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.
Nutrition is the process of taking in food for growth, to replace tissue and to keep the body healthy. It involves eating and drinking foods and liquids with key nutrients the body needs. Important nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat and water. Mesothelioma nutrition can help the body repair itself and maintain the immune system.
Diet and Other Factors Impacting Cancer Development
Cancer is caused by uncontrolled cell growth. These abnormal cells can develop into a mass of tissue called a tumor. Several factors can impact a person’s risk of developing cancer, including:
- Diet and lifestyle factors: Nutrients, alcohol consumption, smoking and more
- Environmental factors: Asbestos exposure, food contaminants and more
- Biological factors: Genetics, immune function, metabolic state and more
Patients with mesothelioma may look to healthy eating to maintain their overall health. If patients are in better overall health, they are typically more likely to be eligible to undergo aggressive treatments. This is often the case for surgery. This may also be true for multimodal therapy, which combines multiple therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Diet changes may also help ease discomfort from treatment side effects.
How Does Nutrition Help Cancer Treatment Side Effects?
Mesothelioma patients can adjust their diet to help address specific treatment side effects. They should work with their mesothelioma doctor and care team to determine any dietary changes that may help. Small dietary changes may help patients find their appetite, eat with comfort and maintain a healthy metabolism.
Dietary changes can help patients manage common treatment side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea and sore throat. However, the effects of cancer vary by patient. Therefore, a mesothelioma cancer diet will be personalized based on an individual’s treatment plan and other factors.
Chemotherapy side effects, in particular, are often a concern for mesothelioma patients. Chemotherapy can cause:
- Changes to taste
- Mouth sores
- Trouble chewing
- Trouble swallowing
A dietitian can help patients adjust eating habits to accommodate these side effects.
Side Effects of Diet Changes
Diet changes may cause their own side effects separate from those caused by treatment. Patients should discuss diet side effects with their physician. Changes to a patient’s diet may impact their metabolism and cause headaches, weight loss and other changes. 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?
Doctors may recommend mesothelioma patients adjust their eating habits to ease treatment side effects. Changes in diet may include eating more nutrient-rich fruits such as strawberries and blueberries. Colorful vegetables such as yams and squash may also be part of a recommended mesothelioma diet. Patients may also benefit from eating more high-protein foods such as nuts, eggs and tofu.
A doctor or dietitian will 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-fat diet to combat chemotherapy weight loss. A mesothelioma survivor who is not receiving treatment would likely have a different diet plan, customized to their needs.
Meal Plan for Mesothelioma Patients
A patient’s healthcare team and/or dietitian can work with them 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 come up with meal plans to meet their nutritional needs.
Tips for recovering from 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 a number of factors, including:
- The specific side effects they are experiencing
- The type of treatments they are undergoing/underwent
- 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 will often refer patients to a dietitian or certified nutritionist for specialized care.
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 healthy diet. This includes things such as fruit, 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.
Different types of food groups may be incorporated into a mesothelioma diet due to various benefits, including:
- Berries and other fresh fruits: These are high in nutrients, such as vitamins and antioxidants and provide many nutritional benefits.
- 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 decrease inflammation.
- 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.
- Protein and calories: Mesothelioma patients may lack adequate protein and calories due to 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.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats from foods such as salmon, nuts and plant oils may help with inflammation and cell development.
- Dietary supplements: Supplements can be especially helpful if a patient has an allergy to certain mesothelioma diet foods. Types of supplements include snack bars, protein drinks and supplemental shakes.
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.
04. Foods to Avoid
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 prevent and fight cancer. They may also increase the risk of developing cancer.
Some foods mesothelioma patients may want to avoid include:
- 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 support the body to fight cancer.
- 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.
- Alcohol: Patients may be advised to limit or avoid alcohol. This is because it can damage DNA. It may also cause complications when taken with certain medication.
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.
05. Food Safety
Food Safety for Mesothelioma Patients
Mesothelioma patients must be cautious when handling and consuming certain foods. Mesothelioma cancer and mesothelioma treatment can weaken the body’s immune system. This may make patients more susceptible to foodborne illness. Proper food safety measures can help improve the safety of the patient’s food.
Food Handling Tips
Cleaning Foods and Other Items
- Do not use soap, detergents or commercial produce rinses to wash food
- Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water, even if they come pre-washed
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after preparing food
- Always use a clean knife when cutting different foods
- 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, sealed and away from ready-to-eat food
Cooking and Cooling Foods Properly
- 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
Proper food safety can minimize 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. Symptoms of foodborne illness, also called “food poisoning,” may include:
- Achy muscles
- Frequent vomiting
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 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also reports dangerous foods and issues recalls.
Mesothelioma patients may also want to avoid certain food entirely due to risk of contamination. This 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.
06. 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 catered 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 will work together to create a comprehensive treatment plan, including 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.