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Cancer patients with liver cancer deal with some of the most prevalent and disturbing side effects caused by chemo therapy, including nausea and vomiting. Nutrition is a vital element that needs to be taken into consideration before, during, and after every chemo session to maintain a healthy immune system, to support the body’s energy levels, and to allow the liver cancer patient to tolerate the side effects caused by chemo drugs.
Some of the nutrients that may offer essential benefits include seaweeds (Fucoidan), branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), turmeric (curcumin), garlic, and ginger.
About Liver Cancer
Nutrition is a vital element during chemo therapy treatment for liver cancer patients. Eating the right essential nutrients and the proper kinds of foods before, during, and after chemo therapy can help the person feel much better and stay stronger.
Not everyone has nutrition-related side effects during or after chemo therapy, but it is critical to know about these 5 dietary essential nutrients to benefit and,
i. Feel much better
ii. Strengthen your immune system
iii. Keep up your strength and energy levels
iv. Better tolerate the chemo therapy side effects
v. Recover faster!
Liver cancer is the second most common widespread cause of cancer death. This condition adds up to more than 700,000 deaths every year [1,2]. Additionally, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the main type of liver cancer, accounting for 70%–80% . Some of the main factors for liver cancer are hepatitis B, hepatitis C virus infection, alcohol consumption, aflatoxin B1, and metabolic disorders .
People with liver cancer undergo different treatments like radiation therapy, chemo therapy, surgery, etc. From these therapies and many others that are currently being applied, chemo may be an option when liver cancer cannot be treated with any other therapy .
When undergoing chemotherapy for liver cancer, there must be a way to manage the eating problems, loss of appetite, dry mouth, changes in taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other side effects that may present.
Even before the chemo therapy treatment begins, it is useful to prepare and look at different dietary nutrients that will provide a natural relief when you experience some of the most common side effects.
*Here are 5 dietary essential nutrients to help you get ready when undergoing chemo therapy for liver cancer:
Seaweeds are rich in nutrients, from vitamins, minerals, to phytonutrients and Fucoidan (a sulfated polysaccharide). Finding effective and safe dietary nutrients to lessen the side effects often caused by chemotherapy is critical. Fucoidan is a natural ingredient found in brown seaweeds with promising anti-cancer health benefits like lowering the occurrence and development of tumors, inducing apoptosis, and inhibiting angiogenesis (cancer metastasis) of cancer cells .
Many cancer cells develop the ability to invade other tissues and to spread to other organs. This process is known as metastasis. When this happens, different cancer treatments like chemo therapy are applied to stop the spread of cancer. Often, most chemo therapy drugs are very toxic to the body and severe toxicity leads to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, anemia, and liver dysfunction. To be able to reduce the toxicity, various dietary nutrients are essential to control these aggressive and consistent side effects. Fucoidan is obtained from different brown seaweeds, and it has been shown in studies to reduce the toxicity caused by chemo drugs [7-8].
Protein (Amino acids)
Your body needs protein for many functions like growth, tissue repair, and to keep your immune system well-balanced. If the body does not have enough protein, the body starts breaking down muscle and uses it for fuel (energy). If this happens, your body takes much longer to recover from illness, and you are more exposed to infections. People with cancer need more protein than usual. When undergoing chemo therapy, the extra protein in the body is needed to heal the tissues faster and to fight infections in the body.
All proteins are made up of amino acids. A type of protein liver cancer patients must consume is in the form of BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine). These amino acids are a very specific form of amino acid that promotes protein synthesis, endurance, performance, and muscle growth. In the case of liver cancer patients like hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients, the intake of protein in the form of BCAAs is essential because of the body’s inability to synthesize protein. HCC patients often present malnutrition and cirrhosis and BCAAs may improve liver function and their Quality of Life.
Another naturally occurring ingredient that may provide an effective way to reduce the side effects caused by chemo therapy in liver cancer patients is turmeric. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is a well-researched ingredient known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties among others. Curcumin is the yellow pigment derived from turmeric and it has been used for the treatment of many diseases related to metabolism, cancer, cough, skin wounds, and inflammation .
A study published in 2019 focused on the benefits of taking curcumin in combination with chemo therapy for the treatment of cancer. The study focused on how pretreatment with curcumin enhanced the anticancer activity of the chemo therapy drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) compared to 5-FU or curcumin alone, and without increasing the toxicity in the body. 5-FU is one of the most chemotherapy drugs used for treating liver cancer .
It has been well-documented about the limited efficacy of chemo therapy drugs due to the development of drug resistance. Therefore, combinations of different therapies with natural antitumor compounds have been shown to enhance the effectiveness of drug treatment and decrease the toxicity they cause. Additionally, curcumin has been shown to reduce the toxicity caused by different chemo drugs, reduce inflammation, and enhance the immune system.
Garlic has been used for thousands of years, and it has been well-researched for its effectiveness to fight infections . From all its mechanisms of action, the most studied are related to its anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, and immune-enhancing properties. At the same time, garlic contains several oils and compounds that are beneficial for the prevention of cancer. Garlic oil may reduce the prompt decrease of white blood cells that get affected by chemo therapy or other common cancer treatments .
Nausea induced by chemotherapy is one of the most distressing side effects caused by chemo drugs. One great health benefit of consuming ginger is that it may alleviate nausea caused by chemo therapy in cancer patients . Additionally, ginger is not an expensive herb to buy, it is also very safe to consume, and it provides effective natural ways for the treatment of nausea and also vomiting.
In a recent study, 744 cancer patients were randomly assigned four different options including placebo, 0.5 grams of ginger, 1 gram of ginger, and 1.5 grams of ginger in a way to analyze if ginger could lower nausea and vomiting caused by chemo therapy. The results concluded that all doses of ginger significantly reduced acute nausea compared to placebo on day 1 of chemo .
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