Nutrition in cancer treatment: Is “natural” always “harmless”?

Specialist from VKV American Hospital Nutrition and Diet Department. dit. Tuğçe Aytulu underlines the importance of nutrition during the treatment of cancer, one of the common diseases of our age, within the scope of February 4 World Cancer Day. exp. dit. Tuğçe Aytulu: “Drinking more grapefruit and pomegranate juice while receiving chemotherapy may do more harm than good. Some herbs, which are used unconsciously by boiling or in tablet form, may increase some values ​​in the blood, such as liver enzymes, and may even cause a disruption in chemotherapy. In this case, it would be wrong to call every ‘natural’ thing ‘harmless’”.

Stating that nutrition under the control of patients and their relatives is of great importance in cancer treatment, where methods such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy are used alone or in combination, Uzm from VKV American Hospital Nutrition and Diet Department. dit. Tugce Aytulu; “Knowing the correct nutrition methods during the treatment is very important for the patient’s comfort and ease of treatment. However, in some cases, patients and their relatives may turn to methods such as supplementary products and herbal cures without being satisfied with proper nutrition. Methods applied unconsciously or with hearsay can make the treatment of the patient even more difficult. For example, consuming some boiled herbal juices while experiencing nausea due to chemotherapy can cause these nausea to increase even more.

Emphasizing that patients do not have any evidence to support the treatment or that they are unsure of what they contain, they should stay away from products such as plant extracts. dit. Tuğçe Aytulu continues: “Some herbs and foods can interact with chemotherapies. In this case, the effect of the treatment may be impaired. For example, some substances found in grapefruit and pomegranate interact with most chemotherapy agents and can undesirably increase or decrease the effects of drugs. Therefore, drinking large amounts of grapefruit and pomegranate juice at the same time while receiving chemotherapy can do more harm than good.”

In cancer treatment, patient and ‘target-oriented’ nutrition regime should be applied.

Are plants “natural” but “harmless”?

Pointing out that some herbs, which are unconsciously used by boiling or in tablet form, may cause an increase in some values ​​such as liver enzymes in the blood and even disruption of chemotherapy: “It would be wrong to call every ‘natural’ thing ‘harmless’. Many medicines are actually derived from plants. However, the dose, use and possible side effects of these drugs are known. Doctors know what to do when faced with these side effects. But in herbal products, important points such as dosage and side effects are question marks. For this reason, it should not be used unconsciously for therapeutic purposes.

Is it possible to “cure” with herbs?

Stating that plant-based drugs such as vinca alkaloids are used in the treatment of cancer, Aytulu continues: “There is no evidence that any diet model cures any type of cancer. Diet plays an important role in the prevention of some types of cancer. Nutrition plays an important role in reducing some side effects during cancer treatment. A healthy diet should be maintained after cancer treatment. For example, being at a healthy weight is one of the helpful factors in preventing the recurrence of breast cancer. However, controlling nutrition and ignoring other factors such as not exercising and smoking may not be enough to prevent cancer.”

Proper nutrition increases success in cancer treatment

Aytulu lists the things to be considered in nutrition to prevent cancer as follows:

  • A diet that includes all kinds of vegetables should be adopted. Dried legumes should be preferred on some days of the week.
  • At least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits of all colors should be consumed per day. Vegetables and fruits of different colors contain health-promoting elements known as phytochemicals. For example, citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables and yellow root vegetables should be mixed during the day.
  • Dried legumes, whole grain bread and cereal varieties containing high fiber should be preferred every day.
  • Especially high-fat foods of animal origin should be limited. Low-fat milk and dairy products should be preferred. Low-fat cooking techniques such as steaming and boiling should be used.
  • Salted, smoked and pickled foods should be less preferred.
  • Maintain an ideal weight and be physically active.
  • Alcohol consumption should be reduced.
  • Food should be stored in safe and healthy ways.
  • When shopping at the market, attention should be paid to the variety of foods.
  • Patients who think that they do not have a balanced diet should seek help from a dietitian.

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