Calling all men! Where are the men with nutrition-related cancer issues? Most of the folks that I coach about food during cancer treatments are female. But with cancer being an equal opportunity disease, there must be just as many men out there who are having nutrition challenges during cancer. Why don’t men seek help with their food issues, or why do their healthcare teams seem to refer men less often to a registered dietitian nutritionist?
Food is a complicated issue. We enjoy food all our life, especially men who seem to have an easier time with weight and appetite. Then, suddenly, with a cancer diagnosis, food may change. The foods you used to eat without a second thought may now be triggers for the green monster (nausea) or digestive problems (diarrhea). In general, men don’t seem to talk readily about such personal hang-ups like feeling sick or staying in the bathroom after a robust meal.
In recent months, two men stand out in my mind that I have met. They both had lost 30-50 pounds unintentionally before they were referred to PearlPoint’s nutrition consultation service. Due to their cancer and required treatment, these men were unable to effectively eat, chew, and swallow. These issues sound minor, but believe me, these issues are major when it comes to keeping your immunity and health at the top of your game. If you can’t get good food to your stomach, you won’t be well nourished to fight cancer, which may make it difficult or impossible for you to finish all your treatments that your oncology team recommends.
After finding a few food strategies to work around their side effects, these guys were once again able to get wholesome nutrition and beverages into their bodies to fight. Every man is unique and needs specific eating strategies that work for him. It just takes asking for help with eating to get the help men need. As we all know, men aren’t great in asking for directions, must less help with food choices!
Since it’s Men’s Health Week, let’s celebrate the men in our lives who are on a cancer journey. If you see him losing weight or not being able to enjoy meals, talk about it. Ask your physician or healthcare team for a referral to a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology. Men, don’t be afraid to talk to someone about your food and eating challenges. Talking with an oncology dietitian may help you complete your treatments, encounter fewer health problems, have more energy to enjoy each day, and just might save your life.