Foods to Be Cautious About or Completely Avoid During Treatment

As your digestive system may be more sensitive than usual, avoid harsh, rough-edged sources of dietary fiber during this time. Examples include wheat bran or coarse-cut chopped nuts. A better solution would be to include whole-wheat pasta or nut butters.

Lactose (milk sugar) is poorly digested by as many as 75 percent of the world's population; most people of European descent have evolved a genetic variation that allows milk, soft cheese, or ice cream.

During treatment, you may find that you are no longer able to tolerate dairy products unless they have had the enzyme added. Yogurt and hard cheeses are usually well tolerated. Greek-style yogurt has a creamy texture and has the beneficial gut flora, or probiotics, added back. This is a good choice for many people during treatment.


Meats form chemicals called amines when exposed to high temperatures. These amines have been associated with cancer and are found in many processed meats, such as sausage (including pepperoni), bacon, and other cured meats. Amines also form on the surface of meats that are broiled or barbecued. Try to avoid these meats or prepare by cooking slowly at a lower temperature.

Honey is very sweet but may contain spores of botulinum toxin. Just as children under one year old are told to avoid honey, it makes sense to avoid it during cancer treatment. The likelihood of exposure is very low, but your immune system is often compromised by treatment, so you may be more vulnerable to poisoning by this powerful toxin.

Some people suggest avoiding sugar altogether after a diagnosis of cancer. However, the science behind this is not conclusive. If a little sugar adds to the palatability of food, then add it. If you find you are drinking sweetened beverages and more than 10 percent of your calories are coming from sugar, you may want to consider including more berries or other low-sugar fruits in its place, as they add more nutrients with fewer calories but are still sweet.

What About Alcohol?

Some medications or chemotherapy treatments may be affected by alcohol. It would be wise to check with your pharmacist before drinking alcohol during treatment. Alcohol is found in some mouthwashes and may be irritating to the delicate lining of the mouth and oral cavity. You may wish to look for a version without alcohol for this reason. On the positive side, a glass of red wine with dinner may stimulate appetite be relaxing you and also help with digestion.

What About Soy?

Some women who have been diagnosed with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer have been told to avoid soy and other foods containing phytoestrogens (plant substances with estrogen-like activity). Some soy products like soy sauce and soy oil have such tiny quantities of the phytoestrogens (isoflavones including genistein, daidzein or equols) that they can be safely eaten by everyone. However, edamame should be limited for women with this particular diagnosis.

According to the American Cancer Society, current research suggests that the amount of soy found in typical Asian diets is probably safe to consume, as the soy is in a fermented form and has not been shown to affect breast cancer survivors either positively or negatively. Check labels of protein drinks and other supplements designed with women in mind, as many of these have concentrated soy isoflavones, which may counteract estrogen-blocking therapies such as tamoxifen.

Should You Cut Out All Sugar?

As noted above, it is not necessary to cut out all sugar for your diet to be an effective cancer fighter. Added sugars in sodas and other sweetened beverages often marketed as healthful like green tea or pomegranate juices only offer empty calories and should be avoided.

If you have a larger waist size than ideal (larger than half your height), you would want to be especially careful to cut out added sugars, including natural types like agave or honey. Your first goal will be to reduce your waist measurement, and the easiest way to do this is to cut back on candy, desserts, and sweets.

White rice and white flour are digested almost as fast as sugar in some people, so when consuming these you may also want to include beans or other high-fiber foods at the same time to reduce the glycemic load. This will help you feel less hungry soon after eating.

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