Posts Tagged ‘diet’

Understanding Nutrition’s Role in Fighting Cancer

Nutrition's Role in Fighting CancerMaintaining a healthy diet is important, especially during cancer treatment. Your body is stressed– both from the treatment and cancer itself. It’s imperative to make sure that you’re getting the proper nutrition, vitamins, and minerals you need to stay strong and fight infections.

According to the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Nutrition Guidelines, it’s best to eat a diet consisting of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and foods low in fat.

Omer Kucuk, MD and Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University says, “there are bioactive compounds in foods, particularly in fruits and vegetables. These bioactive compounds have potent anti-cancer activities; for example, broccoli contains indole 3 carbinol, which has been shown to have anti-cancer affects, especially in prostate cancer and breast cancer.”

While certain foods have been show to help prevent cancer, evidence also shows that specific food compounds, such as soy isoflavones and curcumin, can increase the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

“We have found that soy isoflavones enhanced the efficacy of cancer treatment, specifically the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In addition to that, soy isoflavones may also prevent the side effects of these two cancer treatments,” reports Dr. Kucuk. Soy isoflavones are plant-derived compounds with estrogen-like activity that may help protect against hormone-dependent cancers according to ACS. Get more information on soy isoflavones and how proper nutrition can help during cancer treatments.

More in-depth studies are currently underway to find which bioactive compounds in foods aid in cancer treatment and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. The American Cancer Society reports “that a higher intake of vegetables may have a helpful effect on recurrence or survival for breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers, but this is not definite.”

Still, ACS recommends that cancer survivors get at least five servings of colorful fruits and vegetables each day due to the overall benefit they provide. All cancer and cancer treatments affect the body differently. An individualized nutrition plan based on your likes and dislikes, and what your stomach can handle, is going to be beneficial during your treatment journey. A registered dietitian can help you and your family answer questions and address concerns about managing your diet, weight, treatment side effects, and supplement information.

If you’re looking for specific tips, ideas, and ways to incorporate cancer fighting foods into your diet, check out the transcript from our online live chat on Nutrition’s Role in Fighting Cancer. Also, check out Emory Healthcare’s recipe page for some easy, tasty and healthy dishes!

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Dietary Recommendations & Nutrition for Cancer Patients – Keep Your Body Strong During Cancer Treatment

dietary recommendations for cancer patientsMost of us know that fruits, veggies and whole grains are important parts of a healthy diet, but you may not know that people diagnosed with cancer have very different nutritional needs from the average adult. In fact, many cancer treatments can make it difficult for cancer patients to get enough nutrition, and, for some, can even make it difficult just to eat. Cancer patients, especially those undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, can combat some of the weakness and fatigue with nutrition that strengthens their health.

While cancer treatments are designed to obliterate cancerous cells, they also can kill off healthy cells in the process. As a result of this healthy cell damage, side effects, such as those that pose a barrier to eating, can present themselves. Dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, constipation and changes in a patient’s taste, smell and general appetite are not uncommon. While these symptoms can make it difficult or unappealing to eat, some cancer treatments also can result in changes inside the body that hinder the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients being consumed. Both the decline in ability or desire to eat, and the decline in the body’s ability to properly absorb food can add to the already ever-present sense of fatigue and weakness facing many cancer patients. So the question is, what can cancer patients do from a nutritional standpoint to support their body in beating the fight against cancer?

  • Start eating healthy before treatment starts - building strength prior to cancer treatment is key. It will help you build a foundation and do a better job of maintaining strength during treatment.
  • Eat extra protein and calories - cancer patients often need more calories, specifically, calories from protein than non-cancer patients. Higher protein levels help support your strength and aid in fighting fatigue and weakness.
  • Recognize patterns – you may notice as a cancer patient that your appetite is strongest, for example, in the mornings. If that’s the case, prioritize taking in more calories during that time.
  • Talk with a dietitian – most cancer treatment programs will (and should) include the opportunity for cancer patients to consult with a registered dietitian. Seek advice from your treatment team, including your doctors and nurses, and if available to you through your treatment plan, your dietitian. They can help make specific recommendations based on your body and the symptoms you’re experiencing.
  • Lots of liquids – whenever you’re able, take in as much healthy liquid as possible, especially water. Hydration is key to your body being able to perform at its optimal state and fight infection
  • Don’t make your immune system work any harder – some cancer treatment options can compromise the immune system of cancer patients and make it harder to fight off infection. Make sure to pay special attention to food handling, cooking and storing techniques. If you are a cancer patient, avoid buffets and buying food in bulk from bins that can increase the bacteria to which you are exposed. Similarly, stay away from unpasteurized liquids, raw fish and other foods and drinks that can expose you to increased and potentially harmful bacteria.

Hear More from Dr. Kucuk on Nutrition for Cancer Patients in the Podcast Below:


For more tips and nutrition information for cancer patients, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has a great ebook, “Eating Hints,” that offers lots of information, ideas, and recommendations on how cancer patients can better cope with their disease through nutrition.

You also can learn more right here at home from Winship at Emory’s Nutrition Services program.