The Role of Diet in Treatment of Kidney Cancer
If you have been diagnosed with kidney cancer, you are probably wondering what things you can do to help treat your cancer — or at least improve your symptoms. Changing your diet is something you can easily control — after all, you have complete control over the foods you put into your body!
According to the Kidney Cancer Association, the relationship between cancer and diet is not clear. A poor diet may contribute to causing cancer, but can improving diet actually improve the outlook of cancer?
Research still needs to be done, as there is little evidence at this time regarding diet changes and treatment of cancer. But that doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from taking a look at your current diet and making some changes.
It is important to note that while supplements may play an important role in your health, they should only be taken at the advice of your physician. Research has not yet proven that megadoses of vitamins (for example, vitamins A and C) are helpful in the treatment of cancer unless you are deficient in these vitamins.
A large dose of vitamin A may interact with medications, have undesirable side effects, and be toxic to the body while a large dose of vitamin C can cause kidney stones. For a person who has had a nephrectomy due to kidney cancer, a large dose of vitamin C may be damaging to the remaining kidney.
Eat to Reduce Sickness
If you’re going through chemotherapy, you’re more susceptible to infection. You’ve probably been told to wash your hands and avoid people who are ill. What you may not know is that the foods you eat can make you sick if you do not handle them properly.
Prior to eating produce, ensure it is thoroughly washed. When consuming meat and eggs, make sure they are cooked thoroughly — the meat should not be pink and the yolks should not be runny.
When purchasing milk, make sure it is pasteurized; the pasteurizing process reduces possible contaminants. Pay close attention to expiration dates, and don’t eat the food past its date.
The recommended amount of protein intake can be tricky if you have kidney cancer. Kidney function decreases as a result of kidney cancer. If you’ve had a nephrectomy, kidney function may possibly be further decreased. A high protein diet may cause your kidneys to work harder.
For your individual protein needs, ask for a referral to speak with a registered dietitian (RD). An RD can calculate your needs based on your kidney function and give you recommendations based on your likes/dislikes.
They can also look at your health in general, looking at other health conditions you may have and design a diet plan to fit your needs.
A typical cancer diet is high in calories. Body weight should be maintained during cancer treatment, even if you are overweight — this may require eating more calories than you’re used to.
Some people need to eat high-fat, high-calorie foods in order to maintain their weight. Again, if this is difficult, this is where speaking with an RD is helpful.
“Super Foods” for the Kidneys
The National Kidney Foundation has outlined seven “super foods” that are beneficial for general kidney health. These foods are high in antioxidants and vitamins; although they do not cure kidney cancer, they do have benefits for overall health.
- Apples: The antioxidants are located in the peel so make sure to consume that part of the apple. Apples also contain pectin, which may lower cholesterol and glucose levels.
- Blueberries: Blueberries are rich in vitamin C. Studies are being done to evaluate blueberries and their benefit against cancer and heart disease.
- Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids help control blood clotting and building the cell membranes of the brain. They may help to lower blood pressure and are thought to lower triglyceride levels. Omega-3s are also being studied as an agent against cancer, autoimmune disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Kale: Kale is rich in vitamin C, calcium, vitamin A, carotenoids and flavonoids; carotenoids and flavonoids are known to have anti-cancer benefits.
- Spinach: Spinach is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. It is also rich in beta-carotene, which helps with immunity. People on dialysis do have to watch their intake, as it is high in potassium.
- Strawberries: Strawberries are rich in fiber and antioxidants, which causes them to be beneficial for heart health and possibly act as an anti-cancer agent.
- Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin B-6. People on dialysis do have to watch their intake though, as it is high in potassium.