Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I see a Dietitian at Roswell?

If you would like to meet with one of the dietitians at Roswell, ask your doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant to order a nutrition consultation for you.  When the dietitian receives the order, they will set up an appointment to assist you with your nutrition concerns.

2. Doesn’t sugar cause cancer?

The simple answer is no – not directly.

The carbohydrates you take in are broken down into simple sugars as they travel through your intestines. This signals your pancreas to release insulin into the blood stream. With the help of insulin, the sugars move into your cells and provide them with energy.

Glucose, the form of sugar most commonly used by the body, is in all body cells. Your brain needs it to work properly. Even if you did not eat carbohydrates, your body would activate alternative processes to keep your blood glucose levels normal. This shows how important carbohydrates are to your body’s function and health.

When it comes to cancer cell growth and other diseases, scientific evidence tells us it is not “sugar” itself, but the relationship between how much carbohydrate we consume, our levels of insulin, and growth factors that seems to make a difference.

Processed sugars add calories to foods and beverages without providing a feeling of fullness. Consuming foods and beverages rich in processed sugars can result in overeating and weight gain. Being overweight appears to increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Evidence also shows that reducing your consumption of processed foods and avoiding sugary drinks can make you feel fuller longer, and help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This is why a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes – and drinking water instead of sugary drinks – is linked to a lower risk of developing some common cancers.

3. Does Gluten Cause Cancer?

The only known link between gluten consumption and the risk of developing cancer is for people diagnosed with celiac disease. If someone with celiac disease continues to consume gluten, it may, over time, increase their risk of developing cancer of the intestinal tract. If you eliminate all sources of gluten from your diet without having a medical reason to do so, it may be difficult to meet your nutrition goals for fiber, carbohydrate, and other important nutrients your body needs.

In fact, consumption of foods with high fiber content, including whole grain sources of gluten such as wheat or rye, is associated with a lower risk of most cancers.

4. Is there anything I can eat to increase my white blood count?

  • Unfortunately, there are no specific foods or individual nutrients known to increase white blood counts (WBC).
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause your WBC to drop. These white blood cells are made in the bone marrow and help your body to fight infection. Your WBC should recover after your treatment ends, but the rate of recovery varies from person to person.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly several times per day, and before preparing or eating food. Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them. Avoid raw meats, eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products.
  • The booklet Food Safety for Cancer Patients is available in the Resource Center for Patients & Families (lst floor of the hospital, inside the cafeteria) and on the Food & Drug Administration’s website: www.foodsafety.gov/risk/cancer (This page also offers a FoodKeeper application that advises on the proper way to store foods and beverages.)

5. Should I buy only organic produce?

There have not been any direct studies done on humans to show organic produce can prevent cancer or disease any more effectively than non-organic produce. And there is no consistent evidence to show organic produce is any more nutritious. The advantage to organic produce is less pesticide residue; the disadvantage is that organic produce is generally more expensive.

If you want to purchase organic produce to avoid pesticides, you should consider buying the organic versions of the produce items listed on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list. This annual list is based on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Data Program report. The 2018 Dirty Dozen list includes:

Fruits

Vegetables

  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Spinach
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Bell Peppers

6. Is it safe to take dietary supplements or herbals during cancer treatment?

Research shows colorful, whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber are superior for cancer prevention when compared to dietary supplements and herbals. Here are some reasons why:

  • Some dietary supplements, even those available over-the-counter, have the potential to interfere with cancer treatments. In some studies, specific supplements actually increased risk of certain cancers.
  • Supplements are often made with nutrient levels that exceed the daily recommended amounts. This can be harmful – especially when you are receiving cancer treatment. It is far more difficult for you to exceed daily recommended amounts of nutrients from foods, so choosing a variety of healthy foods the safer choice.

You should take a dietary supplement prescribed for you by your doctor if:

  • You are diagnosed with a deficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral. (Vitamin D is a common example.)
  • You are unable to consume enough nutritious foods and/or beverages to meet your nutrition requirements.
  • Your doctor is aware of the type and dose of the supplements and/or herbals you are taking.

Taking dietary supplements or herbals without informing your medical team has the potential to interfere with your treatment or to interact with other medications you are taking. This could put your safety at risk.

If you are interested in taking a supplement or herbal, discuss it with your medical team first to get the facts to help you make an informed decision.

Visit the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements for more information about dietary supplements. www.ods.od.nih.gov

7. I go back and forth between diarrhea and constipation. What can I eat to relieve these symptoms?

The right type of fiber in your diet can help.  Soluble fibers will get gummy or sticky when wet because they absorb water.  Oats/oatmeal are a great example of soluble fiber.  In contrast, insoluble fibers do not absorb as much water.  Most raw vegetables contain insoluble fibers and do not become gummy or sticky when they come in contact with water. 

Soluble fibers are good to eat for both diarrhea and constipation. Food sources of Soluble Fibers include:

  • Oats and Oatmeal
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Lentils
  • Pears
  • Finely-ground Flaxseed
  • Barley
  • White Rice

However, insoluble fibers can only help constipation.  You should avoid insoluble fiber if you are having diarrhea.

Food sources of Insoluble Fibers include:

  • Whole Wheat
  • Wheat Bran
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Raw Vegetables

A blend of both soluble and insoluble fibers can be found in beans and peas.

A fiber supplement may also help with bowel regularity: talk to your doctor before taking one to see which type is best for you.

Key Points:

  • Increase the amount of fiber in your diet slowly.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated and avoid bowel irregularity.

8. Are dairy products linked to cancer risk?

AICR/WCRF latest comprehensive report on breast cancer did NOT find strong evidence that dairy food consumption influences breast cancer risk. For pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer, evidence was limited-suggestive that diets high in calcium decrease risk. For pre-menopausal breast cancer, evidence was also limited-suggestive that dairy products decrease risk. That means it is not strong enough to say there is a link, but the studies point in that direction.

There were no links showing that dairy foods increase risk for breast cancer.

There is evidence that dairy product consumption decreases the risk of colorectal cancer.