Food safety is important for everyone, especially for people with cancer or other conditions that can weaken their immune systems. This article can help you and your loved ones to identify food safety risks and steps to help prevent them. You are more likely to get a foodborne infection when you have cancer.
If you have cancer or a serious chronic illness, you may need to take extra care to make sure your food is safe. Eating while going through cancer treatment is important. You may find that you want to avoid some foods and drinks, or your doctor may tell you that certain foods can be harmful because of your treatment.
Why it is Important to Keep Your Immune System Strong
Your immune system is what keeps you healthy by fighting off disease-causing organisms, toxins, and any other substances that invade the body. The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to fight off infection, including infection from a virus such as local breast cancer.
As part of your medical care, you may receive a treatment that helps your immune system work well or respond to infections and other invaders by producing substances or sensitized cells that destroy invaders. When this happens, the treatment works much like a vaccine to boost your immune system.
Your immune system responds when it senses disease-causing organisms and other substances that invade the body. But cancer and its treatment can damage the immune system. Your immune system protects you against disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. It also prevents your body from being invaded by foreign substances and recognizes and destroys cancer cells.
A healthy immune system is your best defense against foodborne illness. Your immune system includes your skin, stomach acid, and above all, your white blood cells. White blood cells are made in the bone marrow and lymph tissue. They travel through the bloodstream and body fluids to areas of infection or damaged tissue.
When you need to stay healthy, you are going to want to know about the immune system. It has been proven to keep you safe from sickness and disease. For example, it kills bacteria that cause infections and fights off viruses. You can use this to your advantage when you have poorly functioning immune systems such as HIV or AIDS.
People with Week immune Systems should more take care of their Food Safety
While the food supply in the United States is among the safest in the world, it can still be a source of infection. Food Safety during Cancer Treatment offers tips to help you eat safely, and it is a valuable resource you can share with your family, friends, or caregivers.
Foodborne illness can cause serious health problems, especially if you have cancer. In addition to the normal side effects of cancer treatment that can compromise your immune system, cancer may itself weaken your immune system’s ability to protect you from germs. Without a strong immune system to fight them off, germs can quickly multiply in your body and make you very ill. Food poisoning can also lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death.
Millions of people become sick every year from food poisoning. Avoiding the risk of food poisoning is important for everyone. For those receiving cancer treatment, or for people with a weakened immune system, food safety is especially critical to staying healthy. If you have a weakened immune system, you are more likely to become very sick or even die if you eat contaminated food or beverage. You can reduce your chance of food poisoning by practicing good food safety habits.
- Older Adults- Foodborne illness rates are higher among older adults because the body’s organs and systems are more likely to break down as we age. This increases the risk for hospitalization or death from foodborne illness. It is vital for older to be extra careful when buying, preparing, and consuming food.
- Cancer can change the way food moves through your body. Your stomach might hold food for longer than usual, giving the chance for bacteria in the food to grow. Or the stomach may not make enough acid to kill off some of these bacteria before they reach your intestines.
- The human body’s ability to fight bacteria can change as we age. People over age 60 may have a higher risk of getting sick from eating food that has not been handled or prepared safely. This is due to changes in the body caused by aging.
- If you are in the age group with a weakened immune system, make sure to avoid certain foods. Also, remember to cook food thoroughly and wash your hands often when handling or preparing food.
- People with Autoimmune Diseases– People with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and lupus are conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body.
- People with Diabetes– People with diabetes are at increased risk for severe illness from food poisoning due to infections caused by bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that contaminate food. Work with your health care team to take steps to protect yourself from food poisoning. Diabetes affects the body’s three lines of defense against foodborne illness: food preparation, handling and storage, and digestion. If a person with diabetes has poor blood circulation, this could slow down the healing process if they sustain cuts or burns while preparing food.
People with diabetes have an increased risk for foodborne illness. There are several reasons for this. First, diabetes may lower blood circulation, which decreases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body, including the skin and gastrointestinal tract. As a result, people with diabetes may have a weakened immune system that fights against infection.
- People with HIV/AIDS — If HIV/AIDS has damaged or destroyed your immune system, you are more likely to develop a foodborne infection. Consuming contaminated food can lead to fever and a weakened immune system. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid eating contaminated food. It is important to pay attention to food safety when you have HIV/AIDS. Foodborne illnesses can be harmful to you and make other health problems worse. Although food is safe, germs can get into the food and make people sick when the food is not handled or cooked safely.
- People with Cancer– People with cancer are at high risk for foodborne illness. Their weakened immune system makes them more likely to become ill and suffers serious complications from eating contaminated foods. Many cancer patients do their best to eat during treatment to help them regain strength. Food safety is a critical concern for these patients, especially if their immune system has been weakened from cancer therapy or (in the case of blood cancers) if cancer has entered the bone marrow.
- People with Organ Transplants– Transplant patients are much more susceptible to foodborne illness than other people. As transplant recipients, your immune system has been weakened on purpose to keep your body from rejecting the new organ or bone marrow. In addition, the anti-rejection drugs (also known as immunosuppressive) you take decrease the strength of your immune system. This makes it harder for your body to fight off illnesses and infections.
People undergoing organ transplants have lowered immune systems after receiving transplants due to the effect of immunosuppressant drugs that are given before and after surgery. These drugs leave patients more susceptible to infections, including those caused by bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illness.
Cook your food well and thinks to keep in mind
- Cook foods well put a meat thermometer into the middle of the thickest part of the food to test for doneness. Test a thermometer’s accuracy by putting it into boiling water. It should read 212° F.
- The only way to know for sure that meat has been cooked to the right temperature is to use a food thermometer. Meats should be cooked to 160° F (71° C) and poultry to 180° F (82° C).
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. If possible, buy organic produce when choosing fruits and vegetables that have thin skins or are more likely to have pesticide residue on them. Use clean utensils, cutting boards, and countertops when preparing food.
You may find it difficult to maintain your regular routines during cancer treatment, including preparing and eating food. Leave perishable foods at the store if you will not be able to refrigerate them within 2 hours after purchase, or 1 hour if it is above 90°F outside. Wait until you are ready to cook with eggs, or until you can keep egg dishes chilled all day.
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