as often as you can. Practicing good nutrition and exercise habits during cancer treatment can help improve your quality of life, relieve treatment side effects and keep up your strength throughout treatment.
Nutrition for Cancer Care
Chemotherapy is well-known for causing nausea, but radiation treatment can cause upset stomach and vomiting as well. Radiation treatment for brain cancer, spine cancer and cancers of the abdomen and digestive tract are notoriously crucial in the treatments of these diseases, but the stomach-upsetting side effects can be distressing.
Though it might be hard to eat and keep down food during radiation treatment or chemotherapy, it’s important you do your best. Good nutrition during cancer care helps you maintain your physical strength and can help mitigate fatigue. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, prevent nutritional deficiency, lower your risk of infection and speed your overall recovery. Maintaining proper nutrition during cancer treatment helps you maintain a good quality of life and makes you better able to cope with other side effects.
If you’re getting radiation treatment, you should always try to eat within an hour of going to treatment. You’ll tolerate the treatment better with something in your stomach. If you have to travel to the treatment facility, bring snacks with you. Focus on eating calorie-dense, nutritious foods like nuts, avocados, beans, seeds, cooked cereals and puddings.
If your treatment side effects make it hard for you to eat properly, try eating smaller meals every two or three hours instead of three large meals per day. Some cancer patients find that there’s a specific time of day, such as breakfast time, at which it’s best to eat the bulk of their calories for that day. You can add protein powders or nutrition supplements to your food to increase their calorie content. When you’re feeling nauseated, eat foods that soothe the stomach, like saltines, ginger ale or toast.
Exercise During Cancer Treatment
No one’s expecting you to hit the gym every day while you’re going through cancer treatment, but for many cancer patients, regular physical activity can have multiple benefits. Regular exercise during cancer treatment keeps your body strong and can help prevent anxiety and depression. It can also relieve side effects like nausea and improve fatigue. Talk to your doctor and treatment team about whether you should exercise and how much exercise is appropriate. Start slow, and stick to gentle activities like walking, riding a bike slowly, walking a well-behaved dog, dancing or going to yoga. Plan your exercise program to include both aerobic activities, like walking, and strength-training exercises, like yoga or gentle weight lifting.
Good nutrition and regular gentle exercise can go a long way toward helping you maintain your physical strength and fight off fatigue during cancer treatment. The better you’re able to care for yourself, the more you’ll enjoy your life and less vulnerable you’ll be to the fear and uncertainty that a cancer diagnosis can bring.