A complementary or integrative approach to kidney cancer may be supportive alongside standard treatments such as surgery, targeted drug therapy, and immunotherapy.

While there is no known natural cure for kidney cancer, some natural therapies can be supportive of managing the quality of life after cancer treatment.

Dietary changes and supplements may be supportive in reducing the side effects of the treatment of kidney cancer.

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.

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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 surgery and targeted 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.

Complementary and integrative medicine

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.

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.

The risk of kidney cancer is increased by eating red meat and grilled and pan-fried foods, according to a 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers tracked approximately one-half million men and women in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Those who ate the most meat, around 4.5 ounces of red meat per day (about the size of an average hamburger), had a higher risk of 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. Focus on whole foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Foods high in salt and phosphorus should be limited, and excessive water should be avoided since kidney function is reduced.

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.

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
  • Quercetin: the antioxidant compound in tea, onions, grapes, and apples
  • Reservertrol: found in grapes
  • 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.

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.

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.

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