There are many rumors and false reports about healthy nutrition in cancer. Medical research is certain: nutrition is not a miracle cure for cancer. There is no form of nutrition that can cure or prevent cancer. But one thing is also certain: diet can have a positive effect on the course of cancer treatment and help prevent relapses.
This Is What Nutrition Can Do For Cancer
Depending on the type and stage of cancer, tumor diseases have a different impact on eating habits. Breast cancer, for example, is usually associated with fewer nutritional problems than esophageal cancer or colon cancer. The form and stage of cancer therapy also play an important role: targeted irradiation of a small tumor or a tumor precursor, for example, usually causes fewer symptoms than drug chemotherapy.
The following information on the right nutrition for cancer, therefore, provides a general overview for cancer patients and those interested. This information cannot and does not replace the urgently needed advice from the treating physician.
Appropriate Diet Improves The Chances Of Recovery
Cancer treatments often cause discomfort. This ranges from loss of appetite and severe gastrointestinal problems to pain when chewing, swallowing or purging. For many cancer sufferers, eating becomes torture. The result: Cancer sufferers often lose weight quickly. This weight loss, in turn, makes the cancer treatment less effective – and causes even more side effects. An adapted diet can help break out of this self-reinforcing cycle – or not even get into the cycle in the first place. This improves the chances of recovery. In addition, a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of relapse after cancer therapy has been overcome.
There is no one right form of nutrition for cancer patients. Rather, it is important to tailor diets to individual needs. The focus is primarily on 2 aspects:
- Avoid weight loss
- Prevent deficiency symptoms.
5 Simple Rules For Diet For Cancer
When you have cancer, it is less important which foods you eat. Of course, fresh food is usually better than industrially processed products such as fast food or ready-made meals. When in doubt, however, the motto applies: It’s better to eat something than not to eat. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) summarizes the basic recommendations in 5 simple rules for nutrition in cancer:
- Eat what you can handle.
- Then eat when you feel right.
- Create a relaxed atmosphere while eating.
- Let us help you avoid time pressure.
- If you have persistent complaints, ask for professional help.
What To Do About Cancer-Related Poor Appetite
A lack of appetite is one of the most common side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. The causes are manifold. Among other things, there are mucous membrane problems. Often, however, the tumor cells also make a contribution: They sometimes release messenger substances that inhibit appetite and cause nausea or vomiting. These symptoms are also typical side effects of cancer drugs.
Unfortunately, the lack of appetite cannot be treated reliably. Experts, therefore, advise: Eat whenever you feel like it – even at night. Use every opportunity to strengthen yourself. Even the smallest portions are a step in the right direction. Try what stimulates your appetite. That can be a little stroll. If you can and are allowed to do sports, take advantage of that too.
Bitter substances stimulate digestion and thus also the appetite. Foods such as chicory, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, endive or rocket contain a particularly large number of bitter substances and many valuable vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Herbs such as mugwort, tarragon, lovage, bay leaves, chervil or marjoram, and rosemary also contain bitter substances and are well tolerated by many cancer patients.
Eating If You Have Cancer-Related Chewing And Swallowing Problems
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy put a heavy strain on the body as a whole. They are designed to attack fast-growing cells such as tumor cells in particular. The rapidly growing cells also include, for example, the mucous membrane cells that line the mouth, esophagus, and intestines. If the mucous membranes are attacked or destroyed, this leads to chewing and swallowing difficulties, which can make eating very painful.
If the mucous membranes in the mouth, throat, and esophagus are attacked, you should avoid foods that further irritate the tissue. These include, for example, sour, spicy, salty, or hard foods. Food and drinks are lukewarm or cold (but not ice cold) better tolerated than hot.
In practice, soft and creamy dishes have proven their worth. It is not uncommon for cancer sufferers to use baby food in a jar. These mixtures are easy to swallow – and also contain many important vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.
Prevent Deficiency Diseases In Cancer
In order to prevent nutrition-related deficiency diseases in cancer, close medical monitoring is essential. Even a comparatively regular, fresh, and varied diet is sometimes not enough to meet the individual needs for nutrients. However, you should not resort to supplementary medication or food supplements without consulting a doctor. Vitamin and mineral products are – contrary to what the advertising promises – not always healthy. Rather, they also harbor risks. This even applies to healthy people.
If there is a pronounced nutritional deficiency, there is always the option of compensating for the need with a prescription-only balanced diet. Nutrition via infusions (parenteral nutrition) or tubes (enteral nutrition) ensures the supply when normal food intake is no longer possible or a deficiency has to be quickly compensated for.
No Evidence For Supposed Miracle Diets Against Cancer
Again and again one can read about forms of nutrition with which cancer is to be cured. These are often recommendations for low-carbohydrate or so-called ketogenic diets. On the Internet, in bookstores, with self-help groups and alternative practitioners – but also with some doctors – these diets are ascribed real miracles. The vast majority of experts, however, are certain: There is no form of nutrition that can cure cancer or even slow it down significantly.
The working group of the Prevention and Integrative Oncology Working Group (PRIO) of the German Cancer Society writes (see also studies/sources): “At the moment, there are no human studies (editor’s note: scientific studies on humans) that prove that a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet
- can prevent or suppress the growth or metastasis of a tumor in humans
- improves the effectiveness of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. “
Other experts agree: “Promises that cancer can be cured with the right diet are extremely dubious,” said Hans Hauner, head of the “Nutrition and Cancer” working group at the Munich Tumor Center in the news magazine Der Spiegel Fraud.
Human Studies Show Risks For Cancer Patients
The German Cancer Society has evaluated 15 studies that deal with the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on cancer patients. The result: ketogenic diets are out of the question for cancer patients because they carry the risk of weight loss. Because weight loss has been proven to worsen the chances of recovery.
In addition, low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets sometimes have significant side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea or constipation or arteriosclerosis, kidney stones, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), and dehydration.
What are the reports of the effects of ketogenic cancer diets based on?
The reports of the beneficial effects of the ketogenic diet in cancer are based on the interpretation of results from animal studies. It was observed that a low-carbohydrate diet can slow the growth of cancer cells in mice. However, a number of findings are withheld in most of the positive publications on the ketogenic cancer diet:
- After slowing down at the beginning, cancer cell growth even accelerated later in many animal experiments during the low-carbohydrate diet.
- In addition, tumor growth in the mice only slowed down if the animals also lost weight during the diet. Therefore, reputable researchers believe that weight loss is the cause of stunted growth.
- But the most important thing: results from animal experiments on mice cannot simply be transferred to humans.