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Mesothelioma patients have concerns about loss of appetite during treatment. In most patients, mesothelioma and its treatment cause loss of appetite in what is referred to as anorexia. Several factors could lead to loss of appetite in mesothelioma patients. Some of them include a lack of willingness to eat due to depression, tumor growth, pain, difficulty swallowing, and changes in smell and taste. Apart from the condition itself, the treatment could also be a cause of appetite loss. For instance, chemotherapy can cause the normal cells in your stomach, mouth, and intestines to be destroyed or interfered with. The destruction of normal cells will hurt your normal functioning, including your appetite.
Besides, such conditions will make the foods and fluids you consume taste different. In most cases, the foods might have a bitter or metallic taste. This won’t appeal to your mouth, making it difficult to enjoy your food and drinks. Most mesothelioma patients say the bad taste in their mouth is a major reason they don’t eat much. In some rare cases, however, mesothelioma treatment might make food taste better than it is. While chemotherapy will affect your appetite, your desire to eat will gradually improve after you complete the treatment. You will start regaining your appetite around two to six weeks after chemotherapy is complete.
Loss of Appetite in Mesothelioma Patients
Loss of appetite is one of the common symptoms of mesothelioma. While mesothelioma is an aggressive but rare type of cancer, its symptoms can easily be mistaken for other illnesses. What makes mesothelioma different from other forms of cancer is its cause. Research shows that mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral widely used in manufacturing industries such as shipbuilding and construction. Thanks to its important role in production, the mineral has been used for over a century. Despite its tensile strength, heat resistance, and solid insulating properties, asbestos was proven highly toxic in the 20th century. However, before its danger was discovered, millions of people had already been in contact with the mineral.
When asbestos interacts with other minerals, it releases fibers into the air. The intoxicated air is inhaled or swallowed, finding its way into the human body. Unfortunately, the human body cannot effectively eliminate asbestos fibers, meaning they become trapped in the system. The fibers start circulating in the body, finding their way into the mesothelial cells. As a reaction to fiber entry, mesothelial cells gather around organs and form a tactile membrane that moistens them — it is known as the mesothelium. After some time, the fibers start irritating the cells, which can lead to peritoneal mesothelioma (the formation of tumors in the abdomen), pleural mesothelioma (the formation of tumors on the lining of the lungs), and testicular mesothelioma (formation of tumors on the tunica vaginalis testis), or pericardial mesothelioma (formation of tumors on the linings of the heart). Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common form of mesothelioma, and appetite loss is one of its major symptoms.
You can start experiencing the first sign of mesothelioma many years after being exposed to asbestos. This is why symptoms like loss of appetite are often mistaken for other conditions. Most people don’t understand the loss of appetite in mesothelioma patients. While its treatment plays a role in causing appetite loss, the major culprit is the growth of tumors in the abdomen. Besides, the buildup of fluid in the abdomen is also a major cause of appetite loss. Due to these conditions, the organs in your abdomen are pressured to have less space to operate. This means that they will not function properly. As the stomach shrinks and reduces in size, you will start experiencing a loss of appetite. The loss of appetite will not be abrupt; it happens gradually with time. Apart from the stomach shrinking, other factors could also contribute to loss of appetite in mesothelioma patients. For instance, emotional problems like anxiety, stress, or depression due to mesothelioma could significantly affect their appetite. Thankfully, there are several ways you can manage the loss of appetite when battling mesothelioma.
Management of Loss of Appetite in Mesothelioma Patients
While the loss of appetite is likely when you have mesothelioma, you can manage it and enjoy food like before. You need to eat as much food as possible to maintain your physical health. Mesothelioma patients that eat well seem to cope much better with the condition. Besides, they look healthy like anybody else. If you are experiencing severe appetite loss and you find something that tastes good, eat it. Starting with foods that taste good will help you start diversifying your meals as you deal with appetite issues. While research on an ideal cure for mesothelioma continues, there are several treatments designed to reduce the symptoms associated with the condition.
Besides, these treatments help improve your life expectancy and quality of life. Some of the common treatment methods include surgery to remove tumors, radiation, or chemotherapy. Chemo or radiation can be administered alone, after, before, or during the surgery. However, if the condition has already advanced to severe stages, doctors might recommend palliative care. Thankfully, a good number of patients have mesothelioma that can be managed. This means it hasn’t yet advanced to severe stages. Even so, loss of appetite can be experienced in the early stages of mesothelioma. Therefore, you have to manage it regardless of the level of advancement. If you are experiencing appetite loss, you should discuss the ideal way to fight the condition with your dietitian or physician.
One way to counter appetite loss is to eat smaller amounts of food several times a day. Besides, doctors advise that you eat high-calorie foods that are rich in proteins. This is beneficial because it improves your appetite. Addressing the emotional causes of appetite loss is also important for your health. When you address some of the things causing you stress, you will become more active and be able to enjoy meals again. You will also be thrilled to try out new recipes. A dietitian might recommend extra nutritional supplements that help stabilize the levels of nutrients and vitamins in your body. Therefore, you should let your dietitian know about the foods you are taking and find out if they add nutritional value. When supplied with the necessary nutrients, your body will cope with mesothelioma much better. You can also take advantage of medications that help increase your appetite in the short term. However, you should be careful when using appetite loss medications because some of them might not be ideal for mesothelioma patients.
In times of severe conditions like mesothelioma, most of the previous food restrictions might no longer be necessary or appropriate. If you have any previous food restrictions, you should talk to your oncologist or doctor to determine what dietary modifications are necessary. You should find out which modifications continue to be necessary. Doing so will help you enjoy foods that were restricted before but are now helpful. For most mesothelioma patients with appetite loss, oatmeal has become an important part of their diet. It is a popular breakfast choice and helps increase calorie intake. However, excessive bulk food could create a sense of fullness in your stomach. This is not good because it reduces your appetite in the long run, affecting the ability to take in extra calories.
Here are practices you can implement in your diet to deal with appetite loss.
- Snacking Frequently: Snacking is a great way to eat when dealing with appetite loss. You should frequently snack throughout the day, eating whenever you feel like. This will help you eat more food in a day to get what your body needs.
- Eat Nutritious Foods: Eating nutritious foods helps when dealing with appetite loss. Mesothelioma patients are encouraged to eat high-protein and high-calorie foods. You should also eat snacks whenever you feel like it. The ideal foods you should consume regularly include eggs, nuts, milkshakes, and peanut butter. You can also add a few drinks and protein powders. Such foods help strengthen your body and give you nutrients.
- Get Butter and Creams: To boost your calories, you should add margarine or butter, gravies, and creams. These foods are great sources of calories and will also improve your appetite. For the best results, consume them several times a day.
- Let Others Prepare Food: Cooking food by yourself will expose you to cooking odors that affect your appetite. Therefore, you should let others prepare food while you conserve your energy. If possible, you should stay away from the kitchen altogether.
- Exercising Is Essential: You should do light exercises for better physical condition. Do light exercises like jogging or walking for about an hour before eating. Doing so will significantly improve your appetite, helping you eat more. Remember to be careful while exercising, especially if your body is not in great condition. Besides, you should drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Drink fluids between meals and not when you are eating. Drinking water right before you eat contributes to the feeling of fullness.
- Deal With Metallic Taste: Some mesothelioma patients say they have a metallic taste in their mouth that affects their appetite. If your food tastes metallic, you should use plastic utensils instead of metal ones. Plastic utensils will significantly reduce the metallic taste.
- Eat in the Company of Others: Eating with friends or family is a great way of improving your appetite. This is the case because socializing and watching others eat will motivate you to do the same. If you are alone, you should watch TV or listen to the radio while eating. The TV or radio will distract you while you have your meal.
- Try New Foods: Don’t stick to the same eating routine if you have appetite problems because it will get boring. Instead, you should try new foods and recipes that get you excited to eat. You should also vary your mealtime routine to improve your experience.
- Try Food Supplements: Mesothelioma patients can also try out food supplements for maximum efficiency. Supplements like Ensure are rich in nutrients and calories needed by your body. You should have them a few times a day for the best results.
Failing to manage the loss of appetite can result in a serious condition called cachexia. Cachexia is a dangerous condition that causes massive breakdowns in muscle mass. This is common in patients dealing with chronic conditions like mesothelioma. If you don’t eat enough food, you will experience a significant drop in weight. If the appetite problem is left unchecked, it will lead to cachexia. If it reaches that point, your doctor might consider starting to use medications such as anabolic steroids, Megace, or other stimulants to help improve your appetite. Losing too much weight over a short period is not good for your health, and it might worsen mesothelioma. To prevent it from becoming cachexia, you should work on improving your appetite. Have a candid conversation with your doctor and tell them about your appetite problems. You should also let them know if you are losing weight or if you are experiencing any pain. Fixing your appetite will go a long way in getting past mesothelioma.
Nutrition for Mesothelioma Patients
As mentioned earlier, nutrition is crucial for patients battling mesothelioma. Whether you choose to be treated aggressively for mesothelioma or only want symptom control, nutrition is a big part of your well-being. It is also as important as the mesothelioma treatment. When you consume sufficient essential nutrients, including minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, water, and fat, you will feel better and remain stronger. Foods are the primary source of nutrients, which is what you need. Unfortunately, the progression of mesothelioma or the side effects of its treatments sometimes makes it difficult for you to enjoy food. You will have a low appetite, which results in malnutrition. Besides, mesothelioma can also lead to changes in how your body metabolizes carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, something that causes weight loss.
Doctors specializing in the treatment of mesothelioma say that a significant number of their patients have lost around 10% or more of their body weight. In some cases, patients start to lose weight even before starting mesothelioma treatment. This means that the condition itself causes weight loss even before you start treatment. Doctors also say that patients have diets with too little protein and too few calories. This is a dangerous situation because calories and proteins are the most common nutritional problems experienced in mesothelioma patients. You need these nutrients for healing, providing energy, and fighting cancer cells. Therefore, your diet must have these nutrients. If you are looking into chemotherapeutic, surgical, or other treatment options, aggressive nutritional support might be necessary to get them ready for treatment. If you choose palliative care as a form of treatment, then you should have enhanced nutrition. This is needed because it offers better overall health and quality of life.
There is a difference between the nutritional practices of a healthy person and one with cancer. What is considered a healthy nutrition practice for a healthy person might not be the same for a mesothelioma patient. This can be challenging to understand. The foods being encouraged by nutritionists are not the same as the ones you were told previously. Most diet recommendations include large portions of vegetables, fruits, cereals, and whole-grain bread. They also include moderate amounts of dairy products, meats, and reduced intake of sugar, salt, and fat. On the other hand, recommendations for mesothelioma and cancer patients focus on higher protein content and calorie intake. Adding whole milk, cheese, and more eggs to the diet, and using additional gravies, sauces, and salad dressings are highly encouraged. Other suggestions for mesothelioma patients include changing cooking methods by reducing oil, margarine, or butter intake. Besides, foods containing high amounts of fiber that can aggravate treatment-related side effects such as sore mouth or diarrhea are not encouraged. The essence of these dietary modifications is to help your body build more strength. Besides, they are aimed at helping you better tolerate the symptoms of mesothelioma and the effects of its treatment. The loss of appetite caused by mesothelioma greatly hinders healthy nutrition. Therefore, it is important that you find ways to enjoy food and improve calorie intake.
Many mesothelioma patients experience a lack of appetite loss due to stress. When you are stressed about your condition, you won’t have the appetite to eat. Therefore, you should keep a positive attitude and motivate yourself to eat. Being well-informed about mesothelioma and talking about your feelings to the right person will go a long way in helping you improve your mental state. When you interact with friends and loved ones, you help reduce stress and anxiety. This is great because it will have a positive impact on your appetite. Your body will get the necessary nutrients to fight cancer cells and keep your health steady. The doctor can also prescribe some medications if your appetite problem becomes severe.
Therefore, you should always talk to your doctor about your progress and how you feel about your appetite.