Nutritional interventions for pancreatic cancer patients
07/07/2021 / By Skye Anderson / Comments
Nutritional interventions for pancreatic cancer patients

One of the leading causes of death worldwide, cancer is a frightening disease. But growing evidence suggests that certain dietary habits can increase or decrease cancer risk. Studies also say that paying close attention to your nutrition is crucial not only for maintaining good health but also for treating and coping with cancer.

According to research, eating large amounts of certain foods increases cancer risk. These include sugary and highly processed foods, as well as unhealthy foods that contribute to obesity. Experts have recently found a link between being overweight or obese and a high risk of developing cancer.

On the other hand, certain foods, particularly fresh, organic plant-based foods, have cancer-fighting properties, thanks to the active plant chemicals they contain. According to nutritionists, cancer patients, as well as healthy people who are looking to keep cancer at bay, can benefit from a diet rich in vegetables, herbs, fruits, spices, nuts and whole grains.

In an article published in the Natural Medicine Journal, clinical oncology registered dietitian Kamorin Samson and the research director for, Heather Wright, discussed practical tools for supporting patients in reducing symptoms that affect their digestive tract. They highlighted safe interventions particularly for pancreatic cancer patients, which include nutritional counseling and evidence-based supplements.

Facts about pancreatic cancer

The pancreas is an important organ located in your abdomen, just behind the lower part of the stomach. It fulfills many important functions including releasing enzymes that aid in digestion and producing hormones like insulin, which helps control blood sugar levels.

However, cancerous and non-cancerous tumors can develop in the pancreas. The most common type of pancreatic cancer begins with the cells that line the ducts through which digestive enzymes exit the pancreas. Although researchers are yet to pinpoint the exact cause of abnormal pancreatic growths, they have found a link between pancreatic cancer and certain risk factors, such as tobacco smoking and obesity.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Note that in most cases, these symptoms don’t show until the cancer is advanced:

  • Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Light-colored stools
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Itchy skin
  • New diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes that’s becoming more difficult to control
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue

Options for pancreatic cancer treatment are based on the extent of the cancer. Conventional treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these.

Nutritional intervention for pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer greatly affects a person’s diet and ability to digest food. The growth of a tumor can reduce the amount of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. A tumor can also block the pancreatic duct and prevent digestive enzymes from getting to the small intestines. These events can result in foods not being properly digested and the nutrients in them not being absorbed by the body.

Problems with digesting food and malabsorption cause a variety of symptoms. Pancreatic patients often lose appetite and weight because of these problems. They also suffer from bloating, constipation or diarrhea, and sometimes even develop diabetes. Fortunately, a supplement-based therapy is now available for pancreatic cancer patients, and reports suggest this therapy can effectively address the problems with digestion caused by the disease.

Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) is a type of treatment that helps restore nutrient absorption by delivering a sufficient amount of digestive enzymes to parts of the small intestine at the right time — that is, at the same time as gastric emptying of nutrients. These digestive enzymes are taken in capsule form and can vary in terms of formulation.

According to research, pancreatic patients suffering from malabsorption can still digest protein and starch. PERT helps these patients by improving their ability to absorb fat, which is the nutrient most affected by the digestive enzyme deficiency caused by pancreatic cancer. Malabsorption of fat also causes deficiencies in certain nutrients, since some, like vitamins A, D, E and K, can only be absorbed by the body with the help of fats.

Because of the benefits provided by PERT on overall nutritional status and quality of life, it is considered the standard of care for patients with pancreatic cancer.

Natural supplements for pancreatic cancer patients

Due to the digestive problems caused by pancreatic cancer, patients with this disease are prone to malnutrition and weight loss. But there are nutritional supplements that could help patients avoid these problems. Here are some natural supplements that, according to experts, make great complements to dietary interventions and PERT:

  • Probiotic supplements — Probiotics are live microorganisms usually found in fermented foods. Studies have found that these beneficial microbes help improve your gut barrier function. This barrier plays an important role in your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and prevent harmful substances from entering your bloodstream. According to clinical trials, probiotics are safe and beneficial for pancreatic cancer patients because they help keep the gut microbiota balanced and reduce infectious complications post-surgery.
  • Fish oil supplements — When combined with PERT, fish oil can be a great source of healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, for pancreatic cancer patients. Research shows that omega-3s not only promote heart health but also improve clinical outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients.
  • Mistletoe extracts — Numerous studies have reported on the benefits of mistletoe extracts for cancer patients. According to experts at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, mistletoe treatment not only helps reduce the side effects of cancer treatments, but it also improves the quality of life for those with advanced or metastatic cancer and prolongs survival.
  • L-carnitine — Reports suggest that L-carnitine, an amino acid derivative that helps the body convert fat into energy, may improve the nutritional status of patients and help prevent weight loss.
  • Medical cannabis — Some compounds in this widely controversial plant are prescribed by doctors for various ailments. Trials involving pancreatic cancer patients have shown that dronabinol and cannabidiol (CBD) are well-tolerated and actually help improve quality of life by treating insomnia, pain and fatigue.
  • Vitamin D — An essential nutrient that helps regulate inflammatory responses, vitamin D is useful for managing symptoms of pancreatic cancer, such as fatigue.

The combination of PERT, fat-soluble vitamins and other natural supplements, when given in incremental doses every meal, has been proven to be safe and effective for pancreatic cancer patients. For pancreatic cancer patients who wish to fight the disease through natural means, consult your physician about PERT and which natural supplements would work best for you.

Sources: 1 2

100% Fresh Food News, Right at Your Fingertips!
Find out everything you need to know about clean and healthy eating when you sign up for our FREE email newsletter. Receive the latest news on all the top superfoods, recipes, natural remedies, diets, food tips, and more!
Your privacy is protected. Subscription confirmation required.

Related Articles
comments powered by Disqus

100% Fresh Food News, Right at Your Fingertips!
Find out everything you need to know about clean and healthy eating when you sign up for our FREE email newsletter. Receive the latest news on all the top superfoods, recipes, natural remedies, diets, food tips, and more!
Your privacy is protected. Subscription confirmation required.

Popular articles