Mesothelioma Treatments

Proper Nutrition During Mesothelioma Recovery

One of the keys to long-term survival for mesothelioma patients is proper nutrition. While quality food is important for everyone, it is particularly important for cancer patients who are literally in the battle of their lives.

It's a question of energy. Just as combustible fuel runs most types of machinery, food runs biological machinery. In the same way that a poor grade of gasoline can cause an auto engine to lose power and operate inefficiently, so too does low-quality, highly-processed, low-nutrient food - or insufficient amounts of the right food - rob the body's ability to fight disease.

There are two primary causes of malnutrition in cancer patients:

  • Anorexia: not just a "psychological disease" associated with "supermodels" who are under constant career pressure to remain unhealthily thin, anorexia is a chronic loss of appetite that may have any number of causes. Cancer by itself can bring on anorexia for reasons not always understood; it may also be a side effect of radiation or chemotherapy.
  • Cachexia: this is a condition in which some factor - a pathogen, a parasite, or some other condition - is preventing the body from absorbing nutrients from the food ingested. It is possible for a patient with cachexia to eat several large meals a day and still wind up starving to death. The main symptom of this disorder is a wasting away of fat and muscle as the body literally cannibalizes itself in order to maintain its biofunctions.
  • These two conditions are why it is especially important for mesothelioma patients to eat foods that are dense in nutrients.

    Nutrient Dense Foods

    Any food that contains large amounts of nutrients in a relatively small mass are considered "nutrient dense." Sometimes these are known as "superfoods."

    One example of a "superfood" is the blueberry. It is a small fruit, but contains high levels of antioxidants, Vitamin C and potassium, as well as anti-inflammatory properties (chronic inflammation has been implicated in the development of cancer cells in a 2008 study conducted at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland).

    Foods that are dense in nutrients include:

    • Berries, particularly blueberries and boysenberries
    • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)
    • Leafy greens (spinach, collards, chard)
    • Salmon (wild Pacific Northwest only; avoid "farmed" salmon at all costs)
    • Flax seed and walnuts
    • Olive oil (extra virgin is best)
    • Green and black tea
    • Garlic
    • Tomatoes (fresh if in season; cooked in sauce or dried)

    As you may know, olive oil, garlic and tomatoes are all staples of Mediterranean cuisine; not coincidentally, people from Southern France and Italy, Sicily, Greece and Lebanon have much lower rates of cancer.

    The Role of Antioxidants

    It seems counter-intuitive, particularly in light of research indicating that cancer cells thrive in an oxygen-starved (anaerobic) environment, but oxygen is a highly-corrosive substance that can also do a great deal of damage. Oxygen therapy has been used successfully to fight cancer, but excess oxygen can damage healthy cells as well.

    A 2007 study at the Women's University in Sagami, Japan showed that high levels of the antioxidant polyphenol actually slowed the progression of mesothelioma in laboratory rats. The rats who experienced the slowest progression of the disease were ones fed large amounts of boysenberry, a hybrid of the loganberry and wild dewberry. This particular berry contains large amounts of the polyphenol antioxidant.

    Of course, boysenberries are only in season for a brief time, grow mainly on the West coast and are therefore rather expensive. However, green and black tea, beer, red wine, olive oil, dark chocolate, walnuts and peanuts (which is actually a type of bean) all contain high levels of this compound. It should be pointed out for those avoiding alcohol that the compounds in red wine are also found in grape juice.

    Those with mesothelioma can benefit from learning more about the role of antioxidants and nutrition in cancer treatment. We offer a free comprehensive packet that covers all aspects of mesothelioma treatment, including proper nutritional information for cancer patients. To receive this complimentary packet, simply fill out the form on this page.

    Supplements and Mesothelioma

    Many mesothelioma survivors such as Paul Kraus and Rhio O'Connor have written a great deal on how taking supplements such as vitamins and herbs have helped manage their disease. If you are having trouble getting food down because of the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, taking supplements may be necessary.

    Otherwise, supplements may be of great help in ensuring that you are getting the proper nutrients in the correct amounts. However, be certain that you understand any supplements you are considering, and have a discussion with your doctor before you start such a regimen.

    The primary difference between synthetic pharmaceuticals and natural herbs is that the latter contain several different chemical compounds, while the former are generally concentrated forms of a single compound from the same herbs. The point is that herbs, used improperly, can produce side effects and have possibly negative interactions as much as prescription drugs, so be sure and educate yourself beforehand and consult a licensed herbalist.

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