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Lung Cancer Treatments and Diet

written by: Vikas Vij • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/26/2011

Lung cancer treatments and diet are inseparable. A healthy, balanced diet can help the lung cancer patient to handle strong treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy more effectively.

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    Importance of Diet for a Lung Cancer Patient

    Lung cancer treatments and diet care should go hand in hand to ensure that the body can handle the treatment better. The natural immune system of the body works very hard to fight against malignant cells and strengthen healthy cells to survive the treatments. Whether the treatment option being used for lung cancer is surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, the body needs extra nutrition in all cases to manage the side effects of treatments.

    The patients of lung cancer should understand that nourishment for the body cannot be sufficiently provided with multi-vitamin supplements. Healthy diet is critically important to ensure that all the vital nutrients are supplied to the body. Medical researchers advise that high dosages of multi-vitamins should be avoided by lung cancer patients because there is a concern that some of them may interfere with the treatment. There is no conclusive evidence as yet, but most doctors advise that multi-vitamins containing high-dose antioxidants should be avoided by a patient undergoing treatment for lung cancer.

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    Supplement Pills Cannot Replace Healthy Meals

    One of the problems with depending on multi-vitamins and other nutrition supplementing pills is that certain nutrients may be consumed in excess. This may result in problems such as a dangerous build-up in the liver, or cause interference with the chemotherapy medication. It is important to note that several herbal and natural supplements may also cause an interference with lung cancer treatment. Various complex herbal extracts carry ingredients that may alter drug metabolism. This may result in an adverse interaction of the supplement with the chemo drugs and cause changes in the way the body should metabolize chemotherapy.

    Many experts are of the opinion that lung cancer treatments and diet management can help to achieve better response from the body. Sufficient calorie intake helps to maintain bodily strength when the patient is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Many doctors advise their patients to eat whatever they like to eat during chemotherapy. If too many restrictions are placed on diet, chances are that the patient may end up consuming lesser than desired calories. In specific cases, where the patient is unable to eat a sufficient meal, a nutrition supplement drink may be added to the diet in order to improve the daily vitamin intake.

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    Suggested Choice of Food and Drinks

    Lung cancer patients may opt for poultry, fish and red meat to boost their protein and iron intake. However, if the patient has a loss of appetite for them, other protein rich options are peanut butter, beans, cheese, nuts, eggs, yogurt and milk. Nuts and eggs are also good sources of vitamin B-complex, vitamin E and vitamin D. If the patient has a problem in eating warm dishes because the aroma can be sometimes nauseating during chemo treatment, the alternatives available are ice creams, yogurt, mild cheeses and other cold foods. Other cold dishes for major meals can be egg, tuna and chicken.

    Liquid intake is also very important during lung cancer therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy. These treatments can cause dehydration, and some chemo drugs may also result in kidney damage unless they are flushed out. The patient should drink sufficient amounts of water, and may try other nutritional drinks and sports drinks. Chicken soup is also a good option to improve liquid intake and it also helps to improve the body’s electrolyte balance.

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    Role of Fruit and Veggies in Prevention of Lung Cancer

    Recent research at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands has shown that a balanced diet that includes diverse fruit and vegetables may help to reduce the risk of lung cancer among smokers. It includes fresh, dried as well as canned fruit and veggies. Fruit and vegetables contain many bioactive compounds that strengthen the body’s immunity against malignancies. However, quitting smoking continues to be the primary way to reduce the risk of lung cancer, and reinforcement of a good diet is not a substitute to quitting smoking.