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Pancreatic Cancer Diet, Nutrition

Pancreas is the organ that makes insulin and the enzymes needed for digestion of food. Any disease that affects the pancreas, therefore, will have an effect on the individual’s food habits. A diet plan for pancreatic cancer patients focuses on maintaining the body’s strength, managing the symptoms, and improving the body’s store of vital nutrients. Cancer cells get the energy to grow from the glucose derived from a metabolic process called glycolosis. Foods for pancreatic cancer patients should contain plenty of fruits and salads because the fructose in fruits and the vinegar in salad dressings are useful in inhibiting the process of glycolosis.
This leads eventually to the death of cancer cells as they are starved of energy. Low fat diets with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits are recommended foods for pancreatic cancer prevention, along with adequate intake of water. Thus, a pancreatic cancer diet is essential for those suffering from this disease, alongside medical treatment.

Foods To Avoid Pancreatic Cancer

High fat foods, like burgers and fries, and cured meats, sausages, and pickles, which contain a lot of salt, are foods to avoid with pancreatic cancer. Refined carbohydrates such as sugar cubes, canned fruits in syrup, and soft drinks with a high glycemic index should be replaced by legumes and low starch vegetables that have a low glycemic index. Processed meat contains nitrates, which can be converted by our body into nitrosamine, a potential carcinogen. Reducing animal fat is the best way to maintain ideal weight and to avoid pancreatic cancer, as obesity is a major risk factor. Smoking is another risk factor associated with this form of cancer.


Vitamins are a strong ally in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Eating bright yellow, orange, and green fruits and vegetables like pumpkins, carrots, squash, kiwi, and cantaloupe ensures that the body gets plenty of vitamin A and carotenoid to equip the body to fight against cancer cells and reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer. Vitamins for pancreatic cancer include vitamins C and E as they help get rid of free radicals and toxins and bolster the immune system. They are also known to inhibit the formation of nitrosamines. Vitamin D is also vital to check the proliferation of cancer cells in the body. The antioxidant properties of vitamin K help to protect cells from damage and facilitate the destruction of cancerous cells. Vitamin B complex found in whole grains, lentils, eggs, meat, and fermented dairy products is known to protect the body against pancreatic cancer.

Nutrition For Pancreatic Cancer

Nutrition for pancreatic cancer patients should come from several small meals spread through the day instead of the traditional three large meals every day. Nutrition therapy for pancreatic cancer suggests a low protein diet during one half of the day to enable the enzymes in pancreatin, a secretion of the pancreas, to fight against cancer cells. Pancreatin, which would normally be used in the digestion of proteins, is redirected to combat the cancerous cells for a part of the day. Proteins essential for the functioning of the body may be included in the meals consumed in the other part of the day. Nutrients such as phosphorus, ellagic acid, phytoestrogens, lycopene, folates, and compounds such as indole-3-carbinole and curcumin, found in everyday fruits and vegetables, are essential for the prevention of pancreatic cancer.


Weight loss is often a problem associated with patients suffering from this form of cancer as their appetite diminishes along with their ability to digest food. Treatment methods such as chemotherapy may also cause nausea and loss of appetite. Natural supplements for pancreatic cancer patients include fish oil supplements to arrest weight loss. Nutritional supplements for pancreatic cancer include those that contain the same compounds found in citrus fruits and green vegetables, as these are known to be effective against pancreatic cancer. Enzyme supplements to compensate for pancreatic insufficiency may be used to facilitate better absorption of nutrients from the food consumed.


Licorice root extract and pantothenic acid are found to be effective in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells in tumors. Herbs for pancreatic cancer treatment include triphala, a combination of three herbal plants, and blue flag, bladderack, chamomile, comfrey, fennel, parsley, dandelion, violet leaves, and rosehips. Huang quin tang is a combination of four Chinese herbs for pancreatic cancer treatment prescribed in traditional Chinese medicine. Kanglaite (KLT), an anti-tumor drug is an extract of the Chinese medicine coixenolide.


  • Jaundice with yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes, dark colored urine, and light colored stools
  • Pain in the abdomen, back, often caused by tumors or an inflammation of the pancreas
  • Unexplained weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Diabetes caused by insufficient insulin production in the pancreas, leading to frequent urination, thirst, and weakness
  • Changes in bowel frequency, quantity, and foul smelling stools indicate that the food is not being absorbed properly.
  • Itching caused by the high levels of bile salts in the blood stream
  • Fever with shivering may be the result of enlargement of the diseased pancreas


  • Smoking is one of the important risk factors contributing to pancreatic cancer
  • Unavoidable among pancreatic cancer causes is old age as a majority of the patients are over the age of 60
  • Predisposition to this form of cancer may also be genetically inherited
  • Obesity, diabetes, and unhealthy dietary habits are known to cause this form of cancer
  • Other pancreatic disorders may lead to cancer
  • Lack of exercise and a diet rich in processed foods and fats can lead to pancreatic cancer
  • Long-term exposure to toxic chemicals can also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer


Pancreatic cancer treatment options will depend on the stage of the cancer. Options include:
  • Surgery may be done to remove the cancer or to remove a blockage. If the cancer is at an inoperable or at an advanced stage, a stent may be placed to relieve the symptoms of jaundice.
  • Chemotherapy may be used as a follow-up after surgery to ensure that the cancer does not come back.
  • Radio therapy may be used to reduce the size of the tumor. Doctors may also suggest a combination of chemotherapy and radio therapy when the tumor is not easy to operate on.


  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain optimal body weight and exercise regularly to prevent obesity
  • Avoid high fat food and processed food high in salt
  • Avoid diabetes or keep blood sugar levels under control


Apart from a physical examination by the physician and blood tests to check for cancer tumor markers, pancreatic cancer diagnosis may involve the following tests:    

  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Ultrasound imaging
  • Endoluminal ultrasound
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangio pancreatography or ERCP test
  • Laproscopy and biopsy to get samples of the tumor
Submitted on January 16, 2014