For people receiving treatment for kidney cancer, proper nutrition is the first step in managing, as cancer treatments such as surgery, and others might take a toll on the well-being of your body. A balanced diet is hence the fuel to help prepare ourselves to cope with the symptoms and side effects of the treatment.
Know which foods you should prefer, what to eat more of and the dietary changes you could expect during the course of the treatment.
What to eat
Diet while undergoing a kidney cancer treatment should be balanced and healthy, with few modifications to cope with the cancer treatment and limited functioning of the kidneys. The diet will also depend on the presence of co-morbidities, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Though your nutritional needs depend on the complexity of the disease and type of treatment you are receiving, here are some foods you can include in your regular meals.
Plenty of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are essentials for a healthy diet. You should have at least five portions a day from a variety of fruits and vegetables.
One portion is
- one glass of plain fruit juice
- one regular sized fruit such as an apple or an orange
- cut vegetables (two tablespoons)
- small bowl of side salad (vegetables or fruits)
- two small sized fruits such as plums or grapes
- a handful of berries or dried fruits
Kidney cancer patients can also include fruits like bananas though not in excess amounts, as potassium in bananas may compromise the functioning of the kidneys, especially after a nephrectomy. It is always better to consult a dietician to know a personalised diet plan for you.
Starchy foods like potatoes, rice and cereals are important because they constitute the main energy source in the body. Whole grain varieties of starch foods like whole-wheat bread, barley are also rich in fibre, iron and vitamin B.
Fibre is vital in helping the digestive system to process and absorb nutrients. Fibre also reduces constipation, which is one of the side effects which cancer patients face during treatment. There are two types, insoluble fibre, which is found in brown rice, breads, lentils and pulses, while soluble fibres are found in most fruits and vegetables and high in oats, strawberries, pears and barley.
Unsaturated fats are found in vegetable and seed oils, nuts, oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, nuts, and avocados. They also contain essential fatty acids that can’t be produced by the body like omega 3.
There are more of such foods and diets, which you need to limit or monitor the intake.
Foods to limit or monitor while intaking
These are the foods that can affect the functioning of your kidneys. It is best advised to consume them in moderation –
Pay attention while consuming proteins
Cancer treatment may decrease the potential functioning of the kidneys, especially if one of the kidneys had to be removed. Consuming high protein diets will need the kidneys to work harder to remove urea, a waste product as a result of body breaking the proteins down for use.
To know the right amounts and the types of protein to include in your diet, it is recommended to speak to a nutritionist or a doctor.
These are fats that come from animal products such as meat, full fat milk, butter, cheese and ghee. The consumptions of these should be limited as they raise the cholesterol levels in the body. Trans fats, a type of saturated fats like processed foods should be avoided.
Some tips to reduce the saturated fats in the diet –
- Consider having lean cuts of meat, or remove any visible fat from the meat like the skin of the chicken and visible fats from the red meat
- Use vegetable oils instead of butter
- Grill, bake or steam food, rather than frying
- Opt for low fat dairy products, such as semi-skimmed milk and low fat cheeses
- Take fruits and nuts, instead of biscuits or cakes
Monitor the amount of phosphorus in your diet
Though the nuts, seeds and beans are recommended in most balanced diets, they are all rich in phosphorus. And phosphorus can build up in your bloodstream as the kidneys won’t work in their full capacity and can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, itchiness and joint pain. It is hence advised to limit the intake of phosphorus.
Also, it is better to consult your treating doctor if you notice such symptoms, to see whether phosphorus could be the problem.
Whole grains that are rich in phosphorus and potassium
However, some whole grains are high in phosphorus and potassium which can cause problems if your kidneys are not fully functional. Hence, it is always better to discuss with your treating doctor or a nutritionist when consuming whole grain foods such as millets, brown rice or oats.
Right amounts of water
The kidneys produce urine, and play a vital role in controlling the amount of fluids in the body. As your kidneys may function sub-optimally during kidney cancer, over hydration can cause fluids to retain up in the body.
Limiting the consumption of salt
Limiting salt consumption is essentially important as cancer treatment may decrease the potential functioning of the kidneys, especially if one of the kidneys had to be removed. High salt intake can cause hypertension and intensify the kidney problems, and hence it is best to try to find other seasonings you would prefer, like herbs or lemon. You should avoid foods that are processed (as they are rich in sodium), such as canned meat, salty snacks and fast food.
Here are some of the ingredients that you can consider adding to your diet –
- Mint – a refreshing herb that works well with sweet and savoury dishes
- Cardamom – an aromatic spice that works well with baked and sweet foods and curries
- Cinnamon – used to prepare sweet and savoury dishes
- Onion and garlic chives – brings great flavour to almost any dish you prepare
- Coriander – coriander leaves are aromatic with a citrus flavour, and seeds are spicy and citrus
- Cumin – cumin is flavoursome but not too spicy. Can be combined with cardamom, coriander or turmeric
- Ginger – works well with sweet and savoury foods, curries and most of the Indian dishes
NOTE: It is always better to speak to a clinical nutritionist or dietecian regarding the components of your diet as everyone has a different condition and other disease if present will have to be kept in mind before recommending a diet plan.
How to manage some common side-effects?
The side effects from your cancer treatment greatly influences how you eat. Here are some problems you might face in the course, and some tips to overcome them
You might not feel like eating during a cancer treatment due to loss of appetite. Still, it is very important to get the nutrition you need.
- Instead of three large meals everyday, break your meal courses into five or six small meals
- Keep small, recommended snacks handy to eat whenever you feel like
- Eat the maximum when you feel your appetite is the strongest, typically during the start of the day
- Prefer the foods you like to eat without difficulties, even if there are one or two
During a kidney cancer treatment, there may be things that can make you nauseate. To avoid nausea, you might want to –
- Choose plain, bland foods, and avoid spicy, sour or acidic foods
- Prefer cold foods, rather than hot or warm
- Sometimes, even cooking odours may make you nauseated. It is better to stay away from the kitchen
The treatment may drain your energy up. To make sure you take ample food despite feeling fatigue and weak, you can
- Stock up foods that can be easily prepared such as pre-cooked meals (ask your doctor – he may recommend low-sodium varieties that you can purchase)
- If you find difficulty in chewing, plan for foods that come in thick liquid or semisolid forms
- Don’t restrain from asking help from friends or close ones if you are too tired
Increased risk of infection
Cancer treatment can weaken your immune system, and can make you more prone to infections. A good care and hygiene should be maintained when preparing your meals.
- Thoroughly wash all the vegetables, fruits and other foods of raw consumption
- If you wish to include meat in your diet, carefully cook them. After cooking, meats should not be pink and eggs should not be runny
- Immediately refrigerate the leftovers if you want it for future use
- Avoid having food from outside, home cooked food is preferred