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Food for the Fight- Nutrition Counseling for Cancer: June 17, 2013

The first objective in battling cancer is focusing on disease- another priority should be considering food for the fight.

“It’s always a priority of mine to try and see these patients when they’re starting treatment,” says Valerie Butram, oncology dietitian with Lee Memorial Health System.

Butram is a certified oncology dietitian.  She counsels patients the Regional Cancer Center.

“Nourishment is so important because it keeps them strong, it keeps their immune system strong, gives them energy. And the hydration is very important also because that's a piece of them possibly being fatigued or having any kind of taste alternations,” says Butram.

Finding foods patients can tolerate is often a challenge - not only is the appetite diminished, even favorite foods may have lost their flavor.

“When I have patients that have taste alterations I almost always question if they’re hydrating themselves enough. Because if they’re not, then we’re not flushing their medications through them, and some of the medications do have side effects of maybe a metallic taste,” says Butram.

Starting with a sorbet to cleanse the palate may get the taste buds on track. Butram also makes her patients set food goals.

“Sometimes it just starts with sips of nutrition, spoonfuls of nutrition, get them on a track of consuming something every 2-3 hours,” says Butram.

Top of the food chain is protein.

“I always tell them that they need a good lean source of protein to center their meals around. And that can come in every shape, size and form,” says Butram.

Why is the protein so important?

“Well the protein sources are very important because it is the base of tissue replacement and is also part of their hematology and it's important for the red blood cell count and keeping their immune system strong,” says Butram.

People fighting cancer grapple with feelings of helplessness, having one aspect of treatment under their control, gives them something to savor.