During Chemotherapy

Table of Contents

Dietitian Guidance for oncofertility

Understanding the Impact of Lifestyle Choices on Cancer Prevention

Cancer ranks as a leading cause of mortality, with 25% of deaths in Germany attributed to this disease, positioning it as the country’s second-leading cause of death. While factors like age and genetics, which are internal and unchangeable, can initiate cancer, external lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet also play significant roles. Globally, smoking, despite a decline in prevalence, continues to be the primary cause of preventable deaths. In Germany, it’s responsible for approximately 13.5% of all deaths, and in the U.S., smoking contributes to 28.8% of cancer-related deaths. Particularly in lung cancer, smoking is implicated in about 80% of fatalities, underscoring the urgent need to avoid tobacco use for lung cancer prevention.

Research exploring the relationship between diet and cancer has revealed that balanced nutrition is crucial not just for overall health but also at the cellular and molecular levels. Poor nutrition can adversely affect cellular microenvironments and metabolism, leading to DNA damage and cancer development. A study published in The Lancet highlighted that dietary deficiencies, particularly in vegetables and fruit, contributed to millions of deaths and disability-adjusted life years in 2017. It’s estimated that 30 to 50% of cancer cases could be preventable through healthy lifestyles, avoiding occupational carcinogens, and steering clear of environmental toxins. The likelihood of prevention varies by cancer type, with lung and colorectal cancers having the highest rates of preventability.

Cancer therapies like chemotherapy and radiation are crucial in combating cancer cells. However, a significant challenge they present is the reduction in appetite they often cause. To maximize the effectiveness of these treatments, maintaining a stable weight is vital. This can be a daunting task given the numerous side effects that adversely affect a patient’s willingness and ability to consume food. Fortunately, there are several practical approaches that patients can adopt to ensure proper nutrition throughout their treatment. City of Hope’s dietitian, Elaine Siu, offers valuable nutritional advice to address the seven most frequent side effects encountered during cancer treatment.

Combatting Loss of Appetite for Maintaining Weight

For cancer patients, maintaining body weight is often a critical aspect of treatment, even when appetite fluctuates. Firstly, consuming small, frequent meals can be more manageable. Keeping snacks within easy reach allows patients to eat when they feel a slight hunger. It’s advisable to minimize beverage intake before and during meals to ensure that food, rather than liquids, provides the necessary calories. When choosing drinks, options rich in calories and nutrients, such as protein shakes, are ideal. Focusing on foods that are dense in calories and proteins can also be beneficial. Lastly, patients should take advantage of times when they feel more capable of eating and enjoy larger meals during these periods. During cancer treatment, reducing calorie intake is generally not advisable, even for those who are overweight. To maintain a healthy weight, it is important to eat four to six meals daily and focusing on foods that are both high in calories and protein. It’s important to eat consistently, without waiting for hunger cues. To increase protein intake, add tofu, peanut butter, ice cream, and yogurt to smoothies. For incorporating more fats, cooking with healthy oils such as olive oil, snacking on avocados, nuts, and peanut butter, and consuming more dairy products like whole milk, ice cream, and dry milk powder are beneficial. Additionally, using liquid supplements can be an effective way to enhance calorie and nutrient intake, with a variety of flavors available in the market. These strategies are key in preventing unwanted weight loss during treatment.

Navigating Changes in Taste  Alternative Dietary Choices

Chemotherapy can significantly alter taste perception, leading some patients to experience a bitter or metallic taste when consuming red meat, while others might lose their sense of taste entirely. For those who find red meat unpalatable, it is  suggested to switching to lighter meats such as chicken and turkey. It ıs also recommended to incorporate diverse protein sources like eggs, tofu, and beans. In cases of diminished taste, enhancing flavor becomes essential. Marinating foods before cooking can introduce more depth of flavor. Using tart fruits like lemons and limes, as well as a variety of herbs and spices, can help season foods effectively. Additionally, experimenting with sweet foods may help balance any bitter, salty, or acidic flavors that are perceived due to the changes in taste.

Addressing Sensitivity to Smells in Cancer Treatment: Practical Eating Tips

Patients undergoing cancer treatment often find themselves extremely sensitive to the odors of certain foods, which can lead to nausea. To manage this, it is  advised that patients should try consuming their meals either cold or at room temperature, as this can significantly reduce the intensity of food odors. Additionally, maintaining proper ventilation is key. Patients can benefit from keeping windows open and using fans, if available, to ensure a steady flow of air in the eating areas, thereby diluting the strength of food smells.

Countering Nausea During Cancer Treatment

Nausea is a significant hurdle for many undergoing cancer treatment, especially since maintaining weight is crucial during this period. It is suggested to start with clear liquids like juice, broth, or ginger ale when nausea strikes. As patients feel more capable of eating, they should opt for simple, bland foods such as bread, crackers, and fruits. Consistently eating four to six small meals throughout the day is recommended, and avoiding meal skipping can help manage this symptom more effectively.

Alleviating Dry Mouth for Cancer Patients: Helpful Dietary Tips

Dry mouth is a common discomfort faced by many undergoing cancer treatment, affecting their ability to eat and drink comfortably. Continuously hydrating by sipping water throughout the day is essential. For additional relief, patients might find snacking on sugar-free hard candy, tart foods, and either popsicles or ice chips beneficial. Incorporating gravy or sauces into meals can also assist in making foods easier to consume. Importantly, patients should steer clear of all forms of alcohol, including those found in mouthwashes, to avoid exacerbating dry mouth.

Managing Mouth Sores During Cancer Treatment: Nutritional Guidance

Dealing with mouth sores can be particularly challenging for cancer patients. One should be opting for liquid supplements and shakes as substitutes for regular meals. Consuming soft, easily chewable foods such as soups, mashed potatoes, egg salad, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal can be less irritating. Additionally, choosing cold foods can provide some relief from the soreness experienced. These adjustments can help maintain nutrition while minimizing discomfort from mouth sores.

Fertility and healthy lifestyle

Embracing a Mediterranean Diet for Enhanced Fertility and Pregnancy Health

Adopting a Mediterranean diet, renowned for its high fiber content and abundance of vitamins and minerals, is highly beneficial for supporting fertility and pregnancy. This diet emphasizes the consumption of a variety of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, and healthy fats found in olive oil and avocados. Including oily fish and some lean meats is also recommended. To further enhance the diet’s effectiveness, adding a diverse range of colorful foods can significantly increase antioxidant intake, providing additional health benefits.

Reducing Red Meat and Sugar Intake for a Healthier Diet

It is generally advisable to decrease the consumption of red and processed meats, along with sugary beverages and processed foods high in sugar. While it’s not necessary to completely eliminate treats like chocolate, maintaining moderation and balance in portion sizes is key for a healthier dietary regimen.

Essential Supplements for Pregnancy and Preconception Health

Folic acid is a crucial supplement during pregnancy, known for its ability to reduce the risk of neural tube defects. It also plays a role in enhancing the health of eggs and sperm. A daily intake of 400mcg is recommended, or 5mg for those at a higher risk of neural tube defects, starting from preconception and continuing until the 12th week of pregnancy.

Vitamin D is linked to increased pregnancy rates. A daily dose of 10mcg of Vitamin D is advised from the preconception stage through to breastfeeding.

For those adhering to a strict plant-based diet, supplementing with at least 10mcg of vitamin B12, 150mcg of iodine, and omega-3 PUFAs is essential, as these nutrients are typically found in animal products. Ensuring adequate selenium intake is also important, with a recommended supplement dosage of 60mcg per day.

It’s important to carefully check the labels of prenatal supplements, as they often contain these nutrients. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a nutrition specialist is recommended to ensure the intake does not exceed the recommended daily allowance.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy for Safety and Health

It’s important for expectant mothers to avoid certain foods that may pose risks to the fetus. Raw shellfish, meat, and fish should be excluded from the diet due to potential bacterial contamination. Fish like swordfish, marlin, and shark are best avoided because of their high mercury content. Unpasteurized cheese, along with mould-ripened and blue-veined cheeses, are also on the list of foods to avoid, as they can harbor harmful bacteria. Similarly, eggs without the British lion stamp and cured meats should be avoided. Additionally, it’s advisable to limit the intake of vitamin A, which is high in liver and pâté, to ensure the safety and health of both the mother and the developing fetus.

Limiting Alcohol, Smoking, and Recreational Drugs for Fertility and Pregnancy Health

While an occasional glass of red wine is a common feature in the Mediterranean diet, it’s important to limit alcohol consumption, as it can negatively impact both fertility and pregnancy. From the preconception phase through to pregnancy, avoiding alcohol is strongly advised for optimal health. Similarly, abstaining from smoking and the use of recreational drugs is crucial, as these habits can have detrimental effects on both fertility and the health of the pregnancy.

Reducing Caffeine Intake During Pregnancy: Opting for Decaf

Reducing caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg per day, which is roughly equivalent to less than two cups of instant coffee, is advisable. Since caffeine is a potent stimulant, it can pose risks to the fetus, including potential harm, increased risk of miscarriage, and the possibility of low birth weight. Opting for decaffeinated options is a prudent choice during this period to ensure the safety and health of both the mother and the developing baby.

Choosing Healthier Cooking Methods: Embracing Steaming Over Frying

Opting for healthier cooking techniques such as poaching, stewing, steaming, or even microwaving is beneficial in reducing oxidative stress levels. Excessive oxidative stress can adversely affect both egg and sperm health. Therefore, it’s recommended to limit cooking methods like frying, roasting, toasting, barbecuing, or grilling. Emphasizing gentler cooking methods can contribute to better overall reproductive health.

Balancing Exercise for Hormonal Health and Fertility

Regular physical activity is excellent for maintaining hormonal balance, but it’s important to find the right equilibrium. Engaging in high-intensity training, such as marathon running, should be approached with caution to avoid over-exercising, which can also disrupt hormonal balance. The key is to discover an enjoyable form of exercise and incorporate movement into one’s routine as frequently as possible, ensuring a healthy balance that supports overall well-being and reproductive health.

Prioritizing Quality Sleep for Hormonal Regulation and Overall Health

Emphasizing the importance of quality sleep, it’s recommended to aim for seven to nine hours nightly. Adequate sleep plays a crucial role in various aspects of health, particularly in regulating hormones. To improve sleep quality, minimizing screen time for an hour before bedtime can be beneficial. Additionally, maintaining a consistent schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is vital for achieving restful, rejuvenating sleep. This consistency in sleep habits supports hormonal balance and general well-being.

Reducing Stress for Improved Health and Eating Habits

While it’s impossible to eliminate all stress from life, managing controllable aspects is crucial. Stress not only has broad negative impacts on overall health, but it can also interfere with eating patterns. Prioritizing oneself and shedding unhelpful elements is essential. Exploring relaxation techniques such as meditation, journaling, or mindfulness practices can be highly beneficial in reducing stress levels and enhancing overall well-being.

Enhancing Health and Fertility Through Balanced Nutrition

A well-rounded diet that includes all key food groups is essential for optimal body functioning, which is crucial for supporting ovulation in women and enhancing sperm quality in men. Even minor changes in diet can significantly impact overall health and fertility. Consuming a minimum of six servings of fruits and vegetables daily, particularly those that are colorful, ensures a higher intake of vital nutrients like vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene. Foods rich in folic acid, an important nutrient for reproductive health, should also be a dietary focus.

Choosing whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, and oats over white flour products is recommended for better health. Incorporating healthy fats found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fish is crucial, as they aid in fertility and general health. However, trans fats present in fried and processed foods should be avoided due to their link to increased infertility risks in both men and women. Additionally, unpasteurized meats, cheeses, eggs, and dairy products should be avoided as they pose risks to a developing fetus and can expose mothers to food-borne bacterial infections.

Nutrient Essentials for Boosting Fertility and Reproductive Health

Certain nutrients play a significant role in enhancing fertility and overall reproductive health for both men and women. Vitamin B9, known as folate (or folic acid in its synthetic form), acts as an antioxidant essential for fertility. It helps neutralize free radicals, which can damage sperm and egg cells. Folate is particularly crucial for pregnant women and those trying to conceive, with daily intake recommended both before and during pregnancy, either alone or as part of a prenatal multivitamin. Natural sources of folic acid include leafy greens, fruits, beans, nuts, eggs, seafood, and whole grains.

Minerals like zinc and selenium, also antioxidants, are beneficial for fertility. Zinc and selenium deficiencies are linked to poor sperm quality and motility. Dietary sources of selenium include poultry, eggs, meat, seafood, nuts, bread, and grains, while zinc can be found in dark chicken meat, lean beef, baked beans, dairy, and fortified cereals.

Calcium is important for regulating blood pressure and the female reproductive system. It prepares the body for pregnancy and supports early embryo development. In men, calcium deficiencies may impact fertility, such as sperm motility.

Vitamin D is believed to be connected with female fertility and healthy pregnancy outcomes. Pregnant women are recommended to consume 400-800 IU of vitamin D daily, while men should aim for 600 mg per day to support sperm motility. Apart from supplements, vitamin D can be obtained through sunlight exposure and foods like oily fish and fortified cereals.

Cancer prevention

Comprehensive Lifestyle Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

Physical activity is a critical factor in reducing cancer risk, advocating for increased movement and reduced sedentary behavior. This recommendation is especially pertinent for colon, breast (postmenopausal), and endometrial cancers, but extends to other cancer types as well. In Europe, an estimated 9-19% of cancer cases are linked to insufficient physical activity. Exercise impacts cancer risk through its effects on immunity, metabolism, and endocrinology, and also aids in maintaining a healthy weight and reducing body fat, a known cancer risk factor. Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly. Activities defined as physical include anything that uses skeletal muscles and requires more energy than resting, such as household chores, gardening, and recreational activities. In many regions, physical activity is less frequent than needed for health promotion, with long screen times being common.

Understanding the Role of Supplements in Cancer Prevention

Current research indicates that there is no conclusive evidence to support the use of nutritional supplements as a means to prevent cancer. It is generally understood that a well-balanced diet, incorporating a variety of food groups, is sufficient to meet nutritional requirements. The recommendation is that supplements should only be considered for individuals with confirmed nutritional deficiencies, and even then, under the guidance of qualified health professionals.

Diverse Diet and Mindful Eating: Key Components in Cancer Prevention

Vital aspect of a healthy lifestyle is the practice of mindful eating. This includes taking breaks during meals, allowing ample time for eating, and ensuring thorough chewing. Such habits not only improve meal tolerability but also enhance the perception of fullness, thereby aiding in weight management – a key factor in cancer risk reduction. Mindful eating also encompasses the joy of preparing meals, dining in good company, and embracing the overall experience of eating. These practices contribute not just to nutritional health, but also to relaxation and stress reduction, which are critical for maintaining overall well-being. For example, mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques have shown benefits in improving the quality of life and psychological functioning among breast cancer survivors.

Impact of Nutrition and Physical Activity on Cancer Prevention: Recent Studies

Recent research underscores the effectiveness of adhering to lifestyle recommendations in cancer prevention. Studies have shown that never smoking, maintaining a BMI under 30, engaging in physical activity for at least 3.5 hours per week, and following healthy eating guidelines—like high consumption of fruits, vegetables, or whole grains—can reduce cancer risk by approximately 36%. Large-scale studies also highlight the correlation between following these nutritional and lifestyle guidelines and a reduced risk of cancers like breast and prostate cancer. A systematic review suggested that compliance with cancer prevention guidelines could reduce overall cancer incidence and mortality by 10–61%. These findings are significant for people of all ages, including the elderly, where adherence to these guidelines has shown to delay the onset of cancer by about 1.6 years in individuals aged 60 and older.