01. Importance of Mesothelioma Nutrition
Why Does Nutrition Matter for Mesothelioma Cancer Patients?
Diet and nutrition are important for patients before, during and after mesothelioma treatment. A good diet for patients with malignant mesothelioma may help maintain overall health and improve quality of life. For instance, certain nutrients may help patients manage malnutrition and maintain muscle strength. A good diet and proper nutrition can also help ease side effects from treatments such as chemotherapy.
What is nutrition? Nutrition is the process of nourishing the body with necessary food, liquids or supplements.
Good nutrition involves eating and drinking foods and liquids with key nutrients the body needs to work properly. Important nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat and water. A balanced mesothelioma diet can help the body repair itself and maintain the immune system.
Diet and Other Factors Impacting Cancer Development
Patients with mesothelioma may benefit from healthy eating to help maintain their overall health. Mesothelioma patients in better overall health may be eligible to undergo more aggressive treatments. This is often the case for surgery and multimodal therapy. Diet changes may also help ease discomfort from treatment side effects.
Cancer patients may experience malnutrition, especially during treatment. Malnutrition can result from cancer symptoms or treatment side effects, like nausea. Finding ways to focus on nutrition may benefit patients.
What Are the Effects of Malnutrition for Cancer Patients?
Malnutrition can have adverse consequences on a cancer patient’s recovery time and ability to tolerate various treatments. Malnutrition in cancer patients can lead to:
- Decreased quality of life
- Increased risk of complications and death due to cancer surgery
- Increased treatment-related side effects
- Weight loss, which can affect a patient’s ability to recover from treatment cycles and receive additional treatment
Patients can consult their care teams to understand the risks of malnutrition and how to combat them. Oncology doctors and dietitians specifically can help patients craft a diet to fight malnutrition.
How Does Nutrition Help Cancer Treatment Side Effects?
Dietary changes may be able to help mesothelioma patients address specific treatment side effects. For example, small dietary changes may help patients improve their appetite, eat with comfort and maintain a healthy weight and metabolism.
Dietary changes may help patients manage common treatment side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea and sore throat. For mesothelioma patients, chemotherapy side effects are often a concern. Chemotherapy can cause changes to taste, mouth sores and trouble chewing or swallowing. Other treatment side effects that dietary choices may help patients handle include:
- Dental or gum problems
- Dry mouth
- Feeling full early
- Loss of appetite
- Sore mouth or throat
- Taste changes
- Weight loss
A dietitian can help patients adjust eating habits to maintain nutrition in spite of these side effects.
However, the effects of cancer and cancer treatments vary by patient. Therefore, a mesothelioma cancer diet should be personalized based on an individual’s treatment plan and other factors. Patients should work with their mesothelioma doctor and care team to determine any dietary changes that may help.
Can Diet Changes Cause Side Effects?
Diet changes may cause their own side effects. Changes to a patient’s diet may impact their metabolism and cause headaches, weight loss and other changes. Patients should discuss any diet side effects with their physician. A doctor or dietitian can help make adjustments to alleviate such side effects.
02. Mesothelioma Diet
What Is the Best Diet for Mesothelioma Cancer Patients?
Mesothelioma patients can work with their care team to craft the best diet for their individual diagnosis and treatment situation. Doctors may recommend foods and dietary changes to help mesothelioma patients ease treatment side effects. Nutrition recommendations may include eating more protein and less processed foods.
Changes in diet may also include eating more nutrient-rich fruits such as strawberries and blueberries. Colorful vegetables such as yams and squash may be part of a recommended mesothelioma diet. Patients may also benefit from eating more high-protein foods such as nuts, eggs and tofu.
A dietitian can tailor these adjustments to create the best mesothelioma diet for a patient’s individual needs. A diet plan helps patients easily figure out what they should eat at mealtimes and how much. Meal planning is also a way for caregivers to help their loved ones maintain a healthy diet.
A balanced mesothelioma diet has a role during any stage of treatment or recovery. But a patient’s specific nutrition plan is likely to differ based on where they are in their treatment journey. For example, a dietitian or nutritionist may recommend a high-calorie diet to combat chemotherapy weight loss. A mesothelioma survivor who is not currently receiving treatment would likely have a different diet plan, customized to their needs.
Meal Plan for Mesothelioma Patients
A patient’s healthcare team and dietitian can work to develop the best diet for their individual needs. Meal plans for mesothelioma patients may include high-protein foods, such as chicken and eggs, to help preserve muscle. Dietitians can help patients craft meal plans to meet their nutritional needs.
Tips for handling the side effects of mesothelioma and mesothelioma treatment may include:
- Avoiding alcohol, processed meat, red meat and saturated fats
- Eating 4 – 6 small meals a day instead of 2 – 3 large meals
- Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Seeking out foods that smell good and spark appetite
- Striving for foods of different colors and textures
It’s important to keep in mind that the best meal plan for a mesothelioma patient may differ based on various factors, including:
- Specific side effects the patient is trying to address
- The patient’s mesothelioma treatment plan
- Whether they are currently in treatment or recovery
Mesothelioma patients should always discuss their dietary plans with a doctor. Every patient will have their own unique needs throughout the cancer journey. Doctors often refer patients to a dietitian or certified nutritionist for specialized care.
Tips to Improve a Mesothelioma Diet
The best way for patients to improve their mesothelioma diet is to work with a licensed dietitian with cancer experience and their own doctor. These professionals can help address any problem areas with diet and nutrition. They may recommend:
- Ceasing alcohol intake
- Modifying macronutrient intake to avoid malnutrition
- Organizing food intake into smaller, more frequent meals to combat appetite loss and digestive issues
- Taking certain supplements like zinc to improve loss of taste, often associated with chemotherapy
Challenges to Eating a Healthy Diet
Cancer diagnosis and treatment present many challenges to patients. One of these difficulties is finding the time and energy to follow a healthy diet. Mesothelioma patients may find it challenging to stick to a new diet because of nausea, fatigue and other side effects from treatment.
These challenges can make consuming any food difficult, let alone recommended foods. Patients should speak with their care team about the challenges they are facing. Doctors and dietitians can help craft diet plans and find recipes that are easy to prepare and enticing to eat.
Emotional and mental wellbeing can also affect appetite. Cancer patients may want to seek the help of a counselor, therapist or cancer coach to help deal with this difficult time. Addressing the complicated feelings associated with cancer and treatment may help patients find joy in eating again.
Higher costs of healthier foods and misinformation about new diet plans can also create nutrition challenges. Dietitians can take budgetary concerns into account by crafting meals around lower-cost items, seasonal items and goods that can be bought in bulk. They can also make sure to answer any questions about how to cook or store meals.
Resources for Mesothelioma Patients
03. Foods That May Help
Foods That May Help Mesothelioma Cancer Treatment and Recovery
Certain foods may help mesothelioma patients with treatment side effects and recovery. The best foods for mesothelioma patients are often associated with a typical healthy diet. These include fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
But certain dietary adjustments specific to combating the effects of cancer and treatment may also help. For example, mesothelioma nutrition may include eating more healthy fats and high-calorie foods than a typical diet.
Different types of food groups may be incorporated into a mesothelioma diet to take advantage of various benefits, including:
- Berries and other fresh fruits: These foods are high in nutrients, such as vitamins and antioxidants, and provide many nutritional benefits.
- Dietary supplements: Supplements can be especially helpful if a patient has an allergy or aversion to certain mesothelioma diet foods. Types of dietary supplements for mesothelioma may include snack bars, protein drinks and supplemental shakes.
- Fiber and whole grains: This food group can help mesothelioma patients maintain a healthy metabolism. Foods rich in fiber include bran, fruits, oats and vegetables.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats from foods such as salmon, nuts and plant oils may help with inflammation and cell development.
- Protein and calories: Mesothelioma patients may lack adequate protein and calories because they experience lack of appetite, nausea and other side effects. Protein-rich foods such as nuts, eggs and tofu can help avoid malnutrition. High-calorie foods such as peanut butter and avocados can also help maintain a healthy weight.
- Vegetables: Dark, leafy greens such as kale and collard greens contain folate, which helps with DNA repair. Other vegetables such as sweet potatoes contain carotenoids, which can fight inflammation.
Other foods and supplements have also helped other types of cancer patients. For example, some data indicates omega-3 fatty acids may help extend breast cancer patient survival. As cancer diet research continues, this may also prove to be beneficial to mesothelioma patients.
Which Vitamins or Supplements Support Nutrition During Mesothelioma Treatment?
According to cancer experts and researchers, some nutritional supplements may help support a cancer patient’s overall wellbeing. Some research suggests certain herbal medicines may help with cancer side effects.
- Beta-glucans: Beta-glucans are nutrients found in grains, yeasts and mushrooms that help with blood pressure and cholesterol. Some may also boost immune defenses and help patients during cancer treatment.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): TCM often includes herbs that may help improve quality of life for cancer patients.
There are also risks with nutrition and dietary supplements. For example, some companies sell Essiac tea, an herbal supplement advertised to treat cancer. There is no evidence that this supplement, or any other, can help treat or cure cancer.
A doctor or dietitian can help patients determine which foods best suit their nutritional needs. They can also help accommodate for things such as allergies, preferences and accessibility.
Nutritional Needs by Treatment Type
Patients may experience treatment side effects that affect their dietary habits.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is associated with side effects like nausea, constipation, diarrhea, mouth sores and vomiting. Bland foods high in protein or fiber may help address these issues. Increased fluid intake may also help clear chemotherapy byproducts from the body.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy side effects like constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite and nausea may be helped by eating high-protein, high-calorie foods. Some studies have also linked healthy gut bacteria to improved immunotherapy outcomes. Patients can consult their doctors to find food and supplements that support gut health.
- Radiation: Radiation side effects may be localized to the area of the body receiving the radiation. For example, radiation around the head or neck area may lead to side effects like dry mouth and mouth sores, which can affect a patient’s diet. Doctors can recommend ways to manage these side effects, like eating bland, non-irritating foods.
- Surgery: Mesothelioma surgery may target areas of the body near the digestive system. Doctors may recommend avoiding foods likely to cause bloating or gas, like beans and cruciferous vegetables. Patients should be sure to follow dietary directions leading up to and recovering from surgery.
What Foods Should Mesothelioma Patients Avoid?
Mesothelioma patients may consider avoiding certain foods during and after treatment. For example, a doctor or dietitian may recommend avoiding red and processed meats, saturated and trans fats and alcohol. This is because certain foods can impact the body’s ability to fight cancer. Some foods may also increase the risk of developing cancer.
Some foods mesothelioma patients may want to avoid include:
- Acidic, spicy and sour foods: Items like citrus, tomatoes and hot peppers can increase mouth irritation and inflame mouth sores.
- Alcohol: Patients may be advised to limit or avoid alcohol and alcohol-based mouthwashes. This is because alcohol can damage DNA, cause complications when taken with certain medications and worsen dry mouth symptoms.
- Red and processed meats: Studies show both red and processed meats can promote inflammation. Inflammation can then promote cancer-causing activities such as cell division and DNA damage. Limiting these types of meat may help the body fight cancer.
- Strong-smelling foods: Strongly scented food may increase nausea. Avoiding potent smells may help patients combat this side effect.
- Unhealthy fats: Trans fats have been linked to diabetes and other conditions. Diabetes can affect a patient’s overall health and may negatively affect treatment options.
Cancer patients may also encounter information about miracle diets and nutritional supplements to cure cancer. According to cancer experts, no vitamin, mineral, dietary supplement or herb can slow or cure cancer. As such, patients should be wary about any product that makes these claims and avoid adding them to their diet.
Patients should discuss concerns about their eating habits with a certified health professional. These experts have the training to provide individualized care and trustworthy health information.
04. Food Safety
Food Safety for Mesothelioma Patients
Mesothelioma patients must be cautious when handling and consuming foods. Mesothelioma cancer and treatment can weaken the body’s immune system, which may make patients more susceptible to foodborne illness. Proper food safety measures can help reduce the risk of illness.
Food Handling Tips
- Do not use soap, detergents or commercial produce rinses to wash food.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water, even those that come pre-washed.
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after preparing food.
- Always use a clean knife when cutting different foods, especially raw meats.
- Keep countertops and cutting boards clean. Use hot, soapy water, 1 part bleach and 10 parts water, or wipes made for use around food.
- Store raw meat in the refrigerator or freezer, sealed and away from ready-to-eat food.
- Cook meats to the appropriate temperature to avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.
- Keep hot foods hot (above 140° F) and cold foods cold (below 40° F).
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods.
- Use defrosted food right away and do not refreeze it.
Food safety measures can decrease a mesothelioma patient’s risk of foodborne illness. But it is still important for mesothelioma patients to be aware of the symptoms of foodborne illness, also called food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning may include:
- Achy muscles
- Stomach cramps or pain
Food poisoning symptoms may be similar to cancer treatment side effects. If a patient believes they have contracted a foodborne illness, they should alert their doctor immediately.
Food safety also includes awareness of issues a person cannot prevent through cleaning and proper storage. Mesothelioma patients should keep aware of food recalls and reports of contaminated food. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports on food contamination. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also reports dangerous foods and issues product recalls.
Mesothelioma patients may also want to avoid certain foods entirely because of the risk of contamination. These may include:
- Deli foods
- Raw or undercooked meat, including seafood
- Raw sprouts
- Unpasteurized or raw milk
Food safety is an important part of a mesothelioma diet plan. A patient may ask their doctor or dietitian any questions about which foods are safe to eat.
05. Diet & Nutrition Resources
Diet & Nutrition Resources for Mesothelioma Cancer Patients
There are a variety of nutrition resources available for mesothelioma patients. It is most important for patients to seek help from certified health professionals. Dietitians, nutrition specialists and health coaches have expertise in developing diet plans that cater to individual patients’ needs. These trained professionals will be the best resources available.
Patients typically work with a multidisciplinary team at mesothelioma treatment centers. The team may include dietitians or nutrition specialists. Various members of the care team can work together to create a comprehensive treatment plan, including mesothelioma cancer dietary needs.
Patients may also consider using websites, guides and apps to help with nutrition tracking. A doctor or dietitian may offer suggestions for third-party resources to help assist with keeping to a mesothelioma diet.
Working With a Dietitian
Working with a dietitian can help patients learn more about nutrition. This also places the responsibility of finding recipes and managing nutrients on a professional.
When looking for a dietitian, patients should consult their oncology care team for any recommendations or referrals. Nutrition for cancer patients, especially those in treatment, is a more specialized field than general dietitians may have experience with.
Oncology dietitians can help patients and their families develop a plan to support their wellbeing during and after treatment. Cancer dietitians can help patients with:
- Avoiding foods that may make symptoms worse
- Conducting nutritional assessments and then developing a care plan to meet current concerns and needs
- Finding nutritional and dietary supplements to help during cancer treatment
- Understanding the challenges of cancer nutrition and how to combat treatment side effects
A dietitian can work with the patient to address their needs at every step of their cancer care.
06. Common Questions
Common Questions About Nutrition & Mesothelioma
Which foods can help manage my mesothelioma symptoms during treatment?
- There are various foods to help fight common mesothelioma symptoms during and after treatment:
- Constipation, diarrhea or vomiting: Clear liquids like broth or apple juice
- Fatigue: Appealing, easy-to-prepare meals and snacks
- Nausea: Bland, soft foods
- Reduced appetite or weight: High-protein and high-calorie foods
How much water should I drink each day during cancer treatment?
- The National Cancer Institute indicates adult cancer patients should aim to drink 8 – 12 cups of liquid a day. However, mesothelioma patients should be sure to consult their care team before drastically changing their water intake.
Are there any diets that help prevent cancer or mesothelioma?
- No diets have been proven to prevent mesothelioma, as it is caused by asbestos exposure. However, some diets have been tied to lower risks of developing certain cancers. The Mediterranean diet may help lower the risk of some cancers by as much as 50%. This diet focuses on fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains and healthy fats.