DNA, Breastfeeding, Sore mouth during cancer treatment

DNA, Breastfeeding, Sore mouth during cancer treatment

Q: Can DNA that has been damaged be passed on to our children?
Q: Can breastfeeding help a new mother lose excess pregnancy weight faster?
Q: What can you suggest for a cancer patient who develops a very sore mouth and throat during treatment?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Can DNA that has been damaged be passed on to our children?

A: No. In general damage to DNA that develops naturally over the course of one’s life does not appear to be passed on to our offspring. To best protect your DNA from damage (and reduce your risk of cancer and other health problems), researchers recommend eating a balanced plant-based diet that supplies antioxidants plus other compounds that act in a variety of ways to maintain healthy DNA.

Q: Can breastfeeding help a new mother lose excess pregnancy weight faster?

A: Breastfeeding is linked with better loss of pregnancy weight gain according to a recent large study. Experts note that producing breast milk burns calories and thus promotes post-pregnancy weight loss without reducing calorie consumption or increasing physical activity. Researchers found that women who breastfed their babies exclusively for six months and then continued breastfeeding after solid foods were introduced for the next six months, retained less of their pregnancy weight 18 months later. Women who do not breastfeed exclusively or as long do not see as much impact on their weight. In this study, as in others, excessive weight gain during pregnancy is strongly linked with post-pregnancy weight retention. So keeping pregnancy weight gain within recommended limits is still important.

Q: What can you suggest for a cancer patient who develops a very sore mouth and throat during treatment?

A: Mouth sores, tender gums and sore throat are not unusual during chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It’s important to talk to your doctor to be sure the soreness is a treatment side effect and not an unrelated dental problem and to see if any medication will help. Also remember that mouth sores aren’t just painful – if infection forms, it can be hard to treat during chemotherapy and can lead to serious problems. So take good care of your mouth during cancer treatment and rinse and gargle frequently with a baking soda rinse. Here are a few additional suggestions:

* Focus on soft, moist foods, adding soothing moisture with extra gravy, cheese sauce or cream sauce. Try pureeing foods in the blender. Soft fruits (such as bananas and applesauce), mashed potatoes, cooked cereals, scrambled eggs, yogurt and macaroni and cheese, are usually less painful to eat.
* Avoid acidic ingredients. Tomato sauce, vinegar dressings and citrus juice may cause pain.
* Other foods to be wary of include dry, coarse foods, spicy foods and caffeine.
* Avoid alcohol, including alcohol-based mouthwashes.
* Foods at room temperature or chilled may be easier to eat. Sucking popsicles or ice chips throughout the day and before eating can help numb the mouth.

Although some of these eating tips may not sound like the diet for cancer prevention, they are fine for now. A registered dietitian can help you plan meals to meet your needs.