A natural approach to kidney cancer may be effective alongside standard treatments such as chemotherapy. Natural approaches include complementary and integrative medicine.

While experts do not accept a natural cure for kidney cancer, some natural therapies show promise at helping manage the impacts of cancer and treatments on daily life.

Changing diet and including nutritional supplements may help a person with kidney cancer reduce the side effects of treatment or even alter the environment inside their body to make it more difficult for cancer cells to survive.

However, before a person tries integrative therapies, they should check with their doctor.

This article looks at what the evidence says about natural treatments for cancer and the risks involved. In addition, it discusses the importance of diet and what to eat and avoid during treatment.

An image of capsules.Share on Pinterest
ATU Images/Getty Images

There is currently no single cure for cancer. Medical approaches depend on the type and stage of cancer that someone has.

Some people use natural and dietary treatments instead of standard treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy to try to control their kidney cancer. Still, experts agree there is no natural therapy that can cure cancer.

Medical vs. alternative therapies

Doctors do not use alternative therapies in standard medicine. People may choose to use alternative therapies instead of mainstream medical treatments for various reasons. These reasons may include wanting to:

  • use a traditional cultural approach
  • be more in control of their condition
  • avoid taking medication because of its side effects or impact on one’s life

However, it is important to note that scientists have not thoroughly tested alternative treatments or have found them ineffective against cancer. Some alternative therapies may also have health risks or be dangerous if people administer them themselves.

While some people use alternative therapies instead of standard medical treatment, complementary and integrative methods refer to approaches used alongside medical therapies to support treatment.

Complementary and integrative medicine

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), using complementary and integrative methods may help someone manage cancer-related symptoms and side effects.

The ACS recommends that people do their research and speak with their doctor or cancer care team about the safety and effectiveness of different treatments they might be considering.

People may wonder what they should eat if they have kidney cancer and if a particular diet can help.

People with kidney cancer who are overweight do not have worse outcomes than people with a moderate weight. Studies have demonstrated a more favorable kidney cancer outlook in patients with higher body mass index (BMI). However, further research is needed to confirm BMI’s significance on the outlook for people with kidney cancer.

The ACS recommends a balanced diet for all people with cancer to improve their health and wellness and reduce future health problems.

Foods to eat and avoid

Some research suggests that eating a plant-based diet may be beneficial for improving survival in people with a history of cancer. However, studies have not evaluated plant-based diets specifically for kidney cancer post-diagnosis.

How to eat during treatment

The National Cancer Institute advises that people with cancer may need to adjust their diet according to changes in their weight and appetite and the side effects of treatment.

Side effects can make it difficult for someone to take in enough calories. Common side effects of cancer treatment include:

Therefore, eating a varied and nutrient-dense diet with sufficient calories, vitamins, and minerals is essential.

In addition, people may find that food is easier to eat in smaller portions, with a softer consistency, or lightly mashed or pureed.

Additionally, a person may want to cook in large batches when they have more energy or enlist family or friends to help with meals.

People should speak with their cancer care team or a dietitian to get advice on eating during cancer treatment.

According to a 2018 review, fasting or diets that mimic fasting may make cancer treatments more effective and reduce the side effects of treatment.

This is because fasting can generate environments in the body that make cancer cells less likely to survive while helping normal cells resist the negative effects of chemotherapy.

However, a 2021 review of studies found that the effects of fasting on human cancer incidence and prognosis remain unknown because of a lack of high quality clinical trials.

Keto diet

Research suggests that combining a ketogenic (keto) diet with chemotherapy and radiation therapy may improve cancer outcomes. The high fat keto approach selectively starves tumors of the glucose they use to multiply and survive.

According to a 2020 review, the keto diet likely creates an unfavorable metabolic environment for cancer cells and is overall safe and well-tolerated by patients.

However, scientists need to do more studies to evaluate these claims.

A reduced pH diet makes the body’s environment less acidic and more alkaline. People sometimes refer to this approach as an alkaline diet.

Some people claim that a reduced pH diet prevents cancer cells from surviving, and they advocate eating foods that create an alkaline environment to achieve this. Some evidence suggests that an alkaline diet can reduce inflammation, which may help to lower cancer risk.

However, a 2016 systematic review found that there is a lack of evidence for consuming an alkaline diet or alkaline water to treat cancer.

People who wish to take supplements for cancer should speak with their doctor first, as supplements may interact with chemotherapy or medication.

A 2018 review looked at the role of natural supplements in renal cell carcinoma.

The review suggests that some compounds have shown promising effects against this type of cancer in laboratory studies, but scientists must conduct human trials to confirm this.

The following are some of these compounds and where they occur naturally:

  • Epigallocatechin-3-gallate: present in green tea, plums, apple peels, and onions
  • Englerin: a natural compound in phyllanthus engleri, an indigenous African plant
  • Quercetin: the antioxidant compound in tea, onions, grapes, and apples
  • Coumarin: occurs in tonka beans, lavender, and strawberries
  • Curcumin: the active compound in turmeric
  • Sulforaphane: from broccoli
  • Amygdalin: from apricots, peaches, and plums
  • Thymoquinone: from black cumin
  • Kahweol: from coffee beans
  • Honokiol: from magnolia bark
  • Genistein: from soy

Cannabidiol (CBD) refers to the active components in cannabis called cannabinoids. Although people have used cannabis for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, possession is illegal in many U.S. states.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved cannabis as a treatment for cancer or other medical conditions. However, they have approved drugs made from cannabinoids, such as dronabinol and nabilone, for doctors to treat cancer-related side effects, such as reduced appetite or vomiting, caused by chemotherapy.

The National Cancer Institute advises that cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by limiting cell growth and cancer spread (metastasis) and inducing cell death. Experts researched these effects in animals.

A 2020 review suggests that CBD is a promising anticancer drug. However, there is no human evidence that CBD can cure kidney cancer.

Laetrile is another name for the natural product amygdalin, a chemical in the pits of fruits such as apricots and plants such as clover, sorghum, and lima beans.

Although some people claim that hydrogen cyanide in laetrile has anticancer properties, the FDA does not approve it. To date, scientists have not conducted any controlled trials of laetrile on humans, and there is little evidence from case reports to support it as an anticancer treatment.

People take laetrile, which some people also refer to as vitamin B17, as a pill or by injection. However, the National Cancer Institute advises that this may lead to cyanide poisoning.

Some cancer treatments make people more prone to infection, so people need to be careful when preparing and handling food. Some tips to keep someone protected are:

  • avoiding unpasteurized juice and dairy products
  • not eating raw fish or shellfish
  • washing hands and having separate boards when preparing meat
  • scrubbing fruits and vegetables before eating
  • keeping foods at appropriate temperatures

Several federal and state programs provide financial benefits to people and families affected by cancer. These benefits may apply to low income households, older adults, and people with disabilities. Someone can find out more information from CancerCare.

Maintaining a balanced diet and a moderate weight is essential for someone with kidney cancer and is a natural way to support treatment and help manage side effects.

Additionally, dietary approaches such as following a keto diet may improve the effectiveness of standard medical treatments.

People can help ensure they consume enough nutrients by cooking nutritious meals in large batches and asking friends and family to help with cooking.

Some compounds such as curcumin, quercetin, and sulforaphane may be effective against cancer cells, but scientists need to confirm this with human trials.