It’s scary out there – all the Googling, the reading, the (sometimes unsolicited) advice, your doctor, the second opinion, the clinic that ‘could’ offer a cure, the expense, the fear. What is the role of diet in cancer prevention and treatment, it is enough and who can you trust? I’m a long-time cancer specialist, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Seattle, and an expert in integrative cancer treatment. I know how to help you and how to make your life better starting NOW if you’re dealing with cancer.
The Role of Diet in Cancer Prevention and Treatment
I see clients daily who have important questions about what to do with their nutrition during cancer. Can you eat dairy? Does sugar feed cancer? What about supplements? Is juicing helpful or hurtful? Are you worried about arsenic in rice? Can you drink alcohol? What do you tell friends and family who want to help cook you food? There’s a lot to consider and I’ll tell you the most important thing of all: you need individualized information that’s specific to your unique needs.
You certainly need an expert on your team. Please always look for someone with legitimate training and experience; someone with a degree and who is credentialed for your safety. This may even be someone outside of your regular care team. I work as a concierge dietitian with clients around the country because they need an expert they can count on day and night, someone who shares their values and beliefs about the role of diet in cancer prevention and treatment and someone who knows the ins-and-outs of supplement safety as well as how treatment and nutrition needs change over time. If you or someone you know needs support, please reach out to me.
Anti-Cancer Diet Myths
The big problem with the role of diet in cancer prevention and treatment is that there often is no clear cut answer. It’s hard for me to tell you how much, if any, sugar is safe, without knowing more about your treatment and history. It’s hard for me to know if you should be eating really high fiber right now without understanding what’s happening with your gut and your appetite. I can’t tell you which supplements are safe or not without knowing a LOT of information about your medications, your current condition, and your care team’s wishes.
There are some things we know for sure: plant-based diets are better for preventing and treating cancer, alcohol is pro-cancer, being physically active is very anti-cancer, you should not char your meat on the grill and you should limit processed meat (that means you, sausage and bacon).
There are other nuances that are much more complex and really depend on where you are in your treatment, your goals, your ability to prepare food and your support team, your financial situation, your gut health, your preferences and what the rest of your diet and lifestyle look like.
Things change over time. Soy is ok! Research shows it’s ok and beneficial for most conditions. I have a whole post about soy here on the blog so be sure to check it out.
People with cancer should exercise if they’re at all able. It’s true, you may need support from a physical therapist and guidance from your care team but even during chemo, most people can and should be active.
I stand firm that many people going through cancer treatment can and should take dietary supplements. Sometimes my patients get a blanket answer “don’t take anything” but I see that work against the care teams. People end up hiding their supplements, feeling so strongly that they need certain nutrients. In most cases, there’s a strong argument that taking supplements such as a multivitamins, calcium, vitamin D (especially with low levels) and using protein powder is absolutely safe and can make a big difference to someone’s health. There are many more options to explore, depending on the situation – curcumin, ginger, fish oil, melatonin, and beyond can positively complement treatment and improve quality of life. If you want to know more about supplements, I have a big post about it here.
I interview a lot about the Role of Diet in Cancer Prevention and Treatment:
Washington Post -Is Celery Juice Really a Miracle Cure?
- LiveStrong– Chaga Mushrooms
Readers Digest – Superfood Supplements
Washington Post– Detoxing and Tea-toxing; is it worth it?
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
Thanks for visiting! If you’re like me: obsessed with eating, wine, going out and traveling, you’re in the right place. Champagne Nutrition® LLC is a Registered Dietitian-run concierge virtual practice helping clients look and feel better. On this blog, you’ll ﬁnd cocktails, mocktails, and plant-based recipes that are easy to make quickly at home and pack for leftovers on your adventures.