Nutrition and Exercise after Breast Cancer Surgery
By Razia Sanwari
After breast cancer surgery, it is vital that you take good care of your body because nutrition and exercise play a crucial role in improving the quality of life as well as increasing survival rate. Therefore, the treatment plan for a breast cancer patient includes a healthy diet and regular exercise. It is believed that chemotherapy, radiation and other medical treatments have a better chance of working if they are supported by a strong and healthy body.
Generally, cancer patients suffer from a loss or increase of appetite and eating can be a chore for some because of change of taste due to strong drugs. After surgery, it would serve well to get your doctor to recommend a nutritionist who can chart out a diet plan for you. During the recovery period, you cannot afford to starve your body of important nutrients. Good nutrition will aid in better recovery. And eating the right type and well-balanced food is what is required.
Following chemotherapy, the body has taken a beaten and so, is all topsy-turvy. And the most common side effects of this therapy are nausea and vomiting. Therefore, the patient finds it difficult to eat a normal meal. It is advisable to eat in small portions for more often in a day than three large meals. Try simple soups, smoothies, milkshakes and juices if you find it difficult to eat solid foods. These will provide you adequate nutrition, too. Go for a short walk before lunch for it will help you build up an appetite.
Eat healthy. Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Stay away from very spicy or acidic foods. Daily fiber intake is advisable to be around 25 to 25 gms of insoluble and soluble fiber.
It is generally recommended that for recovery you must have more protein than usual because it aids in cell repair, fights infection and heals surgical cuts. You can find ways to increase the amount of protein in your daily diet by drinking protein shakes or eating high-protein snacks such as almonds, cheese, peanuts.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially mint or ginger tea, because these will help in controlling nausea. Do not drink large amounts of fluid in one go but take it in small sips which will help settle your stomach.
After chemotherapy, the breast cancer patient will eat less and is less active. Hence, the chance of constipation increases in this case. Therefore, it is advisable to have high-fiber foods such as wholemeal bread, breakfast cereals, fresh fruits, dried fruits, beans and lentils.
Some patients may, however, go down with diarrhea. In such a situation, doctors advise lowering the intake of high-fiber food and fruits and vegetables. They must drink plenty of fluids.
You may be advised to avoid fatty food intake because some studies show that a low-fat diet may lower the chance of the cancer recurring. This works on the principle that high-fat diet means an increase in calories which can lead to obesity and this is believed to increases chances of certain types of cancer coming back. Also reduce intake of cured, pickled and smoked foods.
Include antioxidants in your diet. Broccoli, liver, mangoes, cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, artichokes, beans, walnuts, pecans are among the list of food rich in antioxidants. They protect the cells from damage.
Higher levels of carotenoids, the natural colorings in plants, can lower breast cancer risks. Food rich in carotenoids include carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, papaya, peppers, tomatoes and kale.
Regain control over your body and mind with exercise. After surgery, the body is weak and lethargic and the morale down. Perk up your mood and body with exercise which is seen to keep away side-effects of treatment like lymphoedema, weight gains, fatigue and osteoporosis. A good workout improves your sense of wellbeing and gets rid of anxiety and depression. It is also believed to lower the risk of cancer coming back.
Your exercise routine will have to depend on the surgery you have had and the fitness level of your body. So, before starting on any kind of activity, consult your doctor. After lumpectomy, usually precautions are minimal but if you have had the lymph nodes removed, then you may need to be a little more cautious because overuse of the arms should be avoided.
Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, start with gentle exercises first, like short walks. Increase the intensity as you go along. Other than walking, you can also cycle, go in for gentle yoga, swimming, water aerobics, gardening, etc. The training duration should be about 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
It is advised to be regular with your exercise routine. Because a good workout will boost your energy and bring that zing back into your life!