There is no definitive diet for bladder cancer, but eating fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins and fats may help during treatment. Talk with your doctor or a dietitian if needed.

When you have bladder cancer, it’s understandable to want to learn more about the best ways to take care of yourself.

Read more about how to eat to best take care of your body when you have this condition.

Part of taking care of yourself is trying to eat foods that give your body the nutrients it needs to support your treatment and help you feel better.

If you’re feeling fatigued or experiencing other symptoms, you might not be able to eat the way you used to. The goal is to eat a variety of nutritious foods to support your health.

What is the best diet for bladder cancer patients?

There’s no one specific diet recommended for the treatment or prevention of bladder cancer. Many factors play a role in determining the right eating pattern for you.

However, one 2018 study suggests that a Mediterranean diet has some advantages for reducing the risk of bladder cancer.

This is a nutrient-dense diet rich in foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. It also includes healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. It has other health benefits as well, such as decreasing inflammation and the risk of heart disease.

While healthy eating in general has not been found to be associated with overall cancer recurrence, the authors of a 2016 research review noted an association between healthy eating and a reduced risk of death in people with breast cancer specifically. Additionally, eating a less nutritious Western-style diet was associated with a higher risk of death.

According to the National Cancer Institute, certain factors might influence what you can eat during treatment for bladder cancer. For example, side effects such as the following may affect your appetite or eating habits:

  • taste or smell changes
  • decreased physical activity
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • mouth sores
  • dry mouth
  • pain

Your doctor (usually an oncologist) or a registered dietitian can help you determine the best diet for you.

A healthy eating pattern generally includes:

  • Vegetables and fruits: These provide a variety of vitamins and minerals that your body needs, as well as fiber, which helps keep your digestive system healthy.
  • Protein: When you have cancer, your body may need more protein. Getting enough protein helps maintain your muscle mass and support your immune system. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends eating more fish, poultry, and plant-based proteins (such as beans) and limiting consumption of red and processed meats.
  • Healthy fats: Fat helps your body absorb some vitamins, produce hormones, and repair cells. Healthy sources of fat include fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and olive oil.
  • Whole grains: Whole grain products have not been overly processed, so they still contain most of their nutrients and fiber. Look for “whole grain” as the first ingredient on the ingredient list of foods you’re buying.

While research suggests that a high intake of vegetables may not generally be associated with a lower risk of bladder cancer or bladder cancer recurrence, there may be an association in women.

And regardless, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a good idea because it’s associated with a lower risk of cancer and a lower risk of death.

Some nutrition strategies may help you cope with the symptoms of your cancer and the side effects of treatment.

Constipation and diarrhea

To help reduce constipation, try to drink at least 8 cups of water each day and track your intake to reach this goal. Drinking hot liquids such as tea, coffee, broth, and soup can also help.

Nausea and diarrhea

To reduce these discomforts, try to eat smaller meals and replace essential electrolytes like potassium by eating foods such as apricots, bananas, broth, and nuts.

Stick to low fiber, easily digestible foods and avoid consuming food or drinks that are too hot or cold. Avoid dairy, fatty and spicy foods, sugary drinks and candy, coffee, and alcohol.

Metallic taste in your mouth

Try to eat foods seasoned with lemon or lime to help reduce this effect. Using plastic utensils instead of metal ones may also help.

You might want to keep a few more things in mind as you build your meals.

Arsenic

Areas with high arsenic levels in drinking water have been associated with a higher incidence of bladder cancer. Arsenic can occur naturally or come from industrial or agricultural activities. If you use well water, test your well water and treat it for arsenic if necessary to ensure that it’s safe to drink.

Red and processed meats

A 2018 research review found an increased risk of bladder cancer in people who consumed processed or red meats.

Similarly, in a 2018 study, researchers found that people who most closely followed a Western diet (high in fried foods and red and processed meats) had a 1.48 times greater risk of bladder cancer recurrence.

In place of these meats, the ACS recommends eating leaner meats such as poultry and fish, as well as plant proteins.

Tea

Tea contains polyphenols, which are compounds found in some plants that may offer health benefits.

A 2018 review suggests that polyphenols in green tea may help prevent or treat cancer, including bladder cancer. A 2022 review also suggests that drinking tea may help reduce the risk of bladder cancer, though other factors, such as sex and smoking status, may also be at play.

However, an earlier 2016 review found no significant association between drinking tea and bladder cancer. You can ask your doctor whether tea is a good beverage option for you.

Supplements

Both cancer and cancer treatment can contribute to deficiencies of certain nutrients, including vitamin D, folate, and vitamin B12. You can ask your doctor whether supplements are right for you.

Probiotics

Probiotics may help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

An older 2008 study cited in an article from 2017 found that people who consumed Lactobacillus casei while undergoing chemotherapy infusion into the bladder had a 15% lower rate of cancer recurrence than those who didn’t consume it.

But certain probiotic strains may not be safe for some people with bladder cancer. Talk with your doctor before trying probiotics.

Superfoods

There’s no official definition of “superfood,” but people tend to apply this label to foods that are rich in nutrients. Aim to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors.

There are many reasons why it might be hard to get the nutrients you need, especially if you have a loss of appetite due to cancer treatments. If you’re feeling fatigued or nauseated, eating can be challenging.

Here are some tips that might help:

  • If family or friends offer to buy groceries or bring you meals or snacks, accept their help.
  • Keep simple snacks and meals in your home to minimize prep time.
  • Eat in a relaxing, pleasant environment when possible.
  • Avoid filling up with fluids before meals, or take small sips to keep your mouth moist and stay hydrated.
  • You may find bland, starchy foods such as pasta and toast easier to tolerate.
  • If you’re having trouble eating enough, focus on high calorie, high protein foods such as eggs, peanut butter, and cheese to increase your calorie consumption.
  • Consider using nutritional supplement shakes or making smoothies if drinking feels easier than eating something more solid.

What foods should you avoid if you have bladder cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends avoiding highly processed foods, red meat, sugary foods, alcohol, and refined grains such as white bread and pasta.

What diet should I follow after bladder cancer surgery?

While different doctors or clinics may have different practices, your doctor might recommend that you follow a liquid diet for a few days while you recover and then gradually reintroduce solid food. You may need to eat smaller meals for some time and make sure to get enough fluids.

How do you stop bladder cancer from spreading?

Aside from surgery, your treatment options will usually be chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, intravesical therapy, and targeted therapy drugs. There may be new treatments on the market that can help keep the cancer from spreading, so talk with your doctor about your options.

There’s no single best way to eat when you have bladder cancer, but there are some steps you can take to support your health. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats may be beneficial.

Talk with a registered dietitian if you’re having trouble eating well or if you’re considering making any changes to your diet.