What Are Recommended Dietary Changes for Prostate Cancer?
Taking care of your body and fueling it in the healthiest way is an important aspect of both battling prostate cancer and living life after treatment. During treatment or immediately following, your doctor (or multiple doctors) will often help you create a survivorship care plan.1 This survivorship care plan will include recommendations for future follow-up appointments or screenings, dietary and exercise recommendations, signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for, and potentially suggested lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking. These guidelines are designed to help you live the healthiest life possible after cancer, as well as to help prevent your prostate cancer’s recurrence or the development of a new primary cancer in other locations.
Why is diet so important?
Research suggests that obesity and poor diet can contribute to an increased risk of developing cancer, including prostate cancer.1-3 Conversely, maintaining a healthy weight and balanced diet can help reduce your risk of developing these conditions. While more studies need to be completed to determine what specific elements of the diet contribute to decreasing your risk, it has been noticed that certain areas of the world, especially those where individuals follow a more plant-based diet, have much lower rates of prostate cancer development.1,2 This has led researchers to believe that adopting diets lower in saturated fats and overly processed foods could play a key role in reducing your risk of future cancer. Additionally, adopting a plant-based diet has been shown to help prevent obesity, which also increases the risk of death from other causes in prostate cancer survivors, including cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and more.1
Further, certain treatment options, such as androgen deprivation therapy, can lead to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, or the thinning of the bones. Receiving proper nutrients from the diet to fuel bone growth can help thwart off some of these treatment side-effects. Similarly, those who are experiencing issues with their bowels may be able to adopt specific diets to help manage incontinence.1 Your doctor will help you determine if your diet can help relieve some of these treatment-related effects in addition to decreasing your risk of recurrence or a second cancer. They may refer you to a nutritionist, specifically, a nutritionist who specializes in oncology nutrition.
During and after treatment, your dietary needs may be very specific. For example, many individuals might experience nausea or vomiting during chemotherapy and become underweight, while others may gain weight due to the stress and anxiety of coping with a cancer diagnosis. Your doctor or nutritionist will help you determine what your current needs are, and will help you get on track with the most healthful diet for your specific situation. In general, there are a set of dietary guidelines set forth by the American Cancer Society that are geared toward all cancer survivors. While all of these may not apply to you at every point during your battle or recovery, they include the following:
- Eat at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits each day
- Choose whole grains instead of refined grains
- Limit red and processed meat
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men
- Practice mindful food safety, including cooking food completely but not over-cooking (burning) meat, washing fruits and vegetables before consuming them, washing cooking stations and utensils, and practicing proper hand washing techniques before eating1,2,4
Overall, it is recommended that your diet be nutrient rich, and that you receive the vitamins and minerals you need from the foods you consume and not from supplements, when possible. Of course, you may need to use supplements if your doctor thinks they are appropriate for your situation, however, it is important to consult your doctor before trying any supplements on your own. It’s also important to note that moving toward a more plant-based diet does not mean that you need to become a vegetarian (avoiding all meat) or vegan (avoiding all animal products). As long as you are trying to implement more fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), lean protein (fish, chicken, nuts, soy products), and whole grains, you are most likely on the right path. You can also try fortified foods, such as fortified cereals or juices that are packed with extra amounts of vitamin D and other important nutrients.3
It’s important to note that overhauling your diet and sticking to a balanced meal plan may not be an easy lifestyle change. It’s okay to make mistakes at times, and to enjoy your favorite treats in moderation. However, one major factor that contributes to following, and sticking to, a change in diet, is having support. You can always speak with your doctor, nutritionist or oncology social worker if you have questions or need support, as well as join in-person or online support groups and communities.
Enlisting the help of your friends and family to help keep you accountable, or to even try some of these dietary changes with you, and can help you stay on the right path. Enjoying meals with family or friends can also help promote mindful eating, which can help keep you away from excessive snacking in front of the TV and other obesity-related eating patterns. Also, seeking support for feelings of depression, anxiety, and other emotional or mental issues that can come along with a cancer diagnosis may also help your overall wellness and ability to stick to your dietary plan.3,5