Proper nutrition during cancer treatment is an essential component of therapy. It is not only important for good health, but also important to help the patient feel stronger and better during the course of therapy. When the body does not get the appropriate nutrition it needs, it may cause malnutrition. The right amount of vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates are an important part of daily intake. This can help improve and maintain weight and strength, keep body tissue healthy, and fight infection. This is also very important in getting through therapy. Some cancer treatments (chemotherapy and/or radiation) work better when the patient is well nourished and gets enough calories and protein in the diet. Patients who are well nourished may have a better prognosis and quality of life.

The side effects of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy may cause a person to eat less and lose weight. These changes are due to normal cells being destroyed, as well as cancer cells, which can change appetite and sense of taste and smell.

General nutrition recommendations during cancer treatment
  • Maintain a healthy weight. For many people, this means avoiding weight loss by getting enough calories on a daily basis.
  • Get essential nutrients the body needs, such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and enough water.
  • High protein and calorie rich foods.
  • Dietary supplements, such as multivitamins and calcium.
  • Liquid meal replacements and energy drinks-dense beverages and snacks, such as the BRAT supplement, Ensure and even Gatorade and Pedialyte.
  • When counts are low: avoid fresh fruits, vegetables, raw meat or fish. Canned or cooked fruits and vegetables are okay.
  • Some patients require feeding tubes for nutrition. This strategy is for those who are exceptionally underweight and not getting enough nutrition before cancer surgery, or those whose digestive tracts are not functioning (as in people who have had parts of the stomach, pancreas, or colon removed by surgery).
Diet and nutrition after treatment

After treatment ends, a person’s follow-up care should include monitoring for recurrence (return of the cancer) or the development of a second cancer. We recommend that survivors follow common recommendations for good health, such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying physically active.

Foods to prevent risk of cancer
  • High fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes protect against colon, bladder, prostate, and esophageal cancer.
  • Cruciferous vegetables (kale, cauliflower, broccoli) and foods rich in Vitamin C may also help reduce risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas.
  • Antioxidants: Vitamin A and E, including green tea are natural antioxidants for the body.

Our staff is here to help you maintain a healthy diet throughout your treatment so you can face your illness at your best. This includes identifying possible nutrition deficiencies, planning out a diet, discussing ways to counteract a lack of appetite, sustaining a healthy weight, and choosing foods that agree with you while also providing the nutrients you need.


Your diet is an important part of your treatment for cancer. Eating the right kinds of foods before and taking the right kinds of nutritional supplements can help you feel better and stay stronger. Recommendations about food and eating for cancer patients can be very different from the usual suggestions for healthful eating. This can be confusing for many patients because these new suggestions may seem to be the opposite of what they've always heard.

Nutrition recommendations usually stress eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals; including a moderate amount of meat and dairy products; and cutting back on fat, sugar, alcohol, and salt. Nutrition recommendations for cancer patients may focus on helping you eat more higher calorie foods that emphasize protein. Recommendations might include eating or drinking more milk, cream, cheese, and cooked eggs.

Other suggestions might include increasing your use of sauces and gravies, or changing your cooking methods to include more butter, margarine, or oil. Sometimes, nutrition recommendations for cancer patients suggest that you eat less of certain high-fiber foods because these foods can aggravate problems such as diarrhea or a sore mouth. Nutrition recommendations for cancer patients are different because they are designed to help build up your strength and help you withstand the effects of your cancer and its treatment.

When you are healthy, eating enough food to get the nutrients you need is usually not a problem. During cancer treatment, however, this can become a challenge, especially if you have side effects or simply don’t feel well. The following charts show ways to increase your calorie and protein intake.

Remember, there aren't any hard and fast nutrition rules during cancer treatment. Some patients may continue to enjoy eating and have a normal appetite throughout most of their cancer treatment. Others may have days when they don't feel like eating at all; even the thought of food may make them feel sick. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • When you can eat, try to eat meals and snacks with sufficient protein and calories; they will help you keep up your strength, prevent body tissues from breaking down, and rebuild tissues that cancer treatment may harm.
  • Many people find their appetite is better in the morning. Take advantage of this and eat more then. Consider having your main meal of the day early, and have liquid meal replacements later on if you don't feel so interested in eating.
  • If you don't feel well and can eat only one or two things, stick with them until you are able to eat other foods. Try a liquid meal replacement for extra calories and protein.
  • On those days when you can't eat at all, don't worry about it. Do what you can to make yourself feel better. Come back to eating as soon as you can, and let your doctor know if this problem doesn't get better within a couple of days.
  • Try to drink plenty of fluids, especially on those days when you don't feel like eating. Water is essential to your body's proper functioning, so getting enough fluids will ensure that your body has the water it needs. For most adults, 6-8 cups of fluid a day are a good target. Try carrying a water bottle with you during the day. That may help you get into the habit of drinking plenty of fluids.

Herbal Therapies

Herbal Therapies Cancer Treatment / Plant Therapies Cancer Treatment

Herbs have long been used in medicine to treat maladies and ease discomfort. Herbal/plant therapies cancer treatment use the whole plant or the parts of a plant valued for medicinal purposes. Some herbal therapies have been formulated using the optimal ratio of the constituents within the plant. This differs from biologic or orthomolecular therapies, which use only individual parts of herbs or plants.

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional Supplements in Cancer Care and Other Metabolic Disorders

Why Are Nutritional Supplements Important?

There are two major reasons to take nutritional supplements. The first reason is to complement the diet with nutrients that may be lacking in sufficient amounts to provide maximal benefit for good health. The current standard American diet is widely acknowledged as unhealthy and deficient in key nutrients. More than 60% of adults over the age of 50 have insufficient dietary intake of vitamin D, vitamin E, the B vitamin folate, and calcium. Even individuals committed to a healthy diet can find it difficult to meet all their nutritional needs through food intake alone. Eating the recommended five generous servings of fruits and vegetables each day may be challenging. Modern industrial agricultural techniques yield fruits and vegetables low in important trace elements and nutrients, so that even when fruit and vegetable intake is high, amounts of some nutrients may still be too low. There is evidence that some vitamins, such as folate, are more effectively supplied as a supplement than by food. A balanced nutritional supplement helps a person obtain the vitamins and minerals he or she needs.

The second reason is to provide a select nutrient or combination of nutrients to support a specific body function. Some people inherit a body chemistry that requires greater amounts of certain vitamins and nutrients to bring their metabolism up to a normally functioning level. Other people have acquired body chemistry abnormalities due to toxic exposures or as part of a disorder such as poor kidney function. Still others require certain nutrients and vitamins to support them through medical therapies such as antibiotic or cancer chemotherapy. Dietary supplementation with vitamins, minerals and micronutrients complements a healthy diet to provide optimal nutrition and support well-being. It can help maintain health, preserve normal tissue and organ function, and support recovery from many diseases.

Nutrition in Cancer Care

Cancer and cancer treatments may cause nutrition-related side effects. Ensuring proper nutrition before, during, and after treatment can help patients feel better and stay stronger. Lack of key nutrients can cause patients to be weak, tired, and unable to resist infections or withstand cancer therapies. Consuming inadequate protein and too few calories are the most common nutrition problems facing many cancer patients. Protein and calories are important for healing, fighting infection and providing energy, thus protein-and calorie-dense foods should be emphasized in the diet. Nutritional supplementation with selected vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can help cancer patients get the micronutrients also needed to maintain strength, prevent body tissue from breaking down, rebuild tissue, heal wounds, fight infection and recover from surgery.

Physician Recommendations

The specific supplements recommended by the Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation are intended to address key nutritional areas that can be compromised in patients with conditions such as cancer, heart disease and other metabolic disorders. Individuals with family history of these disorders may also benefit from taking certain supplements to support healthy metabolism.

For maximum tolerance and benefit, these supplements are free of common allergens such as are found in wheat, corn and yeast. No lactose is present. No artificial colors, sweeteners, flavorings, or preservatives are used. The products are manufactured in strict compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs).

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