Mesothelioma Nutrition: Diet Can Help You Manage Radiation Side Effects

Cut veggies in a bowl

Although used to fight mesothelioma for its harsh effects on cancerous cells, radiation therapy can also be draining on the recipient’s entire body. Many studies have shown that dietary choices can help relieve some of the effects of radiation and work to improve the patient’s quality of life.

Patients who elect to undergo radiation as a form of mesothelioma treatment may alleviate some of the side effects through specific dietary adjustments as approved by their physician.

A diet comprised of high-protein and nutrient-rich foods can improve whole-body health and offset some of the toll that radiation takes on a patient’s body. Daily multivitamins and other supplements may also be incorporated when food intake alone does not supply enough nutrients to sustain the recovery process.

Even if overall appetite decreases, choosing quality foods can balance out the decreased quantity of food. Although they contain plenty of calories, “empty foods” such as candy bars and fast food meals deliver few of the crucial vitamins necessary for recovery. Instead, choosing a colorful variety of items from all the food groups – especially whole grains and protein – can provide the body with the strength it needs to fight cancer. Limiting salt, alcohol and caffeine intake is also important during and after radiation treatment.

Although radiation can be draining on a patient’s energy, cooking and grocery shopping on days when energy levels are normal can ensure the availability of nutritious, wholesome meals when activity is overwhelming. Nutritionists can help create shopping lists and plan meals that can be prepared in advance and frozen for later consumption.

Nausea and upset stomach are two of the most frequently reported side effects of mesothelioma radiation. Spicy and very flavorful foods or those with a high moisture content may maximize those issues. Patients should opt instead for drier choices such as toast or cereal without milk. Increasing protein intake ensures the body is able to function optimally. Meat, nuts and beans are excellent sources of protein that are easily incorporated into meals or snacks.

Radiation’s other side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, loss of appetite, tiredness, hair loss, anxiety and depression. To help counteract the nausea, patients may lie down after meals, eat foods that are neither too hot nor too cold and suck on peppermint candies. The loss of appetite often results in weight loss during or after treatment, yet it is crucial to maintain a healthy weight through adequate intake. When appetite is low, it is crucial to make every bite count by choosing foods with a high ratio of macronutrients such as fat, protein and carbohydrates.

While cancer patients may benefit greatly from these dietary adaptations, no changes should be made without the prior approval of a doctor or physician.


Joining the team in February 2008 as a writer and editor, Michelle Whitmer has translated medical jargon into patient-friendly information at Asbestos.com for more than eight years. Michelle is a registered yoga teacher, a member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, and was quoted by The New York Times on the risks of asbestos exposure. If you have a story idea for Michelle, please email her at michelle@asbestos.com.

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