The popular saying goes: “You are what you eat.”
There’s truth in that, whether you are a person without a known illness or someone living with mesothelioma. What you fuel your body with can directly impact your workouts, mood, energy level and recovery time between cancer treatments.
As personal trainers, we have another motto: “Good health is 80 percent nutrition and 20 percent fitness.” That’s also true.
My job is only about 20 percent of your overall health. While I can suggest a proper diet to follow, it’s nearly impossible for me to control what you eat when you leave the gym. You have to do that on your own. So if you’re facing a mesothelioma diagnosis, how do you properly fuel your body to allow for high quality workouts and the highest quality of life?
Also, what foods will upset your stomach?
Full disclosure: I am not a dietician. I’m a personal trainer in the profession of health speaking from experience. I witnessed my stepfather, Jeff, battle mesothelioma and lose the fight.
I offer my suggestions based on the foods he ate, those that made him feel sick and those that worked for him.
Sugar and Cancer
Cutting back on sugar is something constantly talked about on television, in magazine articles, among friends trying to lose weight and between those fighting cancer.
There is a misconception that sugar feeds cancer. But it’s really a misunderstanding. Sugar by itself does not change cancer cell growth.
“Sugar doesn’t make cancer grow faster. All cells, including cancer cells, depend on blood sugar (glucose) for energy,” the Mayo Clinic website shows. “But giving more sugar to cancer cells doesn’t speed their growth. Likewise, depriving cancer cells of sugar doesn’t slow their growth.”
It’s also important to understand the differences between sugar as we know it, the white crystalized product we add to coffee, and the large amount of the ingredient added to highly processed and refined foods.
“The typical American diet is high in many processed and refined foods, including sugar and white flour,” according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “Replacing these foods with healthy forms of carbohydrates, such as fruits and whole grains, is advised for people who have had cancer. However, being fearful of or restricting intake of certain foods that contain natural sugars is not necessary or healthful.”
That’s the key. You shouldn’t have to cut out sugar completely, but limit the amount of processed foods high in sugar and which contain a ton of empty calories. That includes candy bars, processed cereals and sodas. All these should be avoided when dealing with mesothelioma.
Besides containing natural sugars, fruits have other necessary nutrients like fiber, which promotes good health. Organic fruits are encouraged as long as they are not too tart. Many people undergoing chemotherapy develop sores in their mouths and the tartness of the fruit may irritate those sores.
Please note that I said organic fruits. These are devoid of any insecticides or other pollutants that could hurt you. They might be a little expensive at a local Whole Foods, but it’s your health we’re talking about.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can weaken the stomach, so certain foods should be approached with caution. While grapefruits, oranges, and lemons are still healthy, they are more acidic than other fruits and harder on the digestive system.
Don’t Make It too Spicy
As far as the actual meat and potatoes of your recommended nutrition, bland foods are the best bet if you’re living with mesothelioma.
The treatment can make you sensitive to taste or smell. I remember I’d have to eat out a lot when Jeff was going through his battle because if I cooked, the smell could make him sick.
Keep seasoning at a minimum if at all. Most of the time seasonings are packed with sodium and the overpowering taste can often be too much to handle with an increased sensitivity to taste.
Bland vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, asparagus and cauliflower are all solid options to keep the diet balanced. White meats such as organic chicken, turkey and wild caught deep-water white fish are good sources of protein.
Oatmeal, sweet potatoes and brown rice are a great source of carbohydrates to add to the diet as well. They don’t have an overpowering smell and they increase satiety when eating.
A balanced diet, including the options I’ve discussed, is not only great for a person with cancer, but for anyone. Remember, 80 percent of being healthy is about what you put into your body.
The better choices you make in the kitchen, the healthier you’ll be and the more efficient you’ll be during workouts as well.
Eat right, workout smart. Never Give Up!