June 16, 2024

Scientists are still investigating diets for people with kidney cancer. However, eating or avoiding certain foods may benefit a person with a kidney cancer diagnosis. Some eating tips may also help people manage treatment side effects.

A doctor may also refer a person with a recent kidney cancer diagnosis to a dietitian. The dietitian can help them create an eating plan to ensure they are getting enough nutrition.

This article discusses foods to eat and avoid after a kidney cancer diagnosis and how to eat during kidney cancer treatment. It also discusses how a dietitian can help people with kidney cancer.

Kidney Cancer UK suggests a person with kidney cancer aim for a balanced diet that comprises:

  • one-thirds fruit and vegetables
  • one-thirds carbohydrates
  • one-thirds a combination of:
    • fish
    • small portions of foods high in sugar or fat

Below are some foods the American Cancer Society recommends as part of a balanced diet high in nutrients.

Vegetables

Vegetables the American Cancer Society recommends include:

  • dark green, red, and orange vegetables
  • cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli
  • legumes, such as:

Fruit

The American Cancer Society recommends including whole fruits in a variety of colors. The organization suggests that eating whole fruits provides more benefits than drinking fruit juice.

Whole grains

The American Cancer Society also recommends consuming whole grains as part of a healthful diet.

Whole grain food is any food that uses every part of the grain. This includes the outer layers, bran, and germ parts.

Examples of whole grains include:

A person may choose to avoid some foods after receiving a kidney cancer diagnosis.

Salt

Too much salt can cause the kidneys to work harder. It may be beneficial to limit foods high in salt, such as:

  • cured and canned meat, poultry, and fish
  • salted popcorn
  • potato chips
  • pretzels

Protein

According to Cancer Research UK, there may be links between kidney cancer and a diet high in protein. A person may therefore choose to consume a diet low in protein.

However, the Canadian Cancer Society notes that a person receiving dialysis may need to eat a diet high in protein. It is best for a person to discuss protein intake with a doctor if they receive dialysis for kidney cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends people avoid or limit eating red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened drinks, and highly processed foods.

Drinks

It is important to drink enough fluids to stay hydrated, but too much fluid can strain the kidneys. Avoiding certain liquids may benefit a person’s health while helping reduce unnecessary strain on the kidneys.

A person may choose to limit their intake of alcohol and sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soda and energy drinks.

Red and processed meats

The American Cancer Society recommends avoiding red and processed meats, such as:

  • beef
  • veal
  • pork
  • lamb
  • mutton
  • cured, smoked, or salted meats

Highly processed foods

Avoiding highly processed foods can help improve a person’s overall health. Some examples of highly processed foods include:

  • candy
  • industrial bread
  • breakfast cereals
  • ready-to-heat frozen meals

It is best to contact a dietitian for more advice on foods to avoid after a kidney cancer diagnosis.

It is important to eat enough during cancer treatment to maintain strength and get enough nutrients. However, some side effects of kidney cancer treatment may affect how a person eats.

Appetite loss

People may not want to eat much during treatment. Some ways to manage appetite loss include:

  • eating 5–6 smaller meals per day instead of 3 larger meals
  • eating larger meals when feeling well and rested
  • keeping snacks easily accessible
  • drinking liquids throughout the day, particularly liquids that add calories
  • eating small snacks at bedtime

Diarrhea

People may have frequent bowel movements during treatment. Treatments may cause food to pass too quickly through a person’s bowels for their body to absorb nutrients.

A person with cancer needs to inform their care team if they experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. The care team may be able to recommend medications to help manage the side effects of cancer treatment.

Some ways to manage diarrhea and related side effects include:

  • consuming foods and drinks that are high in sodium and potassium to replace losses
  • eating foods that are low in fiber
  • avoiding sugary, greasy, spicy, or fried foods
  • avoiding foods and drinks that can cause gas
  • avoiding drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages
  • eating food and drinking liquids at room temperature

Dietitians are nutrition and diet experts. They can help people with dietary questions before and after cancer treatment.

Dietitians can also help people with cancer plan their diet after a kidney cancer diagnosis and during treatment.

A person can ask their doctor about getting a referral to a dietitian. The dietitian can help them ensure they get enough essential nutrients and help them create a suitable eating plan with foods to eat and avoid.

Here are some frequently asked questions about kidney cancer diets.

What should you not drink with kidney cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends people with kidney cancer not drink alcohol. It is also best to avoid sugary drinks.

Can you eat bananas with kidney cancer?

People with conditions that put them at risk of abnormal potassium levels should avoid eating bananas. Bananas are rich in potassium. Having high levels of potassium is called hyperkalemia.

Some forms of cancer treatment, such as kidney removal, may cause reduced kidney function and increase the risk of hyperkalemia. If this is the case, a doctor may recommend avoiding bananas and other potassium-rich foods.

After a cancer diagnosis, a doctor may refer a person to a dietitian for advice and support on foods to eat and avoid. This may include eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A person may choose to avoid highly processed foods, red meats, alcohol, and sugary drinks.

Treatment may affect how a person eats. Consuming smaller meals more frequently can help with loss of appetite, while avoiding high fiber foods can help alleviate diarrhea. A doctor may advise a person to change their protein intake if they are receiving dialysis.

Doctors and dietitians can help people with kidney cancer create an eating plan and help ensure they get enough essential nutrients.

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