Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients

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Meet a Registered Dietitian this year


New Year brings with it a lot of hopes, promises and resolutions, one of those promises that you make should be about watching what and how much you eat.

The daily promises about curative powers of everything from pet ownership to meditation. And various doctors discussing another superfood, it’s easy to see why most of us get confused about what we ought to be eating, taking or doing to optimize our health and when to seek advice from a Registered dietitian to learn the truth rather than listen to fluff.


The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 18 percent of Americans use herbal supplements. That’s more than twice the rate of the next-most-popular complementary medicines, chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation (8.5 percent) and yoga (8.4 percent).In addition, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says that 92 percent of Americans believe massage therapy is an effective treatment for reducing pain.

People are highly motivated now to try to stay healthy by taking vitamins, herbs and nutraceuticals, or by seeking out complementary and alternative medical treatments. People need to discuss these with their doctors and dietitian.

Vitamins, herbs and supplements

Traditional medicine, unfortunately, does focus on treating disease. Treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms of illness is becoming more mainstream and even conventional physicians are increasingly likely to discuss the nutraceuticals and wellness therapies patients have already prescribed for themselves.

Personal touch

Registered dietitians provide nutritional counseling, answer food/diet related questions, to become healthy and stay healthy, rather than just looking for Diet when sick.


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Gut Microbiome the Hidden Metabolic Organ

The human microbiome consists of trillions of bacterial cells that live and flourish throughout the body in places such as the skin, lungs, mouth, and urogenital and digestive tracts. Depending on their location in the body, these beneficial bacterial cells have different characteristics and roles in maintaining health.


The gut is home to over 1 000 different species of microbes, with an estimated 100 million to one trillion cells per milliliter, located in the large intestine alone. These microbes contain at least 100 times more genes than are found in the human genome. It has long been known that the bacteria and microbes in the gut are involved in several important functions including:

  • Participating in the synthesis of vitamins B12 and K, folate, and biotin
  • Enhancing the immune system
  • Providing a physical barrier to harmful pathogens
  • Producing short-chain fatty acids that provide energy for colonic cells through fermentation of nondigestible carbohydrates

Unlike the human genome, which is determined at conception, the gut microbiome coevolves with the individual over time and appears to be dependent on a multitude of factors, including: age, long-term dietary habits, lifestyle, environmental exposures, and stress.

Dysbiosis, or disruption of the healthy microbiota, is thought to be a trigger for many diseases. This can be caused by antibiotic use or it may also be a result of stress, or result of the quality and composition of one’s diet. Studies have found that those who eat typical Western diets, high in fat and protein from animal products, and low in plant foods, have less diversity in their gastrointestinal bacteria. Higher fiber diets, and especially those which contain a wide variety of plant foods, appear to promote a greater variety and numbers of healthy bacteria.

There is evidence of an association between the gut microbiome and the following diseases:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome: A lack of bacterial diversity may facilitate adhesion of pathogens to the bowel wall.


  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis): While IBD has a strong genetic component, studies have also identified an over abundance of certain types of bacteria, which causes chronic inflammation and ulceration of the colon lining.


  • Colorectal cancer: Cancerous changes in the colon may be due to chronic inflammation caused by dysbiosis, and in turn, the cancerous tissue appears more likely to harbor an overabundance of Fusobacterium, a pathogenic bacterium.
  • Obesity: Obese individuals appear to have differences in the gut microbiome as compared to lean individuals. Consuming excess calories over and above what is needed for weight maintenance can alter the gut microbiota, regardless of the quality of the diet.


  • Allergy: Certain allergic diseases such as atopic eczema, asthma, rhinitis, and some food allergies may be linked to dysbiosis, especially in infants. In many cases, those affected have less bacterial diversity, possibly due to the “hygiene hypothesis”—a high level of hygiene during the neonatal period that likely reduces exposure to microbes.


  • Diabetes and insulin resistance: As in the case of obesity, individuals with diabetes appear to have similarities in their gut microbiome.

Insulin Resistance

Although research on the association between disease and the gut microbiome is still emerging, there appears to be significant evidence that diet plays an important role in developing and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn may promote wellness, and/or help to manage numerous diseases.


Consume a high fiber, plant-based diet that includes a variety of fiber sources, to increase the diversity of the gut microbiome.


Limit excess energy consumption, regardless of the composition of the diet.

Consume probiotic rich foods such as kefir, yogurt, and fermented vegetables, with live and active cultures.

Be aware that probiotic supplements may contain varying strains of bacteria, which may target different disorders.

Look for ways to reduce stress, especially if it results in unhealthy eating habits, and/or constipation or diarrhea.

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Benefits of plant based diet

While there is no known cure for certain disease, researchers have identified several lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, which appear to affect not only the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but also the progression of the disease. A recently published study called Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) determined that following an eating pattern that has components of the DASH and Mediterranean diets could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 53%. Also encouraging is their finding that even for those with just moderate adherence to the diet, the reduction in risk is still 35%.


Both the DASH and Mediterranean diets are rich in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as healthy fats. The MIND study identified ten food groups that appear to be beneficial to brain health, and five others that are harmful to the brain, but the guidelines for the MIND diet are fairly general. With the exception of berries, which the research identified as a very potent brain-protecting fruit, regular consumption of any types of leafy green or other vegetables, all types of nuts, and any whole grains reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s, as did eating any type of fish or poultry. The length of time the MIND diet is followed also appears to be important. Those who ate the brain-healthy foods for longer periods of time appeared to have the most benefit.

Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diet 1

The 10 good MIND food groups

  • Beans
  • Berries (especially blueberries and strawberries)
  • Fish
  • Green, leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, etc)
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Other vegetables (carrots, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, etc)
  • Poultry
  • Whole grains (brown rice, farro, quinoa, oats, etc)
  • Wine

The 5 food groups to limit or avoid

  • Butter and stick margarine
  • Cheese
  • Fried or fast food
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Red meats

Tips to incorporate the diet The MIND diet is more about a consistent eating pattern rather than eating specific foods and quantities each day. Researchers identified the following dietary patterns in those with the lowest risk:

  • At least three servings of whole grains a day (e.g, oats, 100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice, or quinoa)
  • A salad and one other vegetable a day
  • A glass of wine a day
  • A serving of nuts a day (usually as a snack)
  • Beans every other day
  • Poultry and berries at least twice a week
  • Fish at least once a week


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The Good news

It’s not difficult to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day is an important part of a healthy, active lifestyle. 

It promotes good health and may help lower the chances of getting high blood pressure, types 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. 

Everyone has the power to make choices to improve their health. The good news is that eating more fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest things you can do. 


What’s in fruits and Vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables are a great source of many vitamins, minerals and fiber the body needs. They are packed with all naturally occurring substances like phytochemicals that help protect against many diseases. 

Why eating fruits and vegetables is important?

Help manage weight, Lower chances for some cancers, Lower heart disease and stroke risk, reduced risk of High blood pressure as well as lower chances for diabetes. 

How much of fruits and vegetables do adults need?

Eating your fruits and vegetables is a lot easier than you might think. One cup- equivalent of most fruits and vegetables is the amount that would fit in a cup if chopped, or about 2 handfuls. The exceptions are raw leafy greens (2 cups count as 1 cup) or dried fruits (½ cup counts as 1 cup).

The Good News

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Pancreatic Cancer and Nutrition

Observe World Pancreatic Cancer Day by wearing 

Purple for a Purpose

PanCan Ribbon

November 13th is the world pancreatic cancer day. Worldwide there are around 280,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer each year and it is the seventh biggest cancer killer.

This cancer is chronically underfunded category for far too long. This is reflected in the dire survival rates between 3 to 6%, which haven’t improved for more than 40 years.

Pancreatic cancer affects the body’s pancreas, a small organ that plays a large role in digestion. Located deep within the abdomen, the pancreas sits between the stomach and the spine.


The pancreas secretes pancreatic fluid into the small intestine, pancreatic fluid helps digest foods that have been consumed. In cooperation with the small intestine’s digestive juices, the pancreatic fluid breaks down proteins, carbohydrates and fats, along with neutralizing the highly acidic stomach acid. The pancreas also releases hormones that help control blood-sugar level.

Maintaining proper nutrition while fighting pancreatic cancer is essential for the overall health and well-being. Proper nutrition helps enhance the immune system, improve strength, rebuild body tissues and decreases risk of developing infections. Even if you do not feel hungry, it is still important to fuel your body with high-calorie and high protein foods throughout the day.


Diet Tips

Since the pancreas is responsible for digesting foods, pancreatic cancer affects the body’s ability to absorb necessary nutrients from food. If nutrient absorption is affected for too long, the body could enter a state of malnutrition.

Pancreatic cancer also affects the organ’s ability to regulate blood-sugar levels, placing the body at a greater risk for developing diabetes.

Chemo Diet

Before your cancer treatment begins, fill your kitchen with healthy foods. Once treatment starts, you might experience unusual fatigue and weakness, making grocery shopping and meal preparation difficult. If necessary, ask friends and family members to help you prepare meals throughout your treatment. Aim to eat several small meals throughout the day with emphasis on Protein, carbohydrates and fat, in that order. If you simply cannot manage to eat many solid foods, use liquid supplements as meal replacement and/or snacks.

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New Fad…Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal 1

Activated charcoal and the type of charcoal that’s used in barbecues is not the same. Instead it’s carbon from wood, peat, coal or coconut shells; it becomes “activated” when high temperatures and gases create millions of tiny crevices that can bind drugs and toxins once it’s ingested. Activated charcoal is used in the emergency treatment of certain kinds of poisoning and drug overdoses. It prevents poisons from being absorbed into the body.

Activated Charcoal 2

Charcoal-based juices are catching on with detox fans. They’re touted to remove toxins from the body, cure flatulence, banish bloating, prevent hangovers and lower cholesterol. The evidence that activated charcoal does any of these things is scant and flimsy at best.

Some small studies have investigated the effectiveness of activated charcoal to reduce gas and blood cholesterol. And the findings were mixed. No research exists to back up the claim that activated-charcoal smoothies and juices clear toxic substances we ingest from food and the environment (e.g., pollutants, pesticide residues, alcohol).

Medical experts believe the healthy human body is well equipped to deal with toxins. And the gastrointestinal tract is only part of our body’s natural defense. Our skin, lungs, kidneys, liver and gut all play a role in removing or neutralizing toxic substances within hours of consumption.

Drinking a charcoal-based smoothie can aid the body’s detox process – but not because it’s made with activated charcoal. The fruits and leafy green vegetables supply vitamins, minerals and antioxidants the liver uses to neutralize and excrete toxins; fiber in flax and chia seeds helps the gut remove unwanted substances; and the water in the smoothie helps the kidneys filter out toxins. There are plenty of real, whole foods you can eat – or add to your smoothies – that have well-researched health benefits.

Activated charcoal is not without side effects. Pregnant or nursing women and the elderly should avoid it. Activated charcoal binds nutrients in foods and supplements, so regular use could deplete certain vitamins and minerals. It can also attach to certain medical drugs; if you take medication consult your doctor or pharmacist before using activated charcoal.