Saturday, 16 May 2015

Healthy eating tips for cancer patients

By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 15 May 2015

MANY cancer patients think it is normal to lose a lot of weight during treatment.

But it is not. Shed more than 5 per cent of your body weight and you could reduce your body's ability to battle the disease.

To correct this misconception, the Singapore Cancer Society and healthcare company Abbott have compiled a booklet containing healthy eating tips for cancer patients.

These include ways to combat weight loss, and problems such as loss of appetite and nausea that cancer patients face.

The booklet will be given to newly diagnosed cancer patients and will also be made available to those undergoing treatment.

Eating right is important because the body sheds weight differently during cancer and finds it harder to put it back on, said Associate Professor Koo Wen Hsin from the National Cancer Centre Singapore.

"You lose not fat but lean muscle," he said. "Then, you tend to feel very weak and fatigued, like during a bout of bad flu."

And as cancer patients tend to have a limited appetite for food, every mouthful matters.

"You should go for foods with high nutrition value but are low in volume, like fish, meat and eggs," Prof Koo said.

While vegetables are healthy and should not be left out, patients must consume a lot more of them to get the same nutritional impact.

In September, the Singapore Cancer Society will start cooking classes and nutrition training workshops for cancer patients and their caregivers. These will be held at its new rehabilitation centre in Jurong's Jem mall.

The centre's senior manager, Ms Susan Leen, said: "People get conflicting views from friends and relatives. Some people go to the extremes and go totally vegetarian, or take a lot of meat."

Mr Ricky Chiu was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 1997. During the month of intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he lost more than 10kg and consulted library books on what best to eat.

"I had nobody to advise me," said the 61-year-old former bus driver. "I had ulcers in my mouth, and whatever food I ate, I had difficulty swallowing because of the pain. And I couldn't taste anything."

Mr Chiu made a full recovery in a year, after eating plenty of fish and vegetables, and cutting down on oil and salt. It was not always tasty, he said, but it was necessary. "If I didn't eat, I would have had no energy to fight the cancer."

The "Eating Well During Cancer" booklet was launched today by SCS and Abbott and will be made available with the SCS...
Posted by Singapore Cancer Society on Thursday, May 14, 2015

Managing the diet
- Appetite loss
Eat several small meals throughout the day, instead of three large meals. When it is hard to eat, drink oral nutritional supplements, which are easy to consume and highly nutritious.
- Changes in sense of taste or smell
Serve food cold or at room temperature, as this can make the food taste or smell less strong. Try eating with plastic or porcelain cutlery if metal utensils leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
- Dry mouth
Eat steamed, stewed or soupy food. These are easier to swallow. Sucking ice cubes can also help relieve dryness. Do not use mouthwash containing alcohol, as this will make your mouth drier.
- Nausea
Do not skip meals, even if you are not hungry, because an empty stomach makes nausea worse for many people. Try to eat foods that do not have a strong smell and are not too sweet, spicy or greasy.
- Weight loss
Make every mouthful count. For example, spread margarine on crackers or add condensed milk to oatmeal. Instead of drinking tea or plain water, drink milk or soya milk.

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