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Nutrition is important for everyone, because optimal nutrition allows your body to function at its best. If you're living with cancer, your immune system may already be compromised. This is why proper nutrition is essential during and after your treatment process.
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Southeastern Regional Medical Center (Southeastern), we understand that nourishing your body with healthful foods and a well-balanced diet is important for cancer patients. Therefore, our Nutrition Department strives to bring you individualized nutrition therapy as you receive your traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet
While going through cancer treatment, your body likely needs more "fuel" than normal in order to repair the effects of the various treatments. If you are unable to consume the fuel you need, your body will soon draw upon what it has stored. To prevent loss of lean mass and reduce challenges to your immune system, a balanced nutritional intake of high fiber foods, good fats, and low-fat animal and plant proteins is crucial in helping you be the best cancer fighter you can be.
“Staying nourished to support the fight against cancer is not always an easy task,” says Crystal Langlois CSO, RD, a registered dietitian at Southeastern. “Registered dietitians here at CTCA work one-on-one with every patient to meet them where they are at nutritionally speaking, and address any concern, question or issue a patient may have regarding ingestion, digestion, absorption and metabolism.”
Maintaining optimal nutrition can provide several benefits for people living with cancer, including:
- Minimize treatment interruptions
- Support immune function
- Improve tolerance to treatment
- Maintain or rebuild lean body mass
- Decrease your risk of infection
- Improve quality of life
- Help you recuperate faster
The Nutrition Team at Southeastern
The Nutrition Department at Southeastern is here to guide and support you as you strive to nourish your body with a healthy, well-balanced diet. Our goal is to help strengthen your body’s immune system by teaching good nutrition and setting goals based on your individual needs.
“From the first meeting with the patient we discuss an anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting diet and set the precedent that we are there for them and will be their nutrition resource,” says Langlois. “We support and guide our patients toward healthy intake as much as possible before, during and after treatment.”
The nutrition team at Southeastern also work closely with Chef Roy Khoo to develop and provide healthy, nutritious meals for CTCA patients and their caregivers. Gabbert and Chef Khoo also will perform culinary demonstrations for patients, guests and stakeholders. These demonstrations highlight Chef Khoo’s master culinary skills in preparing immune-boosting meals as Gabbert provides important nutrition information.
“Nutrition and culinary services naturally work synergistically,” says Langlois. “At CTCA the registered dietitians work closely with Chef Khoo to nurture the chef’s creative flair and desire to provide five-star service to our patients and guests.”
Your Nutrition Assessment & Plan
Upon your arrival at Southeastern, you will be scheduled to meet with one of our dietitians, who is a member of your overall Patient Empowered Care® Team. In the initial meeting, you will receive an individualized, comprehensive nutrition assessment and plan. The assessment may include:
- Laboratory analysis of the blood to determine the status of your immune system (immunocompetence) and protein stores.
- Nutrition interview to get insight into your appetite, food preferences, the status of your digestive system and any existing or potential complications.
- Nutrition anthropometrics to determine your percent of body fat and loss of lean tissue.
After the assessment, you and your dietitian will develop a personalized nutrition plan that is tailored to your individual needs. This plan aims to keep you strong and nutritionally healthy to help enable you to tolerate your treatments. Your dietitian will focus on preventing malnutrition, managing side effects of cancer treatment, recommending supplements and helping to find foods your body can tolerate.
Since we focus on treating the whole-person, our dietitians communicate regularly with other Southeastern departments. Your dietitian and your medical, surgical and/or radiation oncologist will work together to integrate nutrition therapies into your cancer treatment. The goal is to promote positive, healthy eating habits and enhance your overall well-being and quality of life.
Proactive Treatment for Side Effects
We understand that dealing with the side effects from your traditional cancer treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery, can sometimes be uncomfortable.
“We proactively address symptoms so that we may better support the patients with ways to minimize any symptoms or side effects as much as possible,” says Langlois.
Some common treatment symptoms include nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea. With vomiting and diarrhea, for example, your nutritionist will address the symptom, as well as make sure that you are not dehydrated and that your electrolytes are balanced.
At Southeastern, our nutrition team is encouraged to learn as much as we can to provide you with the most up-to-date scientific information and research. With an emphasis on proactive nutrition intervention, we aim to keep you nutritionally fortified before, during and after your cancer treatment.
Our dietitians provide several nutrition therapies designed to complement your traditional cancer treatments. Below are a few treatments that we provide:
Personalized Meal Plans
Adequate protein, calories and high-nutritive foods are essential during this time. As part of your care plan, your dietitian will recommend dietary options specific to you. The goal is to complement your traditional cancer treatments with the fortifying effects of nutrition support. Your dietitian will assess your daily goals for calories and protein, and make suggestions as to how you can best support these goals with foods of high nutritive value.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation
Vitamin and mineral supplements provide nutrients supplemental to your diet, and offer a boost where illness and stress may have depleted your body. Your dietitian may recommend supplements to replenish deficiencies, enhance wound healing and reduce toxic side effects. Each cancer patient's needs are different, but your dietitian may recommend daily dosages of various nutrients, including:
- Vitamin C
- Omega 3’s (EPA- Eicosapentaenoic acid)
- Vitamin D
Many of the supplements we recommend at CTCA hospitals come from our own line of 70 highly pure and potent nutritional supplements. CNCA supplements are science-based and abide by rigorous quality standards. These supplements were designed specifically with input from medical professionals to meet the needs of patients with compromised immune systems.
In addition to making dietary suggestions and helping design meal plans, our nutrition team provides continued support through education, including programs and classes on the relationship between a healthy diet and wellness. We empower you with information and guide you in maintaining proper nutrition.
Should you require nutrition support, the dietitians from the nutrition team at Southeastern, along with a physician, nurse and pharmacist, will work closely with you to make sure you receive proper nourishment. If you are unable to eat or digest food, we will provide nutrition parenterally (through a vein) or enterally (though a feeding tube).
Follow-up Nutrition Care
From the first moment you meet with a dietitian, the goal is to begin or enhance a diet and lifestyle which promote lifelong health. As part of the CTCA Survivorship Support Program, your dietitian offers suggestions regarding how to maintain a healthful, well-balanced diet at home after finishing your cancer treatment.
Your dietitian can help you with meal planning, grocery shopping tips, and diet and lifestyle changes that can help to support your overall wellness.
Our patients are also welcome to contact anyone in the Nutrition Department between treatments with any questions or concerns. You can also get in touch with your Care Manager at any time.