Your gastrointestinal (GI) system plays an important role in your overall health. Not only does it break down and digest the food you eat, but it absorbs nutrients and water that your body needs to stay hydrated and healthy.
If you are a neuroendocrine tumor (NET) patient, you may be struggling with your GI health. Neuroendocrine cancers and the therapies used to treat them can take a serious toll on your GI system. Chances are, you’re coping with symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, and changes in bowel habits.
You may also be dealing with diarrhea. NET patients with diarrhea often pass soft, loose, watery stools as often as 20 times per day. In addition to decreasing your quality of life, chronic diarrhea also interferes with your body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients from food and to stay hydrated.
NET nurses understand the GI challenges their patients face. They also recognize the connection between digestive health and GI symptoms. Because of this, NET nurses encourage their patients to focus on three vital GI health-boosting strategies.
Stay hydrated. NET nurses know it can be difficult for their patients to stay hydrated, and NET diarrhea can make dehydration worse. However, maintaining adequate fluid levels is crucial for patients’ overall health.
Preserve your intestinal barrier. In addition to digesting food, your GI system has another crucial job: To protect you from harmful bacteria and toxins that may enter your body. Protection comes from a layer of cells in your intestinal wall known as your intestinal barrier. This barrier is like a guard whose job is to let the good stuff (nutrients, water, and electrolytes) pass into your bloodstream, while keeping the bad stuff (toxins and harmful bacteria) out of your blood.
When your intestinal barrier is healthy and tight, it guards you well. But neuroendocrine cancers and their treatments can weaken your intestinal barrier. Walls between cells can break down, causing gaps that allow toxins and harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation.
A weakened intestinal barrier can lead to frustrating symptoms for NET patients, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, stomach irritation, and painful swelling of the tissues of the mouth. It can also reduce your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and water from your foods and drink, leading to malnutrition and dehydration.
Choose foods and drinks that help with hydration and preserve your intestinal barrier. Cancer treatment can damage healthy cells in the GI tract, such as the tiny, finger-like structures (villi) that take in nutrients, electrolytes, and water in the small intestine. In a healthy GI system, villi can absorb nutrients, electrolytes, and water transported by glucose. But damaged villi can’t.
Glucose-based hydration drinks can’t effectively provide NET patients with the fluids and electrolytes they need. Not only that, but products containing glucose can actually make GI side-effects worse.
Rather than glucose-based drinks, NET patients can benefit from choosing enterade, a medical food designed for the management of GI dysfunction. Because it uses amino acids, rather than glucose, to deliver the fluids and electrolytes your body needs to stay hydrated, enterade hydrates while supporting the intestinal barrier.
The amino acids and electrolytes in enterade help rebuild damaged villi, which leads to greater absorption. Studies have shown that enterade can help reduce many of the troublesome symptoms faced by NET patients, including dehydration, diarrhea related to cancer treatment, nausea and vomiting, and general GI symptoms.
Take it from the NET nurses: Protecting your GI system won’t just help your overall health and your digestive health. It will also help you feel better and improve your quality of life.