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Making Healthy Choices Even When Your Health is Failing

Posted Jan 21 2011 3:47am
The following article was written by Eric Stevenson. Eric shares with us how important nutrition is, especially when living with cancer or during treatments for cancer.Thank you, Eric!

Maintaining proper nutrition can sometimes be a struggle, especially when other aspects of your health are of greater concern.Chronic and terminal illnesses – as well as their treatments – can take a toll on appetite and diet  For example, symptoms of mesothelioma , a rare and aggressive cancer of the lining of the lungs, may be confused with other, less serious ailments until the disease is in its late stages, requiring aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.  Such treatments are so taxing on the body that nutrition becomes doubly important.


Obviously, no diet can completely prevent cancer or other serious illnesses.  However, there are foods that can increase the body’s defenses against disease.  The American Cancer Society strongly recommends adding colorful fruits and vegetables to your diet.  While doctors are hesitant to state unequivocally which substances in those fruits and vegetables are the most important, since it is often a combination that does the job, it is thought that antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E as well as carotenoids and polyphenols help fight the risk of cancer.  Fruits and veggies high in fiber and folic acid are also recommended, especially for those at risk of colorectal cancer.  It is important to note that these nutrients are most effective when consumed from the fruit or vegetable itself, rather than as a dietary supplement.

During Treatment

Chemotherapy, a common treatment for cancers such as mesothelioma, is essentially the introduction of toxic chemicals into the body for the purposes of killing the malignant cells.  Unfortunately, healthy cells will die as well, leading to gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or changes in taste.  The goal of a chemotherapy diet is usually to avoid malnutrition, and may include high amounts of calories and protein prior to the treatment in order to maintain weight, since a liquid diet may be the only option once the treatment has begun.  Anyone undergoing chemotherapy should consult with their doctor about specific nutritional requirements.

Like chemotherapy, radiation therapy targets malignant cells, but uses highly focused rays of energy instead of chemicals.  Depending upon the location of the cancer, many of the eating-related side effects can be the same.  The American Cancer Society recommends eating a snack or small meal at least an hour before treatment and eating small, frequent meals with plenty of fluids after the treatment.  Eating may initially prove difficult, but it is important to maintain strength and energy while receiving treatment for cancer.

The Importance of Nutrition

While even the best diet may not prevent or cure serious diseases such as cancer, proper nutrition is vital to boosting energy, fighting secondary conditions such as infection, and maintaining a positive outlook.  Though mesothelioma life expectancy is relatively short in comparison to other cancers, a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and protein may make the treatment process easier on the body and promote healing.

By Eric Stevenson a health and safety advocate, for questions about this article please feel free to contact him at

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