Your diet is always an important factor in your health, but it is especially important when you are ill. Eating the right kinds and amounts of food can help you feel better and become stronger. Surgery or radiation may increase the need for nutrients, especially protein. Chemotherapy and even some types of medication, may result in a nutrient imbalance which may require specific replacement. Many mesothelioma patients lose their appetites due to worry and fear over their condition. Those who have begun treatment may not enjoy eating because of side effects such as nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, sore throat, changing taste or smell, or constipation.

Because your nutritional needs change during extended illness, your diet may need to change as well. The health care community recommends a general adult diet that is low in fat, includes small portions of meat and dairy products, and larger portions of fruits, vegetables, and grains. With diminished appetite during illness or therapy, it may not be possible to eat normally even though your need for calories and proteins has increased. Your doctor or dietician may advise that you concentrate on eating more meat, dairy products, and fats in order to consume enough proteins and calories. You may even need to cut back on fruits, vegetables, and grains in order to eat enough of these other foods.

During treatment, your doctor or dietician may recommend a special diet. These diets are intended to compensate for a particular deficiency you may be experiencing. Special diets may be assigned long or short term to address acute needs. Sometimes a pre-prepared nutritional formula, or vitamin and mineral supplements may be prescribed.

Remember, there are no steadfast nutrition rules during cancer treatment. Some patients may continue to enjoy eating and have normal appetite throughout most of their treatment. Others may have days when they don't feel like eating at all, and even the thought of food makes them sick. Following are some suggestions which may help:

  • When you are able to eat, eat meals and snacks with sufficient proteins and calories; they will help you keep up your strength.

  • Try eating frequent smaller meals throughout the day rather than fewer big ones. This may help you to eat more over the course of the day, yet you won't feel so full.

  • Many patients find their appetite is better early in the day. Consider having your main meal then and perhaps liquid meal replacements later in the day.

  • If you are able to eat only certain foods, stick with them until you are able to eat others. Try a liquid meal replacement for extra protein and calories.

  • If you don't feel like eating solid foods, try liquids such as juice, soup, or milkshakes, which can provide important calories and proteins. If eating whole fresh fruits is a problem, for instance, try blending fruit into a milkshake. Also try softer, cool, or frozen foods such as yogurt or popsicles.

  • When you can't eat at all, don't worry about it. Get back to normal eating as soon as possible, but if your problem does not improve within a couple of days, be sure to notify your doctor.

  • Try to drink plenty of fluids, especially on those days when you don't feel like eating. Water is essential to your body's basic functioning. For most adults, 6-8 cups of fluid a day are a good goal.
Regular exercise may help your appetite. Check with your doctor for an exercise program which may be suitable for you. Only your doctor can determine whether you have anemia. A simple blood test which measures your hemoglobin is all that is necessary.

If you find yourself fatigued as a result of chemotherapy treatment, following are some hints to help you cope:
  • Plan your day so that you have time to rest.
  • Take short naps more often, rather than taking a long rest period.
  • Save your energy for tasks you feel are the most important.
  • Find new hobbies that are less physically demanding, such as reading or listening to music.
  • Take short walks or do light exercise.
  • Try meditation or yoga.
  • Eat as balanced a diet as possible; drink plenty of liquids.
  • Join a support group to learn how others deal with fatigue.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine.
  • Allow others to help with errands or chores.
  • Report any changes in your energy level to your doctor.

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