What is a nutritional supplement? A nutritional supplement is a palatable, ready-made drink packed full of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. Most nutritional supplements are nutritionally balanced to help meet your dietary needs.
Why do I need a nutritional supplement? As a general rule healthy males require approximately 2500 calories each day to maintain their normal body weight and females require approximately 2000 calories. If you are unwell, you may need more food than usual but your appetite might be poor and you could struggle to eat enough. Improving the amount of nutrition can help you cope better with your illness and may help improve recovery. As drinking is often easier than eating, your doctor may recommend a nutritional supplement.
Which nutritional supplement could I choose?
Nutritional supplements are available in a variety of styles and flavours. Your healthcare professional will assist you in choosing the most appropriate style for you. You will then need to choose your flavors.
How many nutritional supplements can I take per day?
The quantity depends on your nutritional requirements, how much you are eating and drinking using normal foods and the quantity of nutritional supplements you can actually consume over the day.
When is nutrition support appropriate?
Your healthcare professional will decide with you what type of nutrition support is best for you. Nutritional supplements may be part of that nutrition support.
If you can swallow safely and you need nutrition support, you may be offered nutrition support by mouth (orally). Your healthcare professional should work with you to ensure your diet contains varying amounts of the following nutrients to meet your needs - calories, protein, water, minerals, vitamins.
Any changes to your diet will need to be gradually introduced. This is because your body will have started to slow down and will need time to readjust to having nutrients again.
At diagnosis: Up to 40% of cancer patients have a loss of appetite when first diagnosed. Nutritional support can give cancer patients high energy density foods, to meet energy needs required to be prepared for the treatment phase.
Before surgery: Some people with cancer may benefit from nutrition support even before having surgery. How long you will need nutrition support for beforehand will vary from person to person. But the more weight you have lost the longer you may need it, ask your healthcare professional about this.
During therapy: Increasing nutritional intake through dietary advice and use of nutritional supplements is recommended to help prevent weight loss and any interruption of radiotherapy in patients undergoing treatment of the gastrointestinal tract or head and neck areas.
After care: To prevent flavour-fatigue, a common side effect of cancer patients, nutritional supplements are available in various flavours.
Nutritional supplements will help boost your nutritional intake but it is important that you drink all of the packs that you are recommended to drink each day. Most people find taking small amounts of their nutritional supplement regularly throughout the day helps achieve their daily target.