Nutrition for Brain Cancer Patients – Eating Better, Feeling Better, Living Better

NutritionWith so many things going on while battling a brain tumor, it’s challenging to pay attention to nutrition. To complicate things further, conventional treatments can cause some people to experience taste changes, which makes food choices and nutrition a moving target.

I am commonly asked by survivors and their caregivers if diet can be helpful in managing a brain tumor. While there is no definitive data showing that a specific diet can cure or slow the tumor, poor nutrition can impact your fitness, energy, and sense of well-being. When you focus on nutrition, you can give yourself a boost in body and in mind. Furthermore, taking charge of nutrition can be empowering because it’s an aspect of normal daily living that people can control. Eating foods that are high in protein and low in fat and sugar can raise your energy level and reduce fatigue. Some food combinations may also decrease nausea, vomiting, and constipation commonly experienced during treatment with chemotherapies, such as temozolomide. In my support group in San Francisco, we encourage people to share with the group their day-to-day experiences and how they have tackled dietary and nutrition issues. They teach me new approaches to eating every time we have this discussion.

Many excellent resources about nutrition exist including:

  • If you are receiving care at a facility with a dedicated brain tumor program, nutritionists will provide information and help with your nutrition plan. They are experts on foods that are high in antioxidants, vitamins and other important nutrients. They have recipes that target all the symptoms you may experience. They will provide an individualized food and nutrition plan, and are often available through the hospital email system when questions arise. Just ask the oncologist or nurse for a nutrition consultation.
  • The American Institute for Cancer Research, the Livestrong Foundation and Savor Health collaborated and developed a well written, beautifully illustrated cancer nutrition guide: Heal Well: A Cancer Nutrition Guide. http://www.aicr.org/assets/docs/pdf/education/heal-well-guide.pdf
  • The American Brain Tumor Association has a practical 7 point overview related to nutrition. Check it out here: http://www.abta.org/brain-tumor-treatment/side-effects/diet-nutrition.html
  • The American Cancer Society website has a comprehensive resource on nutrition. The writers also provide information on common questions about diet and cancer.
    http://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorshipduringandaftertreatment/nutritionforpeoplewithcancer/index?sitearea=M

About the Author: Mary Lovely Ph.D. RN, CNRNs