Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients


Inflammation Diet

This is the third diet in the series; we are not discussing diets for weight loss. These diets are supposed to accomplish more than just weight loss, therefore, the need for some clarification and guidance.

Inflammation is one of your body’s powerful healing processes. Under normal conditions, it’s an acute (short-lived), a controlled response to an injury, such as a cut or a sprain, or a routine illness. Acute inflammation defends the body then goes away once healing is under way.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is the result of subtler insults to the body. Culprits include an unhealthful diet, lack of physical activity, stress and exposure to cigarette smoke or environmental toxins. Chronic inflammation lingers, creating a state of chaos, and research suggests that this may be the root of many complex diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Growing evidence shows that diet and lifestyle can either create a pro-inflammatory environment or an anti-inflammatory one. Here are some everyday steps you can take to cool the heat of inflammation with good nutrition.

Fruits and veggies: Eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum will provide you with a variety of antioxidants and health-promoting plant phytochemicals. Vegetables from the cruciferous family — broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower — are especially rich in these inflammation-fighting compounds. Deeply pigmented fruits and veggies are generally phytochemical powerhouses — think red, blue, purple, dark green, yellow and orange — but so are garlic, onions, cauliflower and mushrooms.


Fiber: This is easy when you base your meals on healthy carbohydrate choices like vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans and lentils) and whole grains. Eat fewer foods made with flour and sugar, especially packaged snack foods, as these refined carbohydrates promote inflammation. If you enjoy pasta, eat it in moderation and cook it al dente (firm to the bite).


Healthful fats: Extra-virgin olive oil, expeller-pressed organic canola oil are options if you want neutral-tasting oil. Include moderate amounts of avocados, nuts and seeds in your meals or snacks. Another reason to avoid heavily processed foods is that they often contain low-quality, damaged fats, which promote inflammation.

Pile of assorted nuts close upavocado

Beyond meat: Fish, with its healthful omega-3 fats, and plant-based proteins like legumes and less-processed forms of soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk) can help reduce inflammation. Meat, and to a lesser extent poultry, milk and dairy, can be pro-inflammatory.

salmon Soy Milk

Spice it up. Spices are more than just flavoring agents — they are also packed with phytochemicals. Ginger and turmeric are particularly noted for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Garlic ginger

Tea breaks: All types of tea — green, oolong and black — contain inflammation-fighting phytochemicals, but green tea is the top choice. Herbal teas don’t have the same benefit, as they don’t come from the Camellia sinensis bush. Coffee does contain phytochemicals, but in excess it can contribute to inflammation.


Practice moderation: Eating more calories than your body needs can promote inflammation. If your weight stays fairly steady, you are probably eating the right amount of calories for your level of activity.


Alcohol is inflammatory, especially in excess. If you drink, moderation is advised. To satisfy a sweet tooth, fresh fruit or small amounts of plain dark chocolate are your best bets.

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Story behind Fiber

Make sure you get the right type of fiber
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

Soluble fiber becomes “sticky” when it gets wet. Oats, which are rich in soluble fiber, are great examples.


Insoluble fiber does not absorb much water, so it doesn’t change when liquid is added to it. Think of what celery would look like if you dropped it into a glass of water. It doesn’t absorb liquid or become sticky. That’s insoluble fiber.


For both diarrhea and constipation, you want to get more soluble fiber, such as oats, bran, and barley.

For constipation only, you can add in some insoluble fiber as well—fruits and vegetables are good sources.

Many people find that simply taking a daily fiber supplement, which is made up mostly of soluble fiber, will lessen both diarrhea and constipation.

Please ask your doctor or dietitian if it is okay to add in more fiber before you try a supplement. These products are considered safe for most people; however, some digestive problems may worsen with the addition of fiber.

Adding More Fiber

Once you get the okay from your medical team, you can pick up a fiber supplement at any pharmacy or supermarket.

Products made with a type of fiber called inulin, or those made of wheat dextrin or Psyllium, often work well.

Start with one-half serving and plenty of water, to see how your body tolerates the product.

Make sure to have at least eight ounces of fluid each time you take a fiber supplement, and drink additional water throughout the day to stay well-hydrated.

Adding fiber without adequate water can worsen constipation.

Over several days, slowly add in more fiber, as tolerated, to help normalize your bowel function. As well, you can experiment with taking the supplement in the morning, evening, or both, to determine what works best for you.

If you want to focus on food to get more soluble fiber, try oats and oatmeal, natural applesauce (no added sugar), lentils, pears, finely ground flaxseeds (not whole), barley, and white rice.


For insoluble fiber, try whole wheat and wheat bran, nuts, seeds, and raw vegetables. Beans and peas contain significant amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber.


Soluble fiber is good for both diarrhea and constipation.
Insoluble fiber is best for constipation only.


Encourage good bacteria

Probiotics….Prebiotics….  Synbiotics

There are positive choices that you can make to encourage good bacteria. If we eat a diet loaded with red meat, saturated fats and simple sugars, certain types of bad bacteria will take over and survive. On the other hand, if we eat a diet high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables and grains, a much healthier population of bacteria will thrive in the gut.


Probiotics are organisms, usually bacteria, which have a beneficial effect on both digestion and limit the amount of unhealthy bacteria in your intestines.

There are limited sources of probiotics in the diet:

1. Yogurt is a familiar source of probiotics. Make sure “live culture”, “live bacteria”, or “probiotic” is listed on the label because not all yogurts are probiotic. In fact, the live culture or bacteria makes the yogurt probiotic.


2. Kefir, a thick form of yogurt-like drink made from fermented milk, is a good source for probiotics.


3. Aged cheeses (like Gouda and blue cheese) are a source of resilient probiotics that can survive their way through your intestines.



4. Soy beverages and unfermented milk contain weaker strains of probiotics that often do not produce their full health effects. However, fermented milk such as buttermilk is a better source of probiotics.


5. Miso soup, a popular Japanese dish, is a paste made from fermented soybean. Miso contains more than 160 bacterial strains.


Besides being found in foods, probiotics are also available as supplements. Even though they don’t provide the full benefits that dietary food can offer in terms of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, they are more convenient. Remember to always consult your doctor before you decide on taking them.


Prebiotics, on the other hand, are special form of dietary fibers — including inulin, lactitol, lactulose and a variety of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS).

 Prebiotics serve as food sources for the healthy bacteria thus increasing their growth in your gut.

 They can be readily found in non-digestible plant sources such as, burdock, chicory, dandelion root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, onions, and garlic according to “The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.


 Prebiotics are also being added to cereals, breads, biscuits, yogurts and some dairy products.


Research has established strong evidence of a symbiotic relationship between prebiotics and probiotics.

 Synbiotics are foods that act as both probiotics and prebiotics.