By Jessica Christie, N.D., C.N.S.

Jessica Christie is a Naturopathic Doctor and Certified Nutrition Specialist within the Naturopathic Medicine Program at Gentle Wellness Center.

We ask Dr. Christie a few basic, but important questions about nutrition for cancer patients in order to understand the correct way to approach food and nutrition. Nutrition and diet is a great way to treat cancer in conjunction with other forms of treatment.

Q. Why is Nutrition Important for Cancer Patients?

A. Nutrition is important because you truly “Are what you eat”. With every bite of food we take, we are either positively or negatively affecting our overall health. When we are dealing with a diagnosis such as cancer, our bodies are already in a compromised state. One of simplest and most effective ways of improving health is by changing the diet to include foods that will heal and eliminate foods that are contributing to disease progression.

Q. What Kind of Diet do You Recommend for Cancer Patients?

A. I do not believe in the “one diet fits all” model. All patients should be assessed for their individual dietary requirements. That being said, here are some main tips that everyone can keep in mind and incorporate:

  1. Eat organic whenever possible and as much as possible. Organic food is more nutritionally dense, and it will reduce your intake of toxic pesticides.
  2. Stick to whole foods – these are foods in their natural form, which have not been manipulated or modified in anyway such as organic whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, organic dairy, poultry, eggs, grass-fed meat, wild caught fish and organic whole grains, lentils and legumes.
  3. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store to find the freshest and most nutritious food in the store. Most processed foods (anything in a box, bag, can or jar) are usually found in the middle isles, and these are never going to be a healthy choice when we are trying to help our bodies heal.

Q. What Kind of Foods Should Cancer Patients Avoid?

A. Cancer patients should avoid all sugar (except sugars naturally occurring in whole fruit). This includes most packaged foods as they consist of high fructose corn syrup and MSGs. Sugar feeds cancer – this has been clearly shown in several research studies. Reducing refined carbs is equally essential since refined carbohydrates act very similarly in the body to sugar when consumed. This would include breads, pastas and pastries. Eliminating anything artificial and/or processed is also advised. Processed meat has found to have carcinogens and it is best to avoid that. This includes deli meats, salami, sausages, hot dogs, canned meats, bacon, smoked meats, salted and cured meats, corned beef and beef jerky. It is also recommended to cook or make your own food as much as possible and staying away from unhealthy outside food and even packaged foods.

Q. Do You Recommend Any Herbs for Cancer Patients? Do Herbs Interfere with Cancer Treatments and What is Your Approach for Prescribing Herbs and/or Supplements?

A. Herbs can be a wonderful addition to a care plan for cancer patients. However, they are always recommended on an individual basis. There is a misconception out there that because herbs are natural, they are always safe to take. But, please keep in mind that while herbs are typically very safe and effective, they will not be appropriate in every situation. Herbs can mostly be used only in addition to other treatments and cannot completely “treat” conditions such as cancer. Herbs should be viewed as medicines and should only be taken when recommended by a healthcare provider who has been trained to understand herbal and pharmaceutical interactions and who fully understands your personal medical history.