Integrating essential foods and nutrients into your diet throughout your mesothelioma diagnosis will ensure your body is functioning at its optimal state to fight, recover and remain in remission.

A nutritious and well-balanced diet is a key element of successful mesothelioma treatment and recovery.

Food Choices Impact Our Health

The food choices we make each day play a vital role in our lives. To understand how important our food choices are, we can simply look at the definition of food.

Food is any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy and promote growth.

The food we consume is used to sustain and protect our bodies, repair damaged cells and tissues and push us forward. The effects of our dietary choices can be seen and felt both physically and mentally.

Healthy dietary choices play an even larger role for individuals who are diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The fuel mesothelioma patients choose to feed their bodies can positively or negatively affect how they respond to treatment, recovery and recurrence.

Diet and Physical Health

Food gives our bodies information on how to function, which affects our physical health.

Most importantly, our diets have the ability to:

  • Influence our weight
  • Strengthen or weaken our immune system
  • Increase or reduce our risk of developing infectious and chronic diseases

Unbalanced diets low in nutrients, high in processed foods and sugar can have seriously negative effects on the body. Effects can include reduced energy, difficulties with weight control, recurrent infections and increased free radicals in the body.

Free radicals are formed naturally in the body, but at high levels, they can damage healthy cells and increase the risk of various diseases. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, substances that remove free radicals from the body and protect against the development of disease–including cancer.

Eating a nutritious diet during treatment will help patients:

  • Feel better and stay stronger
  • Maintain body weight
  • Improve energy
  • Decrease risk of infection
  • Recover and heal faster
  • Lower the risk of cancer relapse

There is research showing that some treatments may also work better when patients are properly nourished.

Diet and Mental Health

The foods we eat can also affect our mental health, as growing evidence continues to link many mental health conditions to dietary factors. Diet has an influence on both short and long-term mental health through its ability to impact stress levels.

When a person eats foods that are high in sugar, it causes their blood sugar to spike, stress hormones to be released and ends in a sugar crash. The spikes and dips from a diet filled with sugary foods can overexpose the body to stress hormones. Symptoms of this cycle include mood swings, irritability and fatigue which can put people at an increased risk of developing numerous mental health problems.

Mesothelioma patients typically experience higher stress levels as a cancer diagnosis is a tough reality to process.

A well balanced, low sugar diet can help patients reduce and manage feelings of anxiety and depression during treatment, recovery and remission. Managing stressors can also result in a better quality of life for mesothelioma patients throughout their prognosis.

What Does a Well-Balanced and Nutritious Diet Look Like for Mesothelioma Patients?

Proper nutrition will give patients diagnosed with mesothelioma more energy, help them feel better and keep their body strong in order to better manage any side effects from treatment. Eating well will also help patients recover from prescribed treatment.

The body will be working in overdrive to destroy cancer cells and protect the body, which will result in an increased need for energy. Most cancer patients will need to increase the amount of carbohydrates and protein in their diet to maintain energy and strength.

Other dietary tips for mesothelioma patients before, during and post-treatment:

  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • Prioritize whole grains over refined (white) grains
  • Remove or limit fast foods
  • Focus on plant-based foods, try to eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Limit consumption of red meat to less than 18 oz per week
  • Limit intake of alcoholic and caffeinated drinks

Every mesothelioma patient will have different nutritional needs depending on their overall health, diagnosis and treatment. Some treatments on the head, neck, stomach or intestines may make it difficult to eat well.

Diet Tips for Pleural Mesothelioma

If you have been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma you may be experiencing excessive accumulation of lung fluids. There are changes you can make to your diet that can help manage fluid buildup caused by pleural effusions or ascites.

Having too much sodium in your diet causes your body to retain fluids—try to limit the amount of sodium in your diet. This can be accomplished by eating more fresh foods and fewer processed and packaged items.

In addition to watching your sodium intake, you may need to limit the amount you drink to reduce the accumulation of fluid in your lungs. Watching what you drink extends from water, juice and coffee, over to soups and ice cream. Speak with your doctor about the amount of fluid you should be drinking based on your condition.

Diet Tips for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

If you have been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, it is best to avoid foods that cause inflammation in the lining of your abdomen cavity.

It is best to avoid eating high-fat foods and minimize the amounts of alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages you consume, along with those high in citric acid (fruit juices).

Integrate foods that are high in flavonoids and fiber to reduce inflammation in the abdomen lining, such as:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Berries
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Parsley
  • Legumes
  • Soy foods

Diet Tips for Pericardial Mesothelioma

Although there are no foods linked to specific inflammation of the pericardial lining of the heart, integrating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet may help your pericardial mesothelioma diagnosis.

Foods that can help reduce inflammation all over your body include:

  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Bone broth
  • Probiotic-rich foods
  • High-quality proteins such as lean grass-fed beef and wild-caught salmon
  • Healthy fats

Reducing the sodium in your diet will also reduce the workload of your heart, which will help you conserve energy and speed recovery.

Overall, patients who eat a balanced and healthy diet will have the energy and strength to respond well to treatment, manage symptoms and side effects and heal faster.

Consult our list of Mesothelioma Doctors to develop a personalized meal plan to ensure you are well nourished over the course of your treatment and healing journey.

View Author and Sources

  1. National Cancer Institute, “Nutrition in Cancer Care - patient Version.” Retrieved from: Accessed on April 26, 2018
  2., “Food.”. Retrieved from: Accessed on April 27th, 2018
  3. Mayo Clinic, “Chronic Stress Puts your Health at Risk.” Retrieved from: Accessed on April 27, 2018.  
  4. Canadian Cancer Society, “Nutrition for People with Cancer.” Retrieved from: Accessed on April 27, 2018.
  5. International Journal of Biomedical Science, “Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health.” Retrieved from: Accessed on April 27, 2018
  6. BC Cancer, “Nutrition.” Retrieved from: Accessed on April 27, 2018.  

Last modified: May 29, 2018