12 Beneficial Fruits to Eat During and After Cancer Treatment
Similarly, filling up on healthy foods is important if you are being treated for or recovering from cancer.
Certain foods, including fruits, contain health-promoting compounds that may slow tumor growth and reduce certain side effects of treatment to help ease your road to recovery.
Here are the 12 best fruits to eat during and after cancer treatment.
Fruit Choices for Those With Cancer
When being treated for or recovering from cancer, your food choices are incredibly important.
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can cause many side effects, which can be either worsened or improved by what you eat and drink.
- changes in appetite
- painful swallowing
- dry mouth
- mouth sores
- impaired focus
- mood changes
Filling your diet with nutritious foods, including fruits, helps supply your body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants throughout your cancer treatment.
However, it's important to tailor your fruit choices to your specific symptoms.
For example, puréed fruits or fruit smoothies are a good option if you have difficulty swallowing, while fruits rich in fiber can help promote regularity if you are experiencing constipation.
You may also want to avoid certain fruits based on your symptoms. For example, citrus fruits may irritate mouth sores and worsen the feeling of dry mouth.
Lastly, whole fruits like apples, apricots, and pears are hard for some people with cancer to eat due to mouth sores, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, or nausea.
Some foods can either worsen or improve certain side effects of cancer treatments. It's best to tailor your fruit choices to your specific symptoms.
Blueberries may also help alleviate chemo brain, a term used to describe problems with memory and concentration that some people experience during cancer treatment and recovery.
One small study found that drinking blueberry juice daily for 12 weeks improved memory and learning in older adults (7Trusted Source).
Similarly, a recent review of 11 studies reported that blueberries improved several aspects of brain function in children and adults (8Trusted Source).
While these studies did not include people undergoing cancer treatment, the findings may still apply.
Blueberries may help fight cancer growth and improve chemo brain, a term used to describe impairments in memory and concentration due to cancer treatment.
Oranges are a common type of citrus fruit, favored for their sweet taste, vibrant color, and stellar nutrient profile.
Just one medium orange can meet and exceed your daily needs for vitamin C, all while supplying other important nutrients like thiamine, folate, and potassium (9).
Oranges are a great source of vitamin C, which can help strengthen your immune function, reduce cancer cell growth, and increase iron absorption.
Bananas can be a great dietary addition for those recovering from cancer.
They're not only easy to tolerate for those with swallowing difficulties but also a good source of many important nutrients, including vitamin B6, manganese, and vitamin C (15).
Because bananas are rich in potassium, they can also help replenish electrolytes lost through diarrhea or vomiting.
That said, more research is needed to determine whether the pectin found in bananas could slow cancer cell growth in humans.
Bananas contain pectin, which can reduce diarrhea and has been shown to protect against colon cancer in test-tube studies.
Grapefruit is a nutritious fruit loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
In addition to providing a hearty dose of vitamin C, provitamin A, and potassium, it's rich in beneficial compounds like lycopene (21).
Lycopene is a carotenoid with potent anticancer properties. Some research suggests that it may reduce certain negative side effects of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation (22Trusted Source).
One study in 24 adults found that drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of juice from citrus fruits, including grapefruit, increased blood flow to the brain, which could help mitigate chemo brain (23Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that grapefruit might interfere with certain medications, so it's best to talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet (24Trusted Source).
Grapefruit is rich in antioxidants like lycopene, which has anticancer properties and may reduce some side effects of cancer treatments. It has also been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, which may ease chemo brain.
Apples are not only one of the most popular fruits but also one of the most nutritious.
Each serving is rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C — all of which can benefit cancer recovery (25).
The fiber found in apples can promote regularity and keep things moving through your digestive tract (26Trusted Source).
Apples are high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Hence, they can help promote regularity, reduce fluid retention, and support immune health.
Known for their sour taste and signature citrus scent, lemons deliver a burst of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in every serving.
They're especially high in vitamin C, but also contain some potassium, iron, and vitamin B6 (29).
While more research is needed to confirm these findings in humans, enjoying lemons in your favorite drinks and desserts as part of a healthy diet could be beneficial.
Lemons have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in test-tube studies. They also contain compounds that may boost your mood and reduce your stress levels.
Pomegranates are delicious, nutritious, and brimming with health benefits, making them a great addition to any diet.
Like other fruits, they're high in vitamin C and fiber but also pack plenty of vitamin K, folate, and potassium (35).
Plus, some research has found that eating pomegranates may improve your memory, which could help those affected by impairments in focus or concentration caused by chemotherapy (36Trusted Source).
A study in 28 people showed that drinking 8 ounces (237 ml) of pomegranate juice daily for 4 weeks led to increased brain activity and improved memory (37Trusted Source).
What's more, animal studies have found that pomegranates may help reduce joint pain, another common side effect of cancer treatments like chemotherapy (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).
Pomegranates may help improve memory and reduce joint pain, both of which are common side effects of cancer treatment.
Mulberries are a type of colorful fruit from the same family as figs and breadfruit.
They're also high in a type of plant fiber known as lignins, which have been shown to enhance immune function and kill cancer cells in test-tube studies (44Trusted Source).
Additional studies are needed to evaluate if eating mulberries in normal amounts may be beneficial during and after cancer treatment.
Mulberries are high in vitamin C and iron, which can help reduce the risk of anemia. They also contain lignins, which may increase immune function and possess anticancer properties.
Pears are versatile, full of flavor, and easy to enjoy as part of a healthy diet.
Copper, in particular, plays a central role in immune function and reduces your body's susceptibility to infection, which can be beneficial during cancer treatment (46Trusted Source).
Like other fruits, pears may contain powerful cancer-fighting compounds.
In fact, a study in over 478,000 people showed that a higher intake of apples and pears was associated with a lower risk of developing lung cancer (47Trusted Source).
Pears are rich in copper and contain anthocyanins, which have been shown to reduce cancer growth in test-tube studies.
Thanks to their fresh, sweet taste, strawberries are a favorite among fruit lovers.
In addition to boasting an impressive nutrient profile, strawberries may offer several benefits specific to cancer recovery.
First, ripe strawberries are soft, making them suitable for those with mild swallowing difficulties (52).
What's more, one animal study showed that administering freeze-dried strawberries to hamsters with oral cancer helped reduce tumor formation (53Trusted Source).
Another study in mice found that strawberry extract helped kill breast cancer cells and block tumor growth (54Trusted Source).
That said, high-quality studies are needed to determine if strawberries exhibit anticancer effects in humans when eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Strawberries are rich in antioxidants and may help decrease cancer cell growth. Ripe berries are also soft, making them a good choice for those with mild swallowing difficulties.
Cherries are a type of stone fruit that belongs to the same genus as peaches, plums, and apricots.
Each serving of cherries supplies a hearty dose of vitamin C, potassium, and copper (55).
These small fruits are also a good source of antioxidants like beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all of which can benefit your health (56Trusted Source).
Many studies have found that the antioxidants found in cherries could help slow the growth of cancer cells.
For example, one test-tube study showed that cherry extract killed and stopped the spread of breast cancer cells (57Trusted Source).
Another animal study observed similar findings, noting that certain compounds found in tart cherries reduced the growth of colon cancer cells in mice (58Trusted Source).
However, these studies analyzed the effects of highly concentrated cherry extracts. Additional research is needed to evaluate if these findings also apply to humans when cherries are eaten in normal amounts.
Cherries are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to decrease the growth of cancer cells in test-tube and animal studies.
Blackberries are a type of berry notable for their sweet, yet slightly bitter taste and deep purple hue.
This popular fruit is high in vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin K (59).
Blackberries also contain an array of antioxidants, including ellagic acid, gallic acid, and chlorogenic acid (60Trusted Source).
Other test-tube and animal studies suggest that blackberries can preserve brain health and enhance memory, potentially preventing certain side effects of chemotherapy (62Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source, 64Trusted Source).
However, further studies are needed to determine if blackberries offer similar benefits in humans.
Blackberries are rich in antioxidants that may help protect against cancer. Test-tube and animal studies show that they may also promote brain health, which could prevent certain side effects of cancer treatment.
The Bottom Line
Eating certain fruits can significantly affect your health, especially during and after cancer treatment.
Many fruits provide antioxidants to help fight the growth of cancer cells and may even offer other health benefits to help ease certain side effects of treatment.
oEnjoying these healthy fruits in combination with a well-rounded diet can keep you feeling your best and get you started on the road to recovery.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Ana Maldonado-Contreras
- Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
- Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
- New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.
You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
How Do Resident Bacteria Keep You Healthy?<p>Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.</p><p>Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1019378108" target="_blank">combating viral infection and modulating the immune response</a>.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184976" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In another study</a>, mice were fed <em>Lactobacillus</em> bacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The <em>Lactobacillus</em>-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice with <em>Lactobacillus</em> protects against different <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/srep04638" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subtypes of</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17487-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">influenza</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">virus</a> and human respiratory syncytial virus – the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39602-7" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children</a>.</p>
Chronic Disease and Microbes<p>Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.</p><p>In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">immune cells</a> that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1002601107" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">babies delivered by cesarean section</a>, individuals consuming a poor <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12820" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">diet</a> and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11053" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elderly</a>.</p><p>In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them</a>. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.</p><p>Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.</p><p>Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, <a href="https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/melody-trial-info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">my lab studies show how diet can be used</a> as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.</p><p>A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Old age</a> and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.</p><p><a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2008.12.019" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease</a>, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6933e1.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19</a> compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/blacks-in-britain-are-four-times-as-likely-to-die-of-coronavirus-as-whites-data-show/2020/05/07/2dc76710-9067-11ea-9322-a29e75effc93_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in Britain</a>.</p>
Discovering Microbes That Predict COVID-19 Severity<p>The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.</p><p>My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates <a href="https://theconversation.com/exercise-may-help-reduce-risk-of-deadly-covid-19-complication-ards-136922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acute respiratory distress syndrome</a>.</p><p>Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cytogfr.2020.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fatal overreaction of the immune response</a> called a <a href="https://theconversation.com/blocking-the-deadly-cytokine-storm-is-a-vital-weapon-for-treating-covid-19-137690" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cytokine storm</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">that causes an uncontrolled flood</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of immune cells into the lungs</a>. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the <a href="http://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-05991-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">severe lung injury and multiorgan failures</a> that lead to death.</p><p>Several studies <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2020.08.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">described in one recent review</a> have identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.</p><p>To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.05.20249061" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">We demonstrated</a>, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient's clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em>– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> has been associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2011.05.035" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chronic</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9440(10)61172-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammation</a>.</p><p><em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> collected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an <em>E. faecalis</em> test might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.</p><p>But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.11.416180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells</a> called <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/imr.12170" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance</a>.</p><p>Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the <a href="https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.30916.001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proper activation</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of those T-regulatory</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nri.2016.36" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cells</a>. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.</p><p>As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ana-maldonado-contreras-1152969" target="_blank">Ana Maldonado-Contreras</a> is an assistant professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Ana Maldonado-Contreras receives funding from The Helmsley Charitable Trust and her work has been supported by the American Gastroenterological Association. She received The Charles A. King Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She is also member of the Diversity Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-healthy-microbiome-builds-a-strong-immune-system-that-could-help-defeat-covid-19-145668" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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