Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with prostate cancer? Are you feeling unsure of what and how to eat? An oncology nutritionist can help.
It’s no secret that proper nutrition is an essential part of the cancer treatment plan.
But, there’s a lot of information on the internet. It can be difficult to sift through to find reliable and credible recommendations.
This is where Registered Dietitians come in—people trained in the relationship between food and disease.
An oncology nutritionist can offer support throughout cancer treatment and beyond.
5 Reasons you Need an Oncology Nutritionist for Prostate Cancer
- A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is the nutrition expert
- Oncology patients have complex needs
- Different stages, different recommendations
- Food plays a role in all stages, intake can help or hurt
1. Registered Dietitians are the Nutrition Expert
You may hear the terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” and wonder: what is the difference?
A Registered Dietitian is a trained professional. A nutritionist may have little to no background.
To obtain a dietitian credential, one must graduate with their Bachelor’s Degree, complete a 1200-hour hands-on internship, and pass a nationally accredited exam. To maintain the credential, it’s necessary to continue professional education.
Dietitians use “RD” or “RDN” at the end of their names. They are the same credential, Registered Dietitian vs. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. It’s preference for each dietitian.
Furthermore, many dietitians continue their education to receive Master’s degrees or even Doctorates. For newer RDs, a Master’s degree is required.
Additionally, some dietitians move on to obtain additional credentials in specialized area of practice such as: oncology, diabetes, geriatrics nutrition and many more.
So, for the “RD” credential, that’s a minimum of 5 years of training and learning. For those with Master’s degrees (like myself) that’s an additional 1-2 years, on average.
On the other hand, a nutritionist is not a regulated term. This means, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. There are some online programs claiming to offer a nutritionist credential. However, those are a few weeks long and can’t compare to the years worth of training of dietitians.
Nutrition is a science and Registered Dietitians are the experts.
Stick with the experts when it comes to your health. Nutrition is more complex than just eating.
You can find Registered Dietitians in:
- Private Practice
- Dialysis Centers
- Some Cancer Centers
For the sake of this article, oncology nutritionist and dietitian will be used interchangeably.
Now that we settled the dietitian vs. nutritionist debate, why would you need an oncology dietitian?
2. Oncology Patients have Complex Needs
Unfortunately, cancer rates do not seem to be slowing down. There has even been an increase in prostate cancer cases.
Cancer is still being researched and new recommendations are proposed regularly. Common recommendations popular years ago may not be the current recommendations. Registered Dietitians stay up to date on nutrition research. Not only that, dietitians are trained to pick through credible nutrition research.
Some vitamins that may be recommended for the general population, may not be best for someone undergoing cancer treatment. Again, RDNs have this information.
But, if they don’t have the answer to a nutrition related question, I can guarantee they know where to find it.
During cancer treatment, dietitians can help a patient preserve nutritional status and help minimize side effects with nutrition interventions.
Part of the training to become a dietitian is digging through nutrition research. We can determine what’s a reliable study and what is not.
When it comes to nutrition, there is no one size fits all plan. Oncology nutritionists can offer you an individualized nutrition plan.
3. Different Stages of Treatment Require Different Diet Adjustments
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in American men. About 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.
Of course, each man is in a different stage of their journey. That means, each individual has different nutrition requirements as each stage calls for different nutrition interventions.
Personalized nutrition is essential. Each patient goes through different treatment and is in a different stage of life. Additionally, everyone has different side effects and preferences. There is no one size fits all plan.
Throughout cancer treatment to survivorship, diet recommendations change. Registered Dietitians can counsel patients through the changes to achieve optimal health and success with treatment.
Patients set their own goals and an oncology nutritionist gives them the steps to get there.
Nutrition is part of the overall treatment plan. By following recommended guidelines, patients will likely have more successful treatments.
There is a link between proper nutrition and better treatment outcomes.
During chemotherapy and radiation, nutrition needs are high. Patients need extra protein and calories.
Why is protein important? We don’t want patients to lose any muscle mass during treatments. Plus, it can help heal the body and fight infection. Protein is necessary for the growth and repair of tissues.
This doesn’t mean overload on protein, every person’s needs are different and that’s where an oncology nutritionist can help you.
Additionally, food tricks and interventions can help alleviate unwanted side effects from cancer treatment.
Side effects of treatment can include:
- GI Distress
- Loss of Appetite
- Dry Mouth
Cancer patients are at risk of malnutrition. Unintended weight loss can lead to a poor prognosis for cancer patients. Dietitians create personalized interventions to prevent weight loss based on the client’s biggest barriers.
Malnutrition occurs when the body is not getting enough nutrients, likely due to someone not eating enough. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, and dizziness.
Malnutrition affects the function and recovery of every organ system. Including: muscle, GI, cardio-respiratory, immunity, wound healing, and psychosocial.
Inadequate intake for a prolonged period of time causes the body to draw from functional reserves in tissues such as muscle, adipose tissue, and bone.
Anyone can become malnourished regardless of body type.
Malnourishment can lead to:
- Long hospital stays
- Procedure complications
- More expensive hospital stays
- Higher change of readmission
- Reduced treatment intensity
- Increased treatment toxicity
- Decreased quality of life
- Decreased independence
Weight loss and malnutrition can be detrimental for cancer patients. Contact a cancer nutritionist if you’re experiencing unintended weight loss.
4. Dietitians Offer Accountability
If nothing else, working with a dietitian offers accountability. By checking in with someone regularly, you’re more likely to stick to your goals. This is especially true for those in survivorship.
Oncology nutritionists can be your cheerleader and your guide while navigating eating during your cancer journey.
If you need someone to hold your hand–we do that. If you need someone to kick you into shape–we do that too.
It’s important to remember, dietitians are there not just for the patient but for family and caregivers.
RDNs can offer personalized nutrition advice while simultaneously cheering you on toward your goals.
5. Food Plays a Role in All Stages
Meal and snack intake plays of a role in all stages on the cancer journey. Food can either help or hurt.
Science shows that meal and snack intake can affect prostate health.
Proper nutrition can:
- Aid in cancer prevention
- Decrease progression
- Lower PSA
- Reduce chance of recurrence
- Improve treatment outcomes
A change in eating habits can strongly benefit those in active surveillance.
When it comes to cancer patients undergoing treatment, we typically want to loosen up dietary restrictions. This is where individualized nutrition comes into play.
For those in survivorship, food can be used as a weapon to lessen recurrence. Again, individualized nutrition is key.
Many hear the word diet and automatically think of cutting out food and restrictive dieting. However, it’s more important to add in nutrient dense foods.
Restrictive diets can lead to malnutrition. Not only that, they can harm cancer treatments.
Throughout all stages, there will be different foods to focus on.
That wraps up the 5 reasons you need an oncology nutritionist.
To conclude, Registered Dietitians are the nutrition experts and can offer support throughout the cancer journey. Cancer patients have complex needs that vary based on where they are in the treatment.
Additionally, food intake in extremely important during this time. Proper nutrition is important in all stages. Finally, RDs can provide accountability to patients.