Dec 20, 2011

Nutrition and Chronic Illness

As the new year swiftly approaches, many of us resolve to exercise and eat healthier. My usual resolutions, however well-intentioned, rarely endure beyond January. But this year, I am going to make a concerted effort to really pay attention to what I eat. My biggest problem is absent-minded eating. That is, stuffing my face with random foods without regard to their real nutritional value. I am not a calorie-counter and my objective is not to lose weight but simply to nourish my body with more whole, less processed foods. I will also be aiming to achieve a more 'balanced' diet by consuming a wider variety of foods.

That said, I am thrilled to welcome my first guest blogger, Melanie Bowen, to Defying Gravity. Melanie is an awareness advocate for natural health and holistic therapies for cancer patients. You will often find her highlighting the great benefits of different nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those with illness in her efforts to increase attentiveness and responsiveness on like topics. Thank you, Melanie, for reminding us that every illness, whether terminal or chronic, deserves special attention when it comes to nutrition.

Nutrition and Chronic Illness

Good nutrition is essential to preventing chronic illnesses such as cancer or kidney disease. However, if you already suffer from one of these chronic illnesses, nutrition is even more important. Eating properly can help offset the negative effects of treatments for your disease and give you more energy to complete daily tasks. In some cases, it can even increase your life expectancy to change your diet. Thus, eating balanced meals should be part of your disease management program.

Nutrition is an important issue for people who suffer from chronic illnesses and cancers. Cancer can rob the body of the ability to digest vitamins, protein and other nutrients correctly from food, so that cancer patients often lose weight and become weak even when they're eating properly. For this reason, nutritional supplements such as vitamins or calcium pills are an important part of a cancer patient's treatment plan. This is especially important for patients who are taking chemotherapy treatments or other aggressive cancer treatments. These treatments can make patients nauseous, negatively affect appetite and leave patients feeling weak. However, nutritional supplements in combination with healthy foods can help alleviate many of these symptoms. Eating regularly and getting enough nutrition can eliminate nausea and give cancer patients more energy. Simply relieving the feeling of being sick all the time can help patients lead higher quality lives, as they will be able to socialize with friends and do some of their regular activities once they get the nausea under control and develop some energy again. 

Nutrition is also important if you have a chronic illness rather than a terminal illness. Diabetes and hypertension are two such illnesses that can benefit from diet. Patients who suffer from these diseases often become dependent on medication to keep symptoms under control. However, medication has side effects, so not all patients can tolerate medication. In addition, changing one’s diet can reverse the effects of some chronic illnesses. People who suffer from Type 2 Diabetes can often successfully manage their illness by changing their diet. As the person's blood sugar level goes down to a normal level, she'll have more energy; in addition some symptoms, such as blurred vision, will disappear altogether. Diabetes patients who handle their disease through diet and nutrition often feel healthier overall and lose excess weight that can contribute to feeling sluggish as well as to having the condition.

It's fairly easy to make nutritional changes to help manage your chronic or terminal illness. Talking to a dietician or nutritionist at the hospital where you take your treatments can point you in the right direction. You can gradually add some nutritional supplements or make changes to your diet to regain the energy, happiness and hope you need to live a longer and higher quality life.

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