The Prostate Cancer Diet: What to Eat During Treatment

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by community member Jennifer G.

My father's prostate cancer journey was definitely interesting and one of the big issues he needed to rethink at the time was his diet. He received a very helpful pamphlet from his urologist as he was undergoing radiation treatments: Eating Hints for Cancer Patients Before, During, and After Treament.

Although my dad is not one for following a strict diet or exercise regimen, he decided to take a look at this information because he was feeling a bit lethargic and nauseaous from his initial hormone therapy. He quipped that he could finally understand what it meant to feel like a woman as he experienced some of the side-effects of estrogen and how it changes a person's moods and eating patterns.

The following are some of the things he was  advised to eat and drink during his treatment. Since cancer can alter a patient's energy levels, eating patterns, and digestive functionings, it was important for my dad to carefully consider foods for the following prostate cancer symptoms. The changes were quite simple and the payoffs were great:

Loss of Appetite

Cancer treatments or the cancer itself may cause a loss of appetite for patients.  Stress and/or depression may also be factors.  Ways to get proper nutrition when eating isn't easy include drinking nutritious liquids such as milk, vegetable juices, fruit juices, and soups; having portable and nutritious snacks such as crackers, granola bars, or small fruits when hunger DOES strike; or replacing solid meals with liquid meal replacements (powered or liquid nutritional  drinks.)

Changing meal patterns may also help a loss of appetite. One way to do this  would include eating  more during periods of wellness, such as upon first waking. Trying smaller but more frequent meals can also take the stress out of trying to manage larger meals. And eating something small before bed can  provide needed nutrients that have a longer period to digest.

Nausea / Vomiting / Diarrhea

These digestive issues are quite common for cancer patients, especially during treatment.  Nausea can be eased by  sticking to  mild-tasting foods such as oatmeal, rice, noodles, sherbert, yogurt, crackers, toast, pretzels, and skinless chicken breast.  Avoiding greasy, sweet, spicy, or strong-smelling foods is best. In terms of vomiting, it's best to introduce clear liquids in small amounts until more substantial liquids or soft foods are manageable (such as milk, fruit nectars, sherberts, vegetable juices, cooked cereals, and cream soups.)

Diarrhea can be very dehydrating  so the trick is to eat small amounts of foods that keep the body  supplied with sodium and potassium (often lost during bouts of diarrhea.)  Such foods include bananas, boiled or mashed potatoes, bullion, broth, and certain sports drinks.  Other good choices are skinned lean chicken or turkey, lean beef, or fish (not fried.) Yogurt, cottage cheese, rice, noodles, potatoes, and smooth peanut butter are other solid options that don't promote diarrhea.

Weight Gain

Men receiving hormone therapy during prostate cancer treatments can typically have an issue of weight gain. My father particularly experienced this and  one of the tricks that helped him included reducing his condiments such as butter, mayonnaise, tartar sauce, whipped cream, and coffee creamer. He also  avoided fried foods and  increased his intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Lean meats and low-fat dairy products also became important.

**Now all of these symptoms may not apply you, but many of these ideas did help my dad with his particular symptoms and made him feel physically better as he went through his prostate cancer treatment. The emphasis was on mild but healthy foods that would be easily digested and not cause further weight gain. And modifying eating patterns kept his energy up and his stomach upset to a minimum.


Eating Hints for Cancer Patients Before, During, and After Treament.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Hyattsville, Maryland, 2006.