Good nutrition is as important for cancer patients as their oncology treatment. That's why the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center has a registered dietician on staff to counsel and advise patients on healthy eating habits during and after treatment.
“Good nutrition can help patients feel better and fight fatigue,” says registered dietician Jenny Hagendorf, who also is a board-certified nutrition specialist in oncology. “Decreases in energy and other symptoms can be addressed through nutrition intervention.”
The reason is because the disease often changes the way the body uses food. As a result, patients experience loss of appetite, fatigue and weight loss. A healthy diet and nutritional supplements are key factors in providing the important nutrients the body needs.
“Each patient’s body reacts differently to the treatment and the disease,” Hagendorf explains. “That’s why patient feedback is so valuable. It helps us customize a nutrition program that is tailored for each patient’s needs.”
Hagendorf, who holds a masters in nutritional sciences, offers one-on-one counseling with patients before designing a healthy eating plan. Throughout the process, she relies on “honest feedback” from her patients to make any adjustments that are necessary.
“Just like medication and treatment, nutrition can assist the healing process,” Hagendorf clarifies. “It is part of the holistic approach to treating the disease.”
As one example, Hagendorf points out an anti-inflammatory diet can often help patients deal with symptoms they are experiencing. The diet includes good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and nuts, as well as whole grains, spices and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables.
Experts in the field have found that healthy nutrient rich diets not only help the body recover faster, but offer the potential of disease-fighting benefits. Although it is referred to as a “diet,” it really is just a healthier way of eating, Hagendorf explains.
To assist patients, Hagendorf also holds monthly cooking classes in the Wellness Center, run by the Patient and Family Services division. The classes are open to patients as well as anyone else interested in eating healthier.
“Our facilities allow us to actually prepare the foods, so patients can see and experience how to cook for healthier living,” Hagendorf says.
If you or someone you know is interested in signing up for the classes, please call 450-5577.