Why a Healthy Lifestyle Matters
Treatment for lung cancer depends on the type and stage of cancer you have, and may include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). While you’re undergoing treatment, it’s essential to take care of your body and practice healthy lifestyle habits like eating well, exercising, and managing stress. Doing so can help you manage side effects, improve quality of life, and stay well, both physically and emotionally, during and after treatment.
Try these tips to maximize your health and well-being and better cope with the effects of lung cancer and its treatment.
Not all lung cancers are caused by smoking, but smoking damages the lungs and has significant effects on your overall health as well as your ability to breathe. If you have lung cancer and you smoke, quit, advises Kathleen Sheridan Russell, a collaborative care project coordinator at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
It’s never too late to quit and doing so can improve your chances of your lung cancer treatment being successful, according to a 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal. The ALA recommends that you also avoid second-hand smoke.
Cancer can affect your appetite, and you may not always feel like eating before, during, or after treatment. However, it’s important to get the essential nutrients your body needs and to maintain a healthy intake of calories to ensure you don’t lose too much weight, according to the ALA. A review published in January 2016 in the journal Lung Cancer: Targets and Therapy notes that people with lung cancer who don’t maintain sufficient dietary intake of valuable nutrients may reduce their chances for successful treatment.
For example, according to Jonathan Goldman, MD, a health sciences clinical instructor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, your body uses protein to regenerate and rebuild cells that are broken down during treatment. So it’s vital that while you’re going through treatment, you eat enough protein — each serving should look and feel like a deck of cards, says Carolyn Katzin, MS, CNS, an integrative oncology specialist and nutritionist at the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology. Try fish, which is easy to digest, poultry, turkey, or grass-fed beef or lamb, and avoid processed meat, she advises.
Also, choose foods that have a low glycemic load, says Katzin. The glycemic load is an estimate of how much a particular food will raise a person’s blood glucose level after they eat it. It’s also important to help maintain the health of your digestive tract by eating foods with plenty of fiber, she adds. She recommends substituting a piece of whole fruit for fruit juice or, if you must have fruit juice, drinking the type with pulp. Other healthy snack options include: brown rice cakes with almond butter, oatmeal, or applesauce, she notes.
If you need help with your diet, work with a dietitian who can help develop a meal plan that fits your needs.