The idea that cancer patients face a whole host of concerns in the midst of their illness is hardly a revelation. Not only is the disease itself painful and taxing, but so too are the corresponding treatments. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause any number of side effects, including stiffness, fatigue, hair loss, and digestive issues. One of the less commonly discussed problems, however, is the loss of weight during treatment.
While the idea of weight loss may seem like a minor inconvenience in comparison to some of the other issues facing patients, it is extremely important that those fighting a major illness like cancer maintain their body’s resources to promote healing and a speedy recovery. It’s also possible that the doctor providing your treatment could decide to press pause on your treatment until your weight returns to a healthy level, a frustrating possibility for someone looking to subdue their disease. Keep reading to learn how meal replacement shakes can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight during your cancer treatment.
Causes of Weight Loss in Cancer Patients
The growth of cancer cells and the physiological changes that go along with treatments can cause a laundry list of symptoms that ultimately lead to weight loss. Cancers of the mouth or throat can lead to difficulty chewing or swallowing, making solid food a chore to consume. Radiation and chemo can cause sores in the mouth, which can be uncomfortable for obvious reasons, and the treatments can cause a change in a person’s sense of smell or taste, potentially turning favorite foods into strange, unpleasant substances.
All of this is in addition to nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting that many patients experience, which only exacerbates weight loss. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, about 40 percent of those newly diagnosed with cancer experience weight loss, and about 80 percent of people with advanced cancer lose significant amounts of both fat and muscle, further jeopardizing their health at a time when they are particularly vulnerable.
How Meal Replacement Shakes Help with Weight Gain or Management
One of the virtues of meal replacement shakes is that they are usually formulated to provide a wide range of nutrients including the three main components of a healthy diet: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Each of these elements plays a key role in maintaining a healthy body weight, though as with any health or food product, the quality of ingredients matters. Those looking to gain weight – regardless of the reason – should take care to avoid added sugars, corn syrup, and other forms of harmful, energy-dense foods often used to boost calorie counts.
Sufficient Source of Protein
Your best bet is to look for natural, easily digested sources of protein. This macronutrient is essential for preserving muscle mass and keeping your weight up. It also has the added benefit of aiding the repair of cells, a crucial part of recovering from any illness, but especially from cancer; because chemotherapy cannot tell the difference between cancerous cells and healthy cells, it often destroys healthy tissue that then needs to be healed.
A word of caution, however: because protein can also lead to feelings of fullness and satiation, it can sometimes discourage the consumption of more food. To avoid this, try not to overdo your protein intake each meal; foods that provide a set amount of healthy protein in each serving can be helpful here. Bear in mind, though, that you should also avoid these foods right before a treatment because the nausea that follows them can lead to an aversion toward foods you can’t afford to ignore.
Healthful forms of fats can be incredibly effective at helping you gain weight without causing further damage to your body. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the types to look for, and they are found in a variety of products, including:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Avocado oil
Foods that are rich in fats are great for those looking to gain weight because they contain a high number of calories for their weight, a perfect benefit for those who can’t stomach large amounts of food; beware trans fats and saturated fats, though, as they are both plentiful in processed foods and are very unhealthy for you.
Healthy Forms of Carbohydrates
Like foods that are high in fats, those that contain healthy forms of carbohydrates are important for both gaining weight and fighting the fatigue that so often accompanies cancer treatment. Carbs derived from natural sources are ideal, as the more common, processed kinds – sugar and corn syrup being perhaps the worst offenders – will often leave you feeling drained after a quick spike in energy. Starch-based carbs, on the other hand, are one type that can add calories to your diet and fuel to your fight without compromising your overall health.
Find the Weight Management Tools That Work for You
In a battle against cancer, the last thing a patient should have to deal with is a complicated meal prep schedule. Those struggling with fatigue, pain, and nausea shouldn’t be forced into a crash course on nutrition, but neither should they let themselves waste away. ENU meal replacement shakes can help; their carefully formulated balance of whey and soy proteins, unsaturated fats, and complex carbs is great for those looking to gain or maintain weight levels, no matter the reason. To learn more about all ENU’s products, visit us online today.