Clinical Dietitian stresses the importance of eating enough food while undergoing cancer treatment

Clinical Dietitian stresses the importance of eating enough food while undergoing cancer treatment
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 9:36 AM CDT
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RICE LAKE, Wis. (WEAU) - Cancer can affect many aspects of someone’s life, including their appetite.

One clinical dietitian with Marshfield Medical Center-Rick Lake says it’s vital to ensure your body is getting enough nutrients, especially if you’re undergoing cancer treatments.

“51% of patients who are coming into cancer treatment and just getting their cancer diagnosis already have started to be in the early stages of malnutrition,” MMC-Rice Lake Clinical Dietitian Jennifer Baldini said.

Baldini says malnutrition and loss of appetite are common issues cancer patients face and adds it’s her job to prevent that.

“When we start to lose weight that means our body is drawing on our fat and muscle stores to get the energy it needs,” Baldini said.“Not eating enough, we start to end up getting malnourished and that is the last thing we want during treatment because when we start to enter those stages of malnutrition, our immune response is gone. We’re more fatigued, just not as much energy.”

If someone doesn’t feel like eating, Baldini tries to offer up some alternatives to help eat enough calories.

“For example, I will tell people a lot its important to just graze, graze throughout the day, eat what sounds good to you, make sure you’re getting enough fluids, make sure you’re staying hydrated,” Baldini said.

For Tom Ritzinger who was diagnosed with cancer three months ago, he says his appetite isn’t the same.

“The metal taste, some things taste like clay or dirt,” Ritzinger said. “So, and it changes on a daily basis.”

Despite some foods not tasting the same, Ritzinger says he’s trying to do what he can to get enough nutrients.

“I find myself eating a lot of fruits,” Ritzinger said. “They’ve tasted very good, you know. From what I can taste, the sour, the sweets have an impact, positive.”

Ritzinger says having people like Baldini is helpful.

“Every time I come in, they’re monitoring my weight, they’re monitoring my blood sugars,” Ritzinger said. “You know, I need to try to maintain the weight even though you’re not hungry, but it’s nice to have them around, they’re there 24 hours if you need them.”

When her own father had cancer, Baldini saw firsthand what cancer treatments coupled with malnutrition can do.

“Watching this man, I’ve known my entire life to be just larger in life and being really a big man easily over 300 pounds lose so much weight and become skeletal was really difficult,” Baldini said. “He was experiencing a lot of those treatment-related side effects and didn’t know what to do. It was embarrassing and hard for him and he didn’t know how to ask for help and having witnessed that side of it and knowing there was help out there for him makes me want to ensure I am here helping the patients that I see.”

If you or a loved one who has cancer starts to show signs of malnutrition, Baldini says to speak up and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“Please let somebody on the care team know, let their dietician know because we can come in and we can help so that you can continue to live through the treatments, live your life, and come out the other side alive and kicking and ready to go,” Baldini said.

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