According to the American Cancer Society, more than 73,000 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of kidney cancer this year.
Although there isn’t a specific diet for people living with kidney cancer, good eating habits are vital to maintaining a healthy body and managing side effects of cancer treatment.
If you’re living with kidney cancer, what you eat could impact how you feel on a day-to-day basis. Find out which foods you should eat more of, which foods you should avoid, and what dietary changes to expect during treatment.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important for anyone living with kidney cancer.
Your nutritional needs depend on what type of treatment you’re on and the stage of your cancer. But there are a few foods you should make an effort to include in all of your meals:
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are high in soluble fiber and a good source of many essential vitamins and minerals. They also help to reduce cholesterol levels and control your blood sugar. You should aim to have between 5 and 10 servings of fruits and vegetables from a variety of sources every day.
Whole grains and starches
Whole wheat bread, wild rice, and whole wheat pasta are an excellent source of energy. They’re also rich in fiber, iron, and B vitamins.
Some whole grains are high in phosphorus and potassium. Both of these can cause problems if you consume high doses of them while your kidneys aren’t fully functioning. So, it’s worth checking with your doctor about which whole grain foods may be best for you.
Proteins are a necessary part of everyone’s diet, as they help to build and maintain muscle mass. But too much protein for someone with kidney cancer can cause a buildup of food-derived waste in the bloodstream. This may cause symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and headache.
Speak with a doctor or registered dietitian about the right amount and best types of protein to include in your diet.
Several foods can increase your risk of kidney-related complications. Eat these foods in moderation or avoid them altogether:
Foods that are high in salt
Salt can disrupt the fluid balance in your body and lead to high blood pressure. This can make any loss of kidney function worse.
Processed foods are typically high in sodium, so it’s in your best interest to avoid:
- fast food
- canned food
- salty snacks
- deli meats
Whenever possible, use herbs and spices for flavoring instead of salt. However, if you’re using exotic herbs, check with your healthcare provider.
Foods high in phosphorous
Phosphorousis a chemical element necessary for maintaining bone strength. But in people with kidney cancer, it may build up in your bloodstream and cause symptoms like itchiness and joint pain.
If you’re struggling with these symptoms, you may want to reduce your intake of high-phosphorus foods like:
- processed bran cereals
Too much water
Overhydrating may also create problems for people with kidney cancer. Having reduced kidney function can compromise your urine production and cause your body to retain too much fluid.
It’s important for everyone to drink plenty of water, but make an effort to monitor your intake of fluids so you’re not consuming an excessive amount.
It’s common to lose weight during treatment for kidney cancer. You may find that your taste for certain foods has changed. Things that used to appeal to you may no longer be appetizing, and may even make you feel nauseous.
Use trial and error to find a few go-to foods that don’t make you feel sick. Focus on eating them when a wave of nausea comes on.
Even if you’re not feeling particularly hungry, try your best to eat regular meals so that your energy levels remain consistent throughout the day. If you have trouble eating full-sized portions, it may help to break up your meals into five or six smaller servings instead of the typical two or three big ones.
Cancer treatment can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infection. Take extra precautions while preparing and storing your meals.
Wash your produce thoroughly, and make sure that foods like meat, poultry, and eggs are well-cooked. Steer clear of raw foods like sushi, shellfish, and vegetable sprouts, and avoid drinking unpasteurized milk or juice.
Sticking to a balanced nutrition plan and avoiding foods that may trigger kidney complications will help you feel stronger, healthier, and more energetic. Remember to consult with your doctor or healthcare team before making any major changes to your diet. Also, report any new side effects that you experience as soon as possible.