Nutrition and Supplements for Cancer Survivors

Good nutrition is important to our overall health—and it’s critical to those who are going through cancer treatment and after-care.

Good nutrition is important to our overall health—and it’s critical to those who are going through cancer treatment and after-care. Proper nutrition can strengthen your body’s immune system—your natural defense against disease—and can increase the effectiveness of your medical treatment. Healthy eating can also protect your muscles, restore strength to your body and help you to feel better during your treatment.

The registered dietitians connected with Allegiance Health’s integrative oncology program base their nutritional recommendations on 30 years of research and patient experience. 

Proper nutrition works in harmony with—but doesn’t replace—your necessary, traditional cancer treatments. As nutritional oncologist Keith Block, MD, explains in his book Life Over Cancer (http://lifeovercancer.com/), cancer cells are fueled by certain chemical processes, and certain foods may slow these processes and “starve” cancer cells of their fuel. These foods include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and extra virgin olive oil. Making them a main part of your diet may also reduce spikes in your blood sugar level, which are known to fuel cancer cell activity as well.

For individuals with cancer, it is also recommended to limit your consumption of fried foods, white flour, sugar and processed foods in general—which can all cause blood-sugar spikes. Try to eat foods closest to their natural state (e.g., fresh fruits and vegetables or frozen without added sugar, salt or sauces) and choose water as your main beverage. Here are more eating tips from the National Cancer Institute.

To help keep you at your optimal level of strength at various stages of your cancer treatment, the careful use of vitamins and herbal supplements may be recommended. Supplements such as selenium and zinc may help to reduce the chemical processes that promote cancer cell growth and strengthen your body’s ability to resist disease. These should never be considered as a substitute for a healthy diet or a replacement for cancer treatment, but as a part of your overall care plan. The physicians and staff involved in Allegiance Health’s integrative oncology program can work with you to develop an individualized supplement and diet plan based on your specific needs.

Remember that your particular type of cancer, your course of treatment, and where you are in the process at any given time will all affect your nutritional needs. Be sure to check with your doctor or nutrition specialist regarding what is best for you.

Mark Leventer, MD

There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But you may help lower your risk by maintaining a healthy body weight, limiting how much alcohol you drink and getting regular exercise.