Nutrition needs for children with cancer

Radiation and chemotherapy for cancer treatment can take its toil on even the strongest of adults. So, how much more for children? No matter how expensive or consistent the treatment is, without proper nutrition a parent may as well as go back to the drawing board. Cancer and its treatment affect a child’s appetite, tolerance to food and their body’s ability to utilise the nutrients. That is why it is important to follow a stringent balanced diet routine, which should include:

Proteins
Proteins help repair tissues, maintain the skin, blood cells, the immune system and overall growth and development of a child. In case a child with cancer does not get enough protein, then the body breaks down muscle and this impedes the cure of the child, not to mention lowering resistance to infections. Plenty of pulses and animal products are good sources.
Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide the body with fuel for activity and organ function. Often times, children with cancer need more calories to help with the healing process. The best sources are fruits, vegetables and whole grain carbohydrates such as cereals, which provide a combination of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phyto-nutrients.

Fats
These help in insulating body tissues, storing and providing energy and transporting some vitamins. They may come in handy as extra calories for a child who is losing weight rapidly. The best fats are mono and poly-saturated fats extracted from plants such as olives, canola, peanuts, sunflower, corn and seafood.

Water, vitamins and minerals
From transporting nutrients to cell function and aiding digestion, the importance of water to overall body function cannot be overstated. Vitamins and minerals help in normal growth and development, cell function, nutrient catalysation and utilisation. Keep your child well hydrated and up the glass count in the event they have constipation, vomiting or diarrhoea. Incorporate fruits and vegetables in their diet and in some cases, sunshine for hard to come by nutrients such as vitamin D.

Published in February 2017