Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients

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All the talk about Vitamin D


Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is produced in the body with mild sun exposure or can be consumed in food or supplements.

 Adequate vitamin D intake is important for the regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption, maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, and it is supposed to have a protective effect against multiple diseases and conditions such as cancer, diabetes type 1 and multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D is a pro-hormone and not a vitamin. This is because the body is capable of producing its own vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin, while vitamins are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by the body and must be acquired through the diet or supplements.


 Vitamin D has multiple roles

  1. Maintain the health of bones and teeth
  2. Support the health of the immune system, brain and nervous system
  3. Regulate insulin levels and aid diabetes management
  4. Support lung function and cardiovascular health
  5. Influence the expression of genes involved in cancer development. 

It is estimated that sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows the body the ability to produce sufficient vitamin D, but vitamin D has a half-life of only two weeks, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter. Recent studies have suggested that up to 50% of adults and children worldwide are vitamin D deficient.

 Vitamin D is produced when sunlight converts cholesterol on the skin into calciol (vitamin D3). Vitamin D3 is then converted into calcidiol (25-hydroxyvitamin D3) in the liver. The kidneys then convert calcidiol into the active form of vitamin D, called calcitriol (1,25-hydroxyvitamin D3). As such, statins and other medications or supplements that inhibit cholesterol synthesis, liver function or kidney function can impair the synthesis of vitamin D.


Some Facts about Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D’s primary role is to support the development and maintenance of bones and teeth.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially in the elderly, infants, people with dark skin and people living at higher latitudes or who get little sun exposure.
  • Vitamin D deficiency has been seen in up to 80% of hip fracture patients.
  • 800IU of vitamin D per day reduces the risk of fracture by 20% in the elderly and decreases the risk of falls.
  • The metabolism of vitamin D may be affected by some medications, including barbiturates, phenobarbital, dilantin, isoniazid and statin drugs.



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Improving Your Immunity

body defense

Keep the immune system strong to keep cancer at bay and for general wellbeing. There are a few things we can do in terms of Nutrition to help the immunity along, certain food combinations or stand along foods have shown promise.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E

Food Sources of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)

Table 1


  • Chicory root (called inulin) and found fortified in some foods
  • Jerusalem Artichoke
  • Dandelion greens
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onion
  • Asparagus
  • Wheat bran
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Bananas 

Vitamin B6

Food Sources of Vitamin B6

Table 2


All mushrooms appear to have health benefits, even the common white mushroom. But because different mushrooms have different strengths – some are better at boosting the immune system, while others are stronger anti-inflammatories and still others are better at improving the type and quantity of good bacteria in our intestines, I would suggest you hedge your bets and include a variety of mushrooms in your diet and not just eat the same type all the time.


Some soy products are made in traditional ways beginning with mature soy foods. These traditional products are tofu, soymilk, tempeh, and edamame (green immature soybeans). Western soy foods are often made from soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrates. I recommend organic soy products, because soy has been approved for genetic modification (GM).

Soy contains Isoflavones. Isoflavones are often referred to as phytoestrogens, or in other words, plant estrogens. There are two main types of isoflavones—daidzein and genistein. The research presented by NCI was performed using genistein, different types of soy foods have different isoflavone content. Some contain more daidzein and others, more genistein.

Genistein, one of the isoflavones in soy, has been shown to have a positive impact on the immune system. Its anti-inflammatory property is protective against cancer .

Fish oil

In order to receive the full benefit of fish oil consumption, you should be sure to consume adequate vitamin E. The amount that research has shown to be effective is 100-200 IU per day. This amount can be pretty easily consumed in the diet. 

The idea is to obtain all these thru food, consuming supplements to get these items may not be a brilliant idea especially since food works in synergy with all the elements present in a meal. So include the food items that contain these nutrient in your daily diet.

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Supplements of Interest for Cancer Survivors

The following are some supplements of particular interest for cancer survivors:

cancer survivor

Vitamin D

Vitamin D seems to have anti proliferative effects that may be especially beneficial for decreasing cancer progression and enhancing survival, at least based on animal studies. Low circulating 25-hydroxy vitamin D [25(OH) D], the recommended biomarker of vitamin D status, is linked to an increased risk of several cancers. Observational studies tie higher 25(OH)D levels to improved outcomes among colorectal cancer survivors and possibly breast cancer survivors. But even when low circulating 25(OH) D is associated with worse outcomes in observational studies, it isn’t clear whether supplementation changes prognosis.

It’s unclear whether the Institute of Medicine’s 25(OH) D, recommendation of 600 to 800 IU daily based on bone health are adequate, for bone or overall health among cancer survivors. Some researchers propose targeting serum 25(OH)D levels of at least 30 ng/mL or 40 to 80 ng/mL in the survivor population, with an intake of 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D commonly recommended to reach those levels but still not established as optimal.

A concern among breast and prostate cancer survivors is the risk of osteoporosis secondary to surgical, chemotherapy, or hormonal therapies that decrease estrogen or testosterone levels, respectively, or following long-term corticosteroid use. While aiming for bone- and cancer-protective benefits, researchers emphasize that evidence is lacking regarding the safety of high blood levels of vitamin D.


Glutamine is an essential amino acid of interest for its potential to aid mouth sores and other symptoms of mucositis and to improve peripheral neuropathy that develops as a side effect of chemotherapy. It supports gastrointestinal cell growth and regeneration, and it may reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines. Significant side effects are uncommon with oral glutamine supplementation. More research on its use is needed, but caution is advised among patients with hepatic or renal insufficiency because, since it’s an amino acid, the liver and kidneys must metabolize glutamine. In patients with liver or renal insufficiency on protein restriction, glutamine supplementation should be avoided so as not to burden these organs.

Glutamine is used in clinical practice as a powder mixed into oral solution, generally “swished” before swallowing for mucositis benefit.


This is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, holds dual interest for cancer survivors. For those who have difficulty falling asleep, doses of 0.5 to 3 mg at bedtime may be helpful. Emerging evidence suggests that melatonin may provide cancer-protective effects by upregulating antioxidant enzymes and suppressing factors that promote cancer development. Limited data show some improvement in mortality rates when used at higher doses as an accompaniment to conventional cancer therapy.

Since melatonin can alter estrogen levels and may interact with drugs metabolized through certain pathways, those considering use should consult their physicians.

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Working with Leftovers

Next time you’re cooking vegetables and are about to toss out those vegetable parts STOP they are perfectly edible, and are packed with nutrition and flavor.

Here are some tips and tricks to make the most of your veggies. They’ll help you eat more of a variety of vegetables. You’ll also reduce food waste and save money.

Squash seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds are a fall favorite, but you can roast seeds from any winter squash, including butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash. Squash seeds are a great source of protein.

To roast, scoop out seeds, rinse and drain. Let them dry, spread flat on a baking pan and bake at 300 F for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Roasted Squash Seeds

Beet greens

Buy beets with the greens still attached and it’s like getting two vegetables in one. Beet greens contain loads of vitamin C and beta-carotene — nutrients linked to lower cancer risk.

Separate the greens from the beets by cutting just above where the stem begins. They’re great sautéed in olive oil, with garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Or combine beets and greens in one dish.

Beet Greens

Broccoli stems

No need to toss broccoli stems, they are delicious raw or added to stir-fries, stems are rich in cancer-protective vitamin C and fiber.

Use a vegetable peeler or large knife to remove the thick, tough outer layer of the broccoli stem then incorporate broccoli stems and florets into the same dish.

Broccoli stems

Broccoli leaves

Broccoli leaves look a lot like collard greens but taste sweeter. Dark green broccoli leaves are rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene and sulforaphane, a phytochemical with anti-cancer properties.

Prepare these nutritional powerhouses like you would any other green. Braising is a great option The braising technique works for any green.

Broccoli leaves

Potato and sweet potato peels

Potato peels are the perfect way to add extra fiber, nutrients, and texture to any dish. You’ll get more minerals and about a third more fiber by eating the skin.

Leave the peels on when mashing potatoes, this works particularly well for red potatoes. You can also leave the peel on when baking or roasting potatoes or sweet potatoes. Be sure to scrub the vegetables well if you’re planning to eat the peel.

Potato peels

Sweet potato leaves

These leaves are tender and mild. They are also a good source of vitamins A and K, and carotenoids.

Look for sweet potato leaves at your farmer’s market or at local gardens, and try them lightly braised.

Please note that sweet potato leaves are edible, some potato leaves and stems can be poisonous. If you’re not sure; avoid them.

Sweet potato leaves

Cauliflower stems

Use the whole cauliflower, including the stem. Cut all the way through a cauliflower head from the top to stem, peel the stem with a potato peeler and add to the same dish.

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Story of Coffee

Coffee alternately touted as medicinal and denounced as health destroying over the centuries, has become one of the most popular drinks in the world today. The Boston Tea Party turned coffee into a patriotic drink in colonial America. In 1952 an ad campaign promoted the idea of a coffee break, and it quickly became a daily ritual in workplaces, homes and churches in the United States.

Coffee is slightly acidic pH 5.0–5.1 and can have a stimulating effect on humans because of its caffeine content. Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. It can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways. The effect of coffee on human health has been a subject of many studies; however, results have varied in terms of coffee’s relative benefit. The majority of recent research suggests that moderate coffee consumption is benign or mildly beneficial in healthy adults.

What you get in your cup of coffee varies with how the beans are grown and how you prepare it. Overall, coffee is a good source of the B vitamin riboflavin, and is also a concentrated source of antioxidant phytochemicals.


  • Chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant compound that is the major phenol in coffee.
  • Quinic acid, a phytochemical contributes to the acidic taste of coffee.
  • Cafestol and kahweol, compounds are extracted from the beans’ oil during brewing.
  • Unfiltered coffee, such as French press or boiled coffee contains these compounds.
  • Caffeine, a naturally occurring stimulant that affects the central nervous system N methylpyridinium (NMB), created by roasting, may make the antioxidants more potent.
  • Chlorogenic acid may be slightly lower in decaf coffee according to limited research, but it still contains plenty of phytochemicals.
  • Lab studies suggest that instant coffee may be lower in antioxidant potency than brewed coffee, though more research is needed.

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Those Vitamins

Happy and Healthy Holidays to all!

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against the use of beta-carotene or vitamin E supplements for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer, according to a recommendation statement published in Annals of Internal Medicine.


Researchers conducted a systematic review of the evidence to assess the benefits and harms of using vitamin, mineral, and multivitamin supplements for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The evidence suggests that beta-carotene increases risk for lung cancer in people at risk for the disease. New evidence on the use of vitamin E proves that it lacks effectiveness in preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer

Evidence was insufficient to assess the benefits and harms of the use of multivitamins or single- or paired-nutrient supplements (with the exception of beta-carotene and vitamin E) for preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer.


About half of U.S. adults report using at least one dietary supplement and about one-third report using a multivitamin-multimineral supplement. Appropriate intake of vitamin and mineral nutrients is essential to overall health. The benefits of vitamin supplementation are uncertain, so it is recommended that Americans get most of their nutrients from foods.

Eating a nutrient-rich diet comprised of mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood should provide adequate nutrition. However, there may be specific groups of patients with well-defined conditions for whom specific nutrients will provide benefits.

 nutrient rich diet

The focus of the recommendation is healthy adults without special nutritional needs. This is an update to the USPSTF’s 2003 recommendation.

The American Institute for Cancer Research funds research into how individuals just like us can reduce our cancer risk – and prevent some cancers – through a healthy lifestyle.


AICR research shows that 1/3 of most cancers can be prevented with a healthy diet, weight management and at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. And according to the World Health Organization, as many as 50% of cancers could be prevented when smoking and other factors are taken into account.