Chemotherapy is a major conventional treatment for cancer. It’s used against many types, and in most cases, chemotherapy is combined with another treatment.1 But of course, all of this comes with a cost. Possible side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, pain, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, fatigue, and fertility issues – just to name a few.2
Yet, despite the unpleasant side effects, chemotherapy isn’t necessarily fool-proof. Cancer recurrence is very, very real. And while it’s impossible to determine your risk, food can help where chemotherapy can’t.
Does Chemotherapy Work?
According to 2012 study in the journal Nature, chemotherapy has its weak spots. In an experiment at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, researchers examined the cancer cells of brain tumors in mice. Afterward, conventional chemotherapy was applied.
The result? Chemotherapy did a stellar job at successfully destroying cancer cells. However, the growth and spreading of cancer was only temporary. Stem cells that survived chemotherapy were able to spark new tumor growth later on.3
The Bottom Line
This is just one study on one type of cancer. It’s not safe to assume that the same outcome will happen in every other case. Yet, what we do know is that recurrence is always a possibility.
So whether you’re focused on fighting cancer, avoiding recurrence, or preventing cancer to begin with, it helps to know the foods that have anti-cancer benefits.
Top Foods To Combat Cancer
Never forget that food is medicine. By eating exceptionally well, you can help keep cancer at arm’s length. And if you’re going through chemotherapy? Optimal nutrition will aid in the management of side effects.
Carrots can do more than support healthy eyes. This orange root veggie is teeming with vitamin A, an essential nutrient and antioxidant. Eating carrots has been proven to reduce risk for diseases like urothelial and pancreatic cancers.4 5 In a 2015 study, researchers even found that consumption lowers gastric cancer risk by 26 percent!6
Tomato gets it bright red color from lycopene, a form of vitamin A. This very nutrient can kick cancer in the butt by disrupting molecular pathways. Moreover, it explains why tomatoes are a respected part of the Mediterranean diet, a dietary pattern that’s linked to low cancer rates.7
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli provide sulforaphane, an excellent chemoprotective compound. It works by targeting inflammation, gene mutations, and cancer cell growth. And remember those stem cells from the 2012 study in Nature? Sulforaphane may destroy those, too.8
Did you know that pineapple is the only food with bromelain? This enzyme has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and immune-boosting effects. During chemotherapy, bromelain lends a hand by helping normal cells avoid DNA damage. It also promotes cancer cell death.9
Kale isn’t called a superfood for no reason. This powerhouse of a veggie has flavonoids that can find and destroy free radicals.10 Other leafy greens, such as spinach and cabbage, provide similar benefits.
The skin of red grapes contain resveratrol, a compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s so potent that it can disrupt mitochondrial pathways of cancer cells! In turn, these cells are forced to stop migrating and die.11
Aside from resveratrol, grapes offer ellagic acid, another anti-carcinogenic chemical.12
Blueberries are amazing for reducing inflammation. In fact, they can decrease the expression of enzymes needed for the development of ovarian cancer.13 Additional benefits have been found for inhibiting growth of cervical cancer cells, according to a 2017 study.14
|↑1||Chemotherapy. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑2||Side effects of cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑3||Chen, Jian, Yanjiao Li, Tzong-Shiue Yu, Renée M. McKay, Dennis K. Burns, Steven G. Kernie, and Luis F. Parada. “A restricted cell population propagates glioblastoma growth after chemotherapy.” Nature 488, no. 7412 (2012): 522-526.|
|↑4||Luo, Xiao, Hongsun Lu, Yaojun Li, and Shijian Wang. “Carrot intake and incidence of urothelial cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Oncotarget 8, no. 44 (2017): 77957.|
|↑5||Azeem, K., D. Horakova, H. Tomaskova, V. Prochazka, O. Shonova, A. Martinek, Z. Kysely, V. Janout, and H. Kollarova. “Evaluation of dietary habits in the study of pancreatic cancer.” Klin. Onkol 29 (2016): 196-203.|
|↑6||Fallahzadeh, Hossein, Ali Jalali, Mahdieh Momayyezi, and Soheila Bazm. “Effect of Carrot Intake in the Prevention of Gastric Cancer: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of gastric cancer 15, no. 4 (2015): 256-261.|
|↑7||Farinetti, Alberto, Valeria Zurlo, Antonio Manenti, Francesca Coppi, and Anna Vittoria Mattioli. “Mediterranean diet and colorectal cancer: A systematic review.” Nutrition 43 (2017): 83-88.|
|↑8||Mokhtari, Reza Bayat, Narges Baluch, Tina S. Homayouni, Evgeniya Morgatskaya, Sushil Kumar, Parandis Kazemi, and Herman Yeger. “The role of Sulforaphane in cancer chemoprevention and health benefits: a mini-review.” Journal of cell communication and signaling (2017): 1-11.|
|↑9||Rathnavelu, Vidhya, Noorjahan Banu Alitheen, Subramaniam Sohila, Samikannu Kanagesan, and Rajendran Ramesh. “Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications.” Biomedical reports 5, no. 3 (2016): 283-288.|
|↑10||Migliozzi, Megan, Dil Thavarajah, Pushparajah Thavarajah, and Powell Smith. “Lentil and kale: Complementary nutrient-rich whole food sources to combat micronutrient and calorie malnutrition.” Nutrients 7, no. 11 (2015): 9285-9298.|
|↑11||Kim, Seong-Eon, Sang-Hun Shin, Jae-Yeol Lee, Chul-Hoon Kim, In-Kyo Chung, Hae-Mi Kang, Hae-Ryoun Park, Bong-Soo Park, and In-Ryoung Kim. “Resveratrol Induces Mitochondrial Apoptosis and Inhibits Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cells.” Nutrition and Cancer (2017): 1-11.|
|↑12||Mirsane, Sayedalireza. “Benefits of ellagic acid from grapes and pomegranates against colorectal cancer.” Caspian journal of internal medicine 8, no. 3 (2017): 226-227.|
|↑13, ↑14||Davidson, Kristoffer T., Ziwen Zhu, Qian Bai, Huaping Xiao, Mark R. Wakefield, and Yujiang Fang. “Blueberry as a Potential Radiosensitizer for Treating Cervical Cancer.” Pathology & Oncology Research (2017): 1-8.|
|↑15||Understanding Recurrence. American Cancer Society.|