By Diane Avino and Dr. Eric Secor
Prostate cancer patients experience specific health challenges after initial diagnosis and treatment, especially those being managed long-term with hormone deprivation therapy such as leuprolide acetate.
The effects on a patient’s quality of life can include weight gain, reduced insulin resistance and reduced muscle mass, as well as fatigue, problems with sleep and overall endurance. Nutrition during treatment and recovery is extremely important and nutrient needs may change throughout the treatment continuum.
Adequate intake of a wide variety of foods ensure that your body has what it needs for recovery and long-term health. Nutrition and lifestyle management have been shown to positively affect the overall quality of life of prostate cancer patients. The American institute for Cancer Research’s overall nutrition and lifestyle recommendations for cancer patients and cancer survivors include focusing on plant-based foods and limiting intake of “energy dense foods” such as sugary drinks and those that contain high fructose corn syrup and alcohol.
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You should also be as physically active as possible, with a goal of maintaining normal body weight and lean muscle mass. Exercising 150 minutes per week, with physical activity a minimum of five days per week, is the general recommendation to help improve health, limit weight gain and decrease cancer recurrence risk.
Your nutrition can help decrease the chance of cancer recurrence, as well as help you live a healthier life after treatment. There is clear scientific evidence that consumption of micro-nutrient rich and phytochemical-rich foods, in combination with avoidance of foods high in saturated fat, are crucial components of a survivor’s diet. To incorporate these foods into ones diet, follow this list of foods to eat daily:
- Fruits and vegetables, fresh or cooked, five or more servings.
- Whole grains like whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa.
- Lean sources of protein, such as lean poultry and red meat, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products, legumes, tofu, nuts and nut butters.
- Healthy fat sources that are rich in Omega-3 such as ground flaxseed, salmon, walnuts, canola oil and soybeans.
One way to incorporate all of these tips is to avoid fad diets and focus on healthy eating via the Mediterranean Diet. This plan is primarily plant based, rich in fiber and Omega-3’s and low in saturated fats. (For more information from the American Institute for Cancer Research, click here.)
For additional nutritional supplementation in prostate cancer, we recommend identifying and correcting any nutritional deficiencies and monitoring regular progress with your healthcare team. An initial assessment may include levels of iron, ferritin, protein, folate, vitamins B12, B6, D and calcium. Studies suggest that patients who maintain an adequate vitamin D level (45 -55 ng/mL), may experience longer prostate cancer survival. It is important to note that, as with most nutritional supplementation, quality is key and more is not better as elevated levels may interact with medications.
The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute’s nutritionists and integrative medicine team try to maximize cancer survivors’ quality of life through nutritional and lifestyle support. An investment in the proper diet is an investment in your health.
Diane Avino is a dietician at the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital. Dr. Eric R. Secor Jr. is director of integrated medicine at Hartford Hospital. For a personalized approach, request a consultation with the registered dietitian-nutritionist at your cancer center. Please call 860.972.4444, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to access our services or with any questions.