Using Food, Vitamins, and Other Supplements to Fight Cancer

Many people want to know how they can fight cancer by eating certain foods or taking vitamins or supplements. But, there are no studies that prove that any special diet, food, vitamin, mineral, dietary supplement, herb, or combination of these can slow cancer, cure it, or keep it from coming back. In fact, some of these products can cause other problems by changing how your cancer treatment works. Tell your doctor, nurse, or dietitian about any vitamin, mineral, dietary supplements, or herbs you are already taking or plan to take. Also, talk with them before going on a special diet. For more information about complementary and alternative therapies, see Thinking About Complementary & Alternative Medicine: A Guide for People with Cancer, a booklet from the National Cancer Institute, at A Special Note for Caregivers Do not be surprised or upset if your loved one’s food preferences change from day to day. There may be days when he or she does not want a favorite food or says it now tastes bad. Keep food within easy reach. This way, your loved one can have a snack whenever he or she is ready to eat. Put a snack-pack of applesauce or diced fruit along with a spoon on the bedside table. Keep roasted nuts on the counter. Or try keeping cut-up fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. Eat fruits and vegetables with dips for extra calories and protein. Carrots go well with hummus and apples can be dipped in peanut butter. Offer gentle support rather than pushing your loved one to eat. Suggest that he or she drinks plenty of clear and full liquids when he or she has no appetite. For ideas on clear liquids, see page 41, and for full liquids, see page 42. Talk with your loved one about ways to manage eating problems. Ask the doctor for a referral to a dietitian and meet with him or her together. Talking it through and seeking other advice can help you both feel more in control. For more information about coping with caregiving, see When Someone You Love Is Being Treated for Cancer, a booklet from National Cancer Institute, at publications/patient-education/when-someone-you-love-is-being-treated.

During cancer treatment, you may feel: Î Depressed Î Anxious Î Afraid Î Angry Î Helpless Î Alone It is normal to have these feelings. Although these are not eating problems, strong feelings like these can affect your interest in food, shopping, and cooking. Fatigue can also make it harder to cope. Coping with Your Feelings during Cancer Treatment There are many things you can do to cope with your feelings during treatment so they do not ruin your appetite. Here are some ideas that have worked for other people. Î Eat your favorite foods on days you feel well. This way, you can enjoy the foods, but they won’t remind you of feeling poorly. Î Relax, meditate, or pray. Activities like these help many people feel calm and less stressed. Î Talk with someone you trust about your feelings. You may want to talk with a close friend, family member, religious or spiritual leader, nurse, social worker, counselor, or psychologist. You may also find it helpful to talk with someone who has gone through cancer treatment. Î Join a cancer support group. This can be a way to meet others dealing with problems like yours. In support group meetings, you can talk about your feelings and listen to other people talk about theirs. You can also learn how others cope with cancer, treatment side effects, and eating problems. Ask your doctor, nurse, or social worker about support group meetings near you. You may also want to know about support groups that meet over the internet. These can be very helpful if you cannot travel or there is no group that meets close by. Î Learn about eating problems and other side effects before treatment starts. Many people feel more in control when they know what to expect and how to manage problems that may occur