Making Wise Food Choices When Going Through Cancer

Immune system

Immune system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Today I am featuring a guest post by David he is a writer and awareness advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and has been studying and blogging about nutrition and fitness for cancer patients.  You can find his blog and bio at http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/david/. I hope you enjoy his article, because I sure did!

Food safety is important for everyone, not just for those going through cancer. Viruses, parasites and bacteria can contaminate the food you eat if you don’t take adequate precautions to keep yourself safe. Since cancer patients often undergo chemotherapy, medication or radiation to help them fight their disease, the result can be a weakened immune system.

A Properly Functioning Immune System is Necessary for Cancer Patients

Over the course of your disease, cancer can weaken the immune system. When you add the potential for further weakness from possible treatments, food safety and wise food choices becomes especially important. A properly functioning immune system is necessary to keep infection and foreign pathogens out of the body, but if cancer treatments have weakened your immune system, that makes you more susceptible to infection and foodborne illnesses.

Proper nutrition during cancer treatments results in many benefits. It can improve your quality of life, increase your energy levels and give you a better outlook. It can increase your stamina, improve how you look and make you feel better. When you feel better, you’re more likely to take better care of yourself, and that includes getting enough sleep and exercise. With proper nutrition, your body will be better equipped to fight against the cancer.

Making Wise Food Choices

Some foods are healthier and less risky than others. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, foods most likely to contain harmful viruses and bacteria fall into the following two categories.

1. Unpasteurized milk (raw milk), soft cheeses made from raw milk, uncooked or undercooked eggs, and deli-type salads prepared without preservatives at your local grocery store can all cause problems.

2. Uncooked, fresh fruits and vegetables can also be problematic.

Since cancer therapies and mesothelioma treatment side effects can place an extra burden on your immune system, the USDA recommends you always drink pasteurized milk in order to avoid potential food contaminants. In addition, you should use pasteurized egg products when preparing recipes that call for raw eggs and avoid eating raw cookie dough. Don’t make eggnog at home with raw eggs and avoid homemade Caesar-type salad dressings.

Unsafe cheeses are varieties made from raw milk such as Feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican varieties such as Queso fresco. Always thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables, including the salad mixes that come in factory-sealed bags. The USDA also advises cancer patients not to eat raw sprouts. They should always be cooked.

While making wise food choices can’t guarantee you will never become ill, taking adequate precautions to help keep yourself safe will give you a fighting chance to win against the odds.

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Exercise

Billy Blanks

Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite activities to do is going to the gym. It is a great stress reliever and I enjoy it. I have been working out since I was 15. I would come home from school and do my Tae Bo tape. I can still hear Billy Blanks saying come on 8 more! Now, while I would go exercise my friends would go get fast food. I didn’t eat the healthiest in high school, but what high school student does? I continued to workout through college til now. I loved the rec center at Kent State. It had the Tredmills and ellipticals separate from the weights and it was big and open. I was determined not to gain the dreaded freshman 15, which I didn’t. College was when I started to watch more of what I ate and started eating better. I’m sure my nutrition classes helped too. I worked out all throughout my pregnancies up until the day I delivered. Now I go to the gym three days a week. I usually lift weights and do the elliptical. I would like to go more, so maybe I will work on that. There have been sometimes when I didn’t want to go workout, but I tell myself if after five minutes I still don’t want to be there then I’ll leave. Usually when I do that I end up staying for my whole workout. Exercising just makes me feel better. If I haven’t exercised in awhile I just am not in a good mood, ask my husband if you don’t believe me!
Many people will come up with any excuse not to exercise. “I’m too tired.” “I don’t have time.” “I don’t like to workout.” You don’t have to go to the gym to workout. Even if you walk, that counts as exercise. Exercising gives you more energy. So if you are tired try going for a little walk. No time? Make time! Nothing bad can come from exercising, except for maybe some sore muscles. I’ve had my fair share of torn tendons and sore muscles. I was in physical therapy for almost a year for torn tendons in my hips, butt and knee. It was from overuse and the fact that I didn’t stretch after working out. Needless to say I stretch now and haven’t had any problems since.
Go out and do something active today!

Portion control

Shut yo face!

Portion sizes over the years have gotten bigger and bigger. As a result so has the waistline of many American’s. Here’ a link to a website showing how portions have changed from 20 years ago.

A coke used to be an 8oz bottle and now they come in 20 oz bottles. A bagel was 3 inches in diameter and now they are 5-6 inches in diameter and 200 or more calories. Not only has portion sizes increased but so has our plates, cups and bowls. The average size of our plates today are 12-13 inches in diameter, compared to 9 inches in the 1960’s. I just measured our plates and they are 11 inches in diameter. With added portion sizes and bigger plates comes more food and more overeating. Did all these changes help to contribute to the obesity epidemic? I think so…but that’s another topic for another day.

So how do you know what is considered a portion size?

3 oz of meat (chicken, beef) is the size of a deck of cards
3oz of fish is the size of a checkbook
2 tablespoons of peanut butter is the size of a ping pong ball
1 cup of fruit/ vegetable and a medium size piece of fruit is the size of your fist
1 cup of salad is the size of a baseball
1 oz of cheese is the size of 3 dice
1 oz of nuts is the size of a handful (not overflowing)
1 pancake is the size of a cd
1/3-1/2cup pasta or rice is the size of an ice cream scoop
1 baked potato is the size of a computer mouse

These are just some examples. Here a link with a printable handout from the American Heart Association.

So the next time you are at a restaurant you can compare the portion sizes of your meal to what a real portion should be. When you do eat out you can always split a meal with someone or ask for a to go bag as soon as you get your meal and put half of your meal in the bag.

Listeria

 
Listeria monocytogenes

Image by AJC1 via Flickr

Listeria, you’ve probably heard it in the news lately. Listeria is a foodborne illness caused by bacteria.It infects about 2500 Americans each year and 500 of those infected die.  It can cause fever and diarrhea in those without compromised immune systems. Those who are at the most risk are the elderly, pregnancy women, and newborns. Symptoms include septicemia, meningitis and may result in a spontaneous abortionstill birth and fetal/newborn meningitis. Sources for Listeria are from the soil, water, plants, cold damp environments, humans, domestic and wild animals. Listeria can be found in unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses (feta, blue cheese, brie), raw vegetables, poultry/meat, seafood, deli meats, and hot dogs. Ways of prevention are use pasteurized milk and dairy products, cook food to proper internal temperature (including deli meats), avoid cross contamination, sanitize surfaces and wash raw vegetables.