Therapies based on diet

Many people with cancer who want to try complementary therapies decide to make nutritional changes. Some people want to alter their diet to help their body cope with the effects of cancer and its treatments, and to give themselves the best chance of recovery.

Many therapies incorporate general dietary advice, while some have their own specific approaches to diet. Most doctors, cancer nurses and dietitians recommend eating a balanced diet. However, for some people undergoing cancer treatment, this is not always possible.

An accredited practising dietitian can work with you to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs, give you tailored advice on your nutrition and coping with any eating problems you may experience, and assist in managing side effects.

You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for free information on eating well.

What are the benefits?

Good nutrition before, during and after treatment can help you to cope better with side effects, increase energy and maintain wellbeing. Vegetables and fruit contain not only vitamins and minerals, but also phytochemicals – natural substances such as antioxidants that may destroy cancer-causing agents (carcinogens).

Cancer Council recommends people with cancer follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines of two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Fruit and vegetables are best eaten fresh and whole rather than as a supplement or juice. Consuming a variety of both cooked and raw vegetables is recommended.

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Some people with cancer choose Gerson therapy as an alternative treatment. Gerson therapy involves a special diet, including drinking fresh juice several times a day, taking supplements, and having coffee enemas. There is no scientific evidence that Gerson therapy is an effective treatment for cancer, and evidence shows that coffee enemas can be dangerous if used excessively.

This information was last reviewed in May 2015
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