Does good nutrition improve quality of life of palliative care patients? 

By Kamara Daniel

Good nutrition is defined as a way of adapting to healthy food choices, selection and proper methods of preparation that restore the original nutrient content. It also encompasses of when (time of feeding or eating ) how ( instances you take food, mode of food administration, oral or parenteral nutrition ), and where ( occasionally, usually, daily or often) it also asks a reason of why? why do you take specific foods and leave others when factoring in food selection?

Palliative care are means of prolonging the quality of life of persons living with life-threatening conditions such as cancer, Hypertension, Diabetes, and HIV among others.

Diet has been shown to improve the quality of different diseases managed under palliative care such as cancer, since cancer cells depend on sugar for multiplication and increase the metabolic rate yet the intake is masked by cancer symptoms, it’s important to look into dietary behaviours that improve the body dietary needs and decrease cancer cells by starving them.

Incorporating vitamins and minerals would be so important to reduce the chances of cancer cell growth and multiplication,

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 A balanced whole food plant-based diet is made up of these four food groups: Legumes, nuts and seeds: This includes beans, split peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy products Grains such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, millet, wheat berries Vegetables, including cruciferous vegetables, Fruits, especially citrus fruits, and berries are a great source of vitamin C

These above are important to reduce the risk of cancers, this can be achieved by having all this on a healthy eating plate, where ½ of the plate has vegetables and fruits, ¼ of the plate has carbohydrates and ¼ of the last portion has proteins, A glass of water can be added or supplemented and later or a glass of a high fibre juice diet served.

Under palliative care, Nutrition should be prioritized because the body depends on the foods taken despite other parameters of social, and spiritual among other aspects of interest.

A multidisciplinary approach must be employed to ensure the patients and the guardian learn different feeding modalities that the patient can easily benefit from to preserve life and keep the body fully functional.

Cancer is the major disease under palliative care where people die in pain, with the help of the Palliative Care Association of Uganda, these patients have always been reached and assisted on pain management strategies that are key to reducing pain and keeping them healthy through their holistic approach.

In persons living with Diabetes and hypertension, the complications are worse if not diagnosed or attended too early.

Such interventions that reduce the effect of hypertension and diabetes include, DASH plate and DIABETIC PLATE, these have been designed to help these persons who live with these non-communicable diseases so that they are contained in the normal ranges and the complication levels reduced. 

Micronutrients do not yield energy once broken down in the body, but they regulate the release of energy and other aspects of metabolism. There are 13 vitamins each with a special role to play. Vitamins are divided into two classes: water-soluble (the B vitamin and vitamin C) and fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K). The minerals also perform important functions. Some such as calcium, make up the structure of the bones and teeth. Other including sodium, float about in the body’s fluids, where they help regulate crucial bodily functions, such as heartbeat and muscle concentrations.

For persons with such strong ailments that call for palliative care, iots important to take foods that could boost their immunity so that other diseases can be easily prevented.

Such preventive measures include, 

  • Observing what is eaten
  • Maintaining normal weight
  • Regular screening of Diabetes, Hypertension and Cancers if above 40 years or with any danger sign or familial history or genetic factor of such diseases.
  • Reduction of social behaviours such as smoking and alcoholism
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle behaviours such as monitoring what is served, and avoiding carcinogenic compounds, especially in street food among other carbonated beverages.

For persons living with such diseases, Healthy plat feeding is the single most that would so helpful to assist you and keep you healthy. A Mediterranean diet would also help in case you consult your nutritionist expert.

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Different disease state requires different recommended energy requirement and this will affect the amount of food to be consumed, remember to always consult your Nutritionist depending to the disease state and physiological needs.

Nutrition therapy works only under commitment and discipline especially when it is applied with knowledge and the optimum belief that life is yours.

Kamara Daniel is a Clinical Nutritionist at Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre Kampala.

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