Getting a breast cancer diagnosis is emotionally, mentally and physically taxing. Sometimes it feels like all you can do is get through the day, making chemotherapy or radiation appointments, meeting doctors and trying to stay sane for friends, family and children.
But while your main goal is getting rid of the cancer and earning coveted survivor status, you can’t forget to eat well. In fact, by doing so, you give yourself a much better chance of beating cancer! Or at least outliving your diagnosis. Eating right supplies your body with the vitamins and nutrients you need to keep energy up, boosts your immune system and generally makes you feel better. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here’s a brief primer on how to do so.
The Importance of Diet
The right food not only gives you energy; it’s also full of necessary vitamins and nutrients. Most people misunderstand the role of vitamins and nutrients, so let’s tackle that first. In a nutshell, your body uses vitamins and nutrients to many ends:
- Keeping cells healthy
- Getting rid of sick or dead cells
- Creating the immune system agents needed to fight cancer
- Creating energy through a variety of different processes
- Detoxifying your body and more
A healthy diet is also strong in the protein you need to build muscles and create new cells; the fat you need to aid digestion, keep cell walls healthy and create energy stores; and the carbohydrates you need for both short- and long-term energy. In other words, eating the right foods is vital to your body functioning properly.
Moreover, eating right can help you combat many of the side effects that come with cancer, as well as boosting the effectiveness of a range of treatments. If you want to get well, food is critical.
Plan Ahead to Account for Fatigue
Having breast cancer is often exhausting, and many treatments only make you feel sicker and more tired. Unfortunately, this actively works against your ability to make good food. Therefore it’s very important to plan ahead and find ways to have healthy food on hand for times when you aren’t able to cook or prepare it yourself. Ideas include:
- Setting up meal trains with friends, family, coworkers or parents at your kids’ daycare to bring meals by regularly
- Keep healthy, pre-prepared snacks on hand, like cut veggies, soups, whole grain bread and full-fat cheese
- Take recommended multivitamins to supplement for vitamins and nutrients you aren’t able to get through food
- Keep a stool or chair near the kitchen to sit on while cooking in case you lose energy
By using these tricks, you’ve got a better chance of eating well even when you’re not feeling your best.
Learn to Eat Even When Nauseous
Cancer treatments are known for causing both nausea and vomiting, which puts you at a greater risk of not getting enough of the energy and nutrients you need to stay well. Even if you don’t get sick or vomit, you may just experience a loss of appetite that makes food unappealing. If you find you have trouble with food and your appetite is off, stick to a schedule. Decide when you’ll eat and set alarms or mark it on your calendar, then do it. If you vomit, try to eat again soon after. Opt for soothing foods such as rice, lentils, bone broth, applesauce or mashed sweet potato.
Luckily, there is an easy trick that will help you keep food down much more reliably, and it really is surprisingly simple: Be aware of how the tastes and smells of food affect you. Broccoli might be one of the best foods for fighting cancer, for instance, but if it makes you want to throw up it isn’t worth much. Know which foods trigger your sense of taste and smell negatively and avoid them so you don’t end up losing other valuable food you are able to keep down.
If you want to learn more about fighting breast cancer through food, check out this article. It will help you make a reliable, detailed plan for keeping food down, staying full, keeping energy up and maintaining the level of vitamins and nutrients you need to live longer and possibly beat cancer entirely. May you be well!