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How Healthy Choices Aid in Cancer Treatment

  • January 15, 2015
  • 4 min read
How Healthy Choices Aid in Cancer Treatment

We all know the importance of nutrition and exercise. From enhanced physical health to improved energy and quality of life, diet and regular physical activity can go a long way in preventing disease and boosting longevity. However, while an active, healthy lifestyle can help keep illness at bay, factors like age, genetics and environmental factors often result in the development of cancer and other diseases. For example, a type of cancer called mesothelioma is typically caused by asbestos exposure. In fact, according to the Fight Mesothelioma blog, millions of Americans, no matter their lifestyle choices, have been put at risk for cancer due to workplace exposure to asbestos.

The fact is, healthy eating and physical activity won’t always protect us against cancer and other diseases. Thankfully, though, even in the face of illness, healthy lifestyle choices can provide significant benefits to health and well-being.  Keep reading to find out how nutrition and exercise can help aid in recovery and enhance quality of life.

Nutrition and Cancer Treatment 

Eating a nutrient-rich diet can provide enormous advantages to individuals undergoing treatment for cancer. For example, chemo, radiation and other therapies often produce symptoms like fatigue, nausea, extreme weight loss and digestive disturbances. A balanced diet can address these symptoms by boosting energy, aiding digestion and helping patients maintain a healthy weight. And while dietary needs can vary according to each patient’s needs, a healthy meal plan typically includes the following elements:

  • Fresh, colorful produce. Brightly-colored fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants. These foods can help boost immunity, enhance energy and promote healthy digestion.
  • Healthy protein. From helping the body repair damage to protecting the immune system, protein plays a number of roles in cancer recovery. Lean cuts of meat are best, as are the plant-based proteins found in beans and soy.
  • Complex carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates can provide clean, long-lasting energy, as well as help fight constipation and other complications. Whole grains like barley, brown rice and quinoa are all great options.
  • Water. Hydration is a major concern for individuals undergoing cancer treatment. Since side effects like vomiting and diarrhea can result in dehydration, drinking plenty of water is extremely important. Fruit and vegetable juices are recommended as well, as long as they’re 100% juice with no added sugar.


Cancer and Physical Activity

Like a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise can be extremely beneficial to individuals with cancer. For example, moderate exercise can provide advantages like the following: 

  • Increased appetite. For many cancer patients, severe weight loss is a primary concern. Physical activity promotes a healthy appetite, which can help patients maintain weight and fight disease more effectively.
  • Strength and endurance. Physical weakness is common among patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Aerobic workouts and muscle-building exercises can help improve health and quality of life by promoting enhanced strength and endurance.
  • Pain management. Exercise can stimulate the body’s production of endorphins and other “feel-good” chemicals; therefore, regular workouts help reduce the pain and discomfort associated with cancer.
  • Relief from stress, depression and anxiety. Understandably, a cancer diagnosis can lead to depression, anxiety and emotional stress. Exercise can help elevate mood, improve mental clarity and reduce stress and anxiety.

Getting Started

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, speak to your oncologist before beginning a diet or exercise regimen. For some patients, specifically those with mesothelioma and other types of lung cancer, shortness of breath may be an issue. However, the following tips can help, no matter your diagnosis. 

  • Stick to low-impact workouts. Walking, yoga, swimming and other types of low-impact exercise can provide all the benefits of more vigorous workouts, but are less stressful to the body.
  • Listen to your body. Avoid injury, overexertion and other complications by listening to your body. If you’re feeling ill or running a fever, skip your workouts until your’e feeling better.
  • Ask your doctor about special exercise programs. Some hospitals and gyms offer classes designed specifically for cancer patients. These programs help meet the unique needs of individuals battling cancer, and can be extremely effective in aiding recovery.

While diet and exercise are powerful tools in preventing disease, they can also be used in the treatment of cancer and other illnesses. Indeed, with the tips provided here, cancer patients can use nutrition and physical activity in improving health, promoting recovery and enhancing quality of life.

 Article by Jennifer Smith

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