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Different Cancer Types Call for Different Diet Types

Author: Candelaria Maldonado, L.D.N – Clinical Integrative Nutritionist, Cancun Center

Summary:

  • Different cancer types call for different diet types and may require increasing or restricting specific foods to support your body and simultaneously starve cancer, cutting off its nutrients at the source.
  • Cancer cells develop and thrive in acidic, low-oxygen environments, feeding mainly on sugar.
  • Cancer cells adapt. Even in unfavorable environments, they can tap into different fuel sources to survive and grow. This ability plays a big role in cancer recurrence and progression.
  • This article provides an overview of the different metabolic pathways (fuel sources) that cancer cells can manipulate for their own benefit and may represent potential therapeutic targets relative to the specific cancer phenotype.

Our genes for certain diseases may or may not be expressed (awakened) depending on a variety of lifestyle factors, such as diet. That’s why proper nutrition is such an integral part of our core healing program based on the 7 Key Principles of Cancer Therapy.

Hope4Cancer’s integrative treatment program includes nutritional guidance focused on patients’ unique needs and targeted to their diagnosis. Each type of cancer and the patient’s overall health status may require increasing or restricting different foods and nutrients, demonstrating the need to tailor nutritional plans to each patient.

Cancer cells develop and thrive in acidic, low-oxygen environments, feeding mainly on sugar. In contrast, a “basic” suitable diet for a cancer patient must be alkaline, anti-inflammatory, free of chemicals and synthetic hormones, hypoallergenic and especially low in simple sugars.

With these guidelines as a starting point, it’s possible — and essential — to form nutritional approaches based on variables like cancer type, patient history, and disease evolution.

Q: How do I know what the most suitable diet is for my cancer type?

Knowing your specific cancer metabolic phenotype will help understand the best nutritional approach for you based on the cancer cell fuel source you need to target. The main fuel sources for cancer cells are listed below.

1. Glycolysis: Glucose-fueled cancer

Sugar, simple carbohydrates, glucose, and fructose are the most common nutrients that cancer cells use for fuel, especially in early-stage cancer. Inhibiting this pathway is the primary goal, regardless of the type of cancer. Sugar feeds cancer cells easily and, through their metabolism to lactic acid, creates the perfect acidic environment for their development.

Instead, choose:

  • Carbohydrate sources (8-12 servings daily) of fresh, organic vegetables
  • Fruits low in fructose, like berries, strawberries, guavas, dragon fruit, etc.
  • Complex carbohydrates with a slow insulin release response, like gluten-free whole grains and legumes (small servings, 2-3 times a week)

Combine these nutrients in the same meal to obtain a complete amino acid profile like the one obtained from animal protein sources.

Another suitable and highly recommended diet approach to inhibit this fuel pathway is intermittent fasting. Short-term fasting is known to trigger autophagy, an evolutionary mechanism through which the body can remove dysfunctional cells and recycle parts of them toward cellular repair and cleaning, essentially hitting a reset button to your body.

Additionally, intermittent fasting promotes survival and adaptation as a response to various stressors and toxins accumulated in our cells. During this process, the body responds to the lack of glucose by producing ketones for energy, providing the fat and protein that otherwise could not be used by glucose-dependent tumor cells, therefore selectively starving tumors. In early stages, intermittent fasting can also be combined with Keto clean diets, as suggested by Dr. Valter Longo’s masterpiece “The Fasting Mimicking Diet”. These strategies combined intensify each other’s benefits, reduce pain and inflammation, help sustain a healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels, reduce insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) production, increase HDL cholesterol levels, and optimize body energy levels.

2. Lipogenesis and fatty acid oxidation: LDL cholesterol/saturated fat-fueled cancers

This pathway is especially useful for survival in advanced stages of multiple types of cancer, such as prostate or cervical/endometrial cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma, and glioblastoma. Patients with any of these diagnoses would do best to avoid ketogenic diets. Cancer cells need LDL cholesterol to build their own fatty membrane. They can obtain this cholesterol from food or they can produce their own through different pathways. Avoid saturated fat coming from animal sources like meat (beef, poultry, lamb, venison) and dairy products. Eggs from organic or free-range sources can be used in moderation (up to 6 eggs a week).

Instead, choose healthy fats, sourced from either:

  • Plant-based options like avocado, seeds, nuts, olive, coconut, and flaxseed oils
  • Animal-based options like Ghee (only based on Ayurveda’s medicine original recipe) and wild cold water fish (not farm-raised)

Squalene, for example, a triterpene compound abundant in breast milk but also present in olive and amaranth oil, has an inhibitory effect on a specific fat pathway that cancer cells use for producing their own cholesterol. Healthy fats in your diet will help you lower your carb and protein levels, maintaining an optimal macros distribution for starving your cancer while helping your liver improve fat metabolism and achieve healthier cholesterol production.

3. Glutaminolysis: Glutamine/arginine fueled cancer

As metastatic advanced cancers – especially triple negative breast, pancreatic, lung and prostate cancer, lymphoma and glioblastoma – become more metabolically complex and aggressive, they prefer this fuel source.

Glutamate (glutamic acid), an independent amino acid different from glutamine and the main byproduct of glutaminolysis in cancer cells, is converted through different metabolic pathways into lactate, which is used to support fatty acid production. Glutamine breakdown is also used by cancer cells to manufacture their own DNA and organelles as well as their own glutathione to protect themselves from lactic acid excess, oxidation and chemotherapy drugs.

The tricky part is that glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the human bloodstream and is necessary to maintain intestinal, immune, and nervous system health. In other words, you can not simply starve your body from it. The most effective approach is to inhibit or block glutamine uptake by cancer cells specifically.

This can be targeted naturally with:

  • EGCG (green tea) which contains L-theanine, an amino acid known as a glutamate antagonist that inhibits important enzymes vital for glutamine breakdown
  • Ursolic acid (berries, basil, oregano, lavender, rosemary, peppermint), both as a potential blocker for cancer cell transportation pathways and glutamine uptake
  • Curcumin (turmeric root), both as a potential blocker for cancer cell transportation pathways and glutamine uptake

Avoiding some natural food sources of free glutamate, which is the amino acid form that is not bound to proteins and is actually much more bioavailable for cancer cell uptake, is highly recommended. The main sources of free glutamate are tomato sauce, bone broth, nutritional yeast, and fermented foods (including fermented soy). Protein powder formulas or collagen powders could be a risk as well, so watch for BCAA (branched-chain amino acid)-based formulas only.

Arginine is a non-essential amino acid abundant in many foods, though the human body can easily produce it as well. It plays an important role in immunomodulation and balancing hormones. There is growing evidence that L-asparagine – another amino acid abundant in asparagus, beef, poultry, and potatoes – is involved in an exchange coordination transportation of extracellular amino acids like serine (especially linked to some types of breast cancer) and arginine inside cells, up-regulating mTORC1 activation, nucleotide synthesis and cell proliferation which supports tumor growth. Individuals with advanced metastatic cancers should consider avoiding asparagine sources on a permanent basis.

Nutrition plans tailored to specific cancer types offer patients a natural opportunity to support their bodies and simultaneously starve cancer, cutting off its nutrients at the source. To avoid falling into extreme diet choices, cancer patients of all diagnoses can benefit from following a diet that is:

  • Low glycemic/pescatarian;
  • Consists of plenty of organic, fresh, seasonal veggies, spices, and herbs;
  • Low in fructose fruits;
  • High in fiber, gluten-free whole grain, and legumes;
  • And contains a controlled weekly serving of free-range eggs.

Regardless of the type of cancer diagnosed, your immune system (based 70% on your gut health) is the warrior fighting and doing the healing. Your bacterial microbiome must be fed properly to maintain healthy functioning. For that, a colorful, well-balanced diet with bio-active and functional food variety is the key.

Note: The information in this blog post is meant to serve as general guidance only. Nutrition requirements and restrictions could change based on each patient and overall health conditions. For specific instructions and advice, always consult with a professional dietitian.

References:

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19 thoughts on “Different Cancer Types Call for Different Diet Types

  1. I would be helpful if this article listed the cancer metabolic phenotype for different cancers. Do you consider melanoma a Glycolysis: Glucose-fueled cancer?

    1. Thanks for the question! There is evidence for melanoma being a glucose-fueled cancer based on data from early/non-metastatic stages. Information of metabolic pathways of different cancers is still in its research infancy, and we will be writing more on this topic as information accumulates.

      In the meantime, here is an article you can check out for further information. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29049843/

        1. Hello Christian.

          We are not able to provide that specific medical advice over our website/social platforms but we would recommend all of the helpful information that is in this article. There is a lot here that would help regardless of the diagnosis.

    1. Thank you for your question! Your cancer phenotype can be determined by a liquid biopsy of circulating tumor cells (non invasive biopsy).

    1. Hello Sue,

      You can use the suggestions in the article as guidelines whether you know your cancer metabolic phenotype or not. Please consult a nutritionist for a detailed appraisal of your dietary needs. I would recommend signing up for our newsletter so you stay up to date on our biweekly webinar series with Dr. Tony where nutrition is one of our favorite topics. You can do that on our homepage. Simply scroll to the bottom and you will see “Get Our Latest News”.

  2. Hi. I’d love to participate, but don’t know my particular cancer that well. I’ve a Level 5 astrocytoma in my brain, and have, so far, outlived my “6 months to live” sentence, handed down by two specialists, by almost 6 years. I’m very keen to know your findings, as I survive [thrive] on a fairly interesting [!] menu. Please let me know how to determine my cancer type according to your perspective. Thanks so much for your time. I appreciate it more than you can imagine.
    Sincerely,
    Susan

    1. Hello,

      We are not able to give medical advice directly through our website or social media platforms, but please contact our admissions office at 888-544-5993 or go to https://hope4cancer.com/schedule-a-call/ and fill out the form and one of our admissions officers can get you a consultation with our doctor.

      Please note that high-grade astrocytomas are glioblastomas. The sections on lipogenesis and glutaminolysis in the article (with associated references 25 and 26) have information about that cancer type.

  3. You spoke of a liquid biopsy of circulating tumor cells (non invasive biopsy)…… what is the name of that test and where can you get that test?

    1. Unfortunately this is too specific of a question and we are not able to give medical advice directly through our website or social media platforms.

  4. What diet type would be suitable for someone recovering from treatment from chronic leukaemia (hairy cell leukaemia)?

    1. Hello Louis.

      We are not able to provide any additional or specific medical advice via our website/social platforms that is beyond the information in this article. There is a lot that is helpful here though for any one with any type of cancer :).

  5. My husband has a 5 year stg 4/adv HPV 16 HNSCC Tonsil Cancer recurrence he is trying to treat naturally. He declined Rad or Chemo, had only surgery. There is much info on many cancer types but my research is finding HPV and SCC appear more difficult to respond and this type of cancer is rarely spoken of. Have you any successes and with what particular types of treatment is best for this?

    1. Hello Jan.

      Our treatment philosophy considers the necessity of altering the state of the tumor micro-environment and stabilize the body’s bio-regulatory mechanisms as part of the treatment process, which is a common factor to treat most cancers.

      The team would be able to answer specifics in terms of different cancer types we have treated. Simply visit https://hope4cancer.com/schedule-a-call/ and fill out a few short questions. Once completed, you do have the option to book your own appointment time with an Admissions Counselor. If you do not book your own appointment, a member from our team will be calling as soon as possible. You are also welcome to call into our offices during business hours, Monday-Friday 8AM-5PM PST, Saturday 9AM-1PM. US # 1.888.544.5993 / International #: +1.619.669.6511

  6. I signed up for your webinar but gave the wrong email address. I stated .com but should be .co.uk
    How can I correct this ?

    1. Hello Jan.

      We have corrected your email in our system so you will be receiving emails now! Thanks for letting us know 🙂

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