March 25, 2021
Like most health conditions, esophageal cancer too can be dealt with more effectively by augmenting the treatment process with a nutritious diet that can help your body convalesce better.
The esophagus is an indispensable part of the digestive system as it acts as a bridge between the rear portion of your throat and your stomach. Needless to say, any ailment, let alone something as serious as cancer that affects the esophagus, can quickly become a cause of great anguish. According to the American Cancer Society*, approximately 21,560 new esophageal cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2023.
Esophageal cancer treatment produces side effects that can impact an individual's ability to eat and absorb essential nutrients. These challenges can have a profound effect on their overall health and recovery.
In this blog post, we will share a few strategies which individuals can follow to ensure adequate nutritional intake. Read on to learn more.
It is a common side effect of esophageal cancer, characterized by swallowing difficulty. It becomes challenging for individuals to consume solid foods, leading to reduced calorie and nutrient intake.
Esophageal cancer and its treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, etc., can cause weight loss which may result in malnutrition. Reduced appetite, difficulty in swallowing, and changes in taste and smell can also contribute to inadequate nutrient intake. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, impairs wound healing, and reduces the body's ability to tolerate treatment, ultimately affecting overall health and recovery.
Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can lead to gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. These symptoms can further decrease appetite, disrupt normal digestion, and impact the absorption of nutrients.
Swallowing disorders may make it challenging for individuals to consume enough fluids, leading to dehydration. Lack of adequate hydration can exacerbate side effects such as fatigue, weakness, and electrolyte imbalance.
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Consult with a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology and can provide personalized guidance and support. They can assess individual nutritional needs and help people navigate their dietary challenges.
Experiment with softer, pureed, or blended foods to combat swallowing difficulties. Incorporating smoothies, soups, and mashed or pureed fruits and vegetables can help provide the necessary nutrients.
Consuming smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large meals can help alleviate discomfort and make eating easier. This approach ensures a steady intake of nutrients and prevents feelings of fullness.
Individuals should include nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods in their diet, which is essential for energy production and helps deal with fatigue. Lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of protein. Healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and nuts can provide additional healthy calories.
Those who are unable to have adequate food due to appetite loss or dysphagia should consider supplements after consulting with their healthcare provider or dietitian. These supplements may include protein shakes, liquid meal replacements, or specialized formulas designed for cancer patients.
Individuals undergoing esophageal cancer treatment should always consult their healthcare team for personalized advice and guidance tailored to their specific needs.
While maintaining good nutrition during esophageal cancer treatment can be challenging, it's a critical aspect of the recovery process. Seek support from loved ones, join support groups, and consult with a registered dietitian for additional guidance. For any queries or concerns about cancer diagnosis, treatment, or managing side effects, contact ACTC, one of the best cancer centers in Florida.
* Esophageal Cancer Screening (PDQ®). (2023, June 16). National Cancer Institute.