The importance of healthy and appropriate eating after a breast cancer diagnosis

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The importance of healthy and appropriate eating after a breast cancer diagnosis

The benefits of a healthy diet for maintaining health and preventing cancer are well established. But what does it mean to eat well after a breast cancer diagnosis? And why is it important?

What is a healthy and appropriate diet? 

Healthy eating means consuming a variety of foods daily and prioritizing the frequency and quantity of those with high nutritional value. The more elements such as proteins, fibres, vitamins and minerals a food contains, the higher its nutritional value and therefore its benefits. On the contrary, the more added sugars, trans and saturated fats, and salt a product contains, the less desirable it is nutritionally. In the case of breast cancer, eating the right foods can help maintain a nutritional intake that covers your needs despite the changes brought on by the disease 

Eating well to ease side effects, and vice-versa  

Some obstacles to adopting a healthy diet after diagnosis may be caused by certain side effects of treatment, such as fatigue and loss of appetite, which may need to be overcome in order to begin to incorporate a beneficial routine 

    • Preventing and fighting fatigue 

Fatigue is one of the most frequent side effects of breast cancer and its treatment. This is not the usual tiredness that can be easily managed with a little rest, but rather a persistent exhaustion that impacts the quality of life. Poor nutrition can exacerbate feelings of fatigue, but eating well can help provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to function properly. Furthermore, it has been shown that healthy eating, combined with appropriate physical activity, can effectively counteract fatigue while improving sleep quality.

    • Relieving digestive symptoms  

Nutrition is proving to be an important ally in relieving the side effects of chemotherapy, particularly those affecting the digestive system and appetite. Dietary management has been shown to be effective in managing nausea, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation, among others.

Preventing breast cancer complications  

Once your healthy eating routine is established, many other benefits for dealing with the complications of the disease may emerge 

    • Preventing and fighting osteoporosis 

Osteoporosis, another common side effect of breast cancer treatment, causes bones to degrade, become weaker and more “porous,thus increasing the risk of fracture. Adjusting the diet and supplementing adequately (especially calcium and vitamin D) is an integral part of the strategies that help maintain bone health and reduce the risk of fractures during and after treatments. 

    • Promoting immunity  

Breast cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, can weaken the immune system. Once again, embracing an appropriate diet and taking certain precautions can boost immune functions and prevent the consequences of a weakened immune system, such as the risk of infections and complications. 

    • Preventing changes in body composition 

Breast cancer and treatment can cause disruptions in metabolism, digestion, appetite, and eating behavior. These changes can lead to variations in body composition. Appropriate diet and physical activity can help prevent and/or limit these changes in order to 

    1. Maintaining your muscle mass and preventing undernourishment (the latter characterized by significant and unintentional weight loss, especially loss of muscle mass) is important. This condition can make you more fragile, reduce your autonomy, heighten the risk of complications and hinder the proper course of treatment 
  1.    2.   Limiting changes in body fat and overweight: weight gain is common in people being treated for breast cancer. It is often caused by a number of factors and can happen in spite of yourself 

More studies are showing that diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption and variations in body composition all play a role in the quality of life, but also in cancer prognosis, risk of recurrence, and occurrence of a second cancer 

Emotional well-being 

While food plays an important role in physical health, we should not forget its essential role in maintaining good mental and emotional health! Indeed, we all have an intimate relationship with food and there is a close link between emotions and appetite. So, eating well after a diagnosis of breast cancer is also, and above all, about maintaining the pleasure of eating, but additionally about making time to take care of yourself by enjoying a good meal and the fun of cooking.

Available resources  

With so much information out there, it is normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start. We have gathered some resources that can help you as soon as you receive your diagnosis:

    • The My Active Health program, one of our free services, will guide you in incorporating healthy lifestyle habits into your daily life. Join the Ma Santé Active private Facebook group to keep up to date with our latest news! New features are added and improvements are made on a regular basis in order to meet the needs of our community 
    • Your healthcare team: Members of your healthcare team can refer you to a nutritionist for personalized advice. In addition, you should always consult a professional before taking supplements, starting a specific diet, or if you are unsure about your nutrition 

It’s never too late to start adopting healthy habits, one step at a time. Remember that small changes can make big differences. 


The Effect of Dietary Intervention Along With Nutritional Education on Reducing the Gastrointestinal Side Effects Caused by Chemotherapy Among Women With Breast Cancer  

Dietary Modification and Breast Cancer Mortality: Long-Term Follow-Up of the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Trial  

Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors