All people need vitamins, but they are especially important for patients with mesothelioma. Cancer-fighting vitamins support healing and recovery and are required for life.
If diet quality is poor or a patient is having difficulty eating during mesothelioma cancer treatment, these substances may be added into the diet as supplements.
While deficiencies are not as common as they used to be, many people do not get enough of these nutrients for optimal health.
Essential Cancer-Fighting Vitamins
There are thirteen essential vitamins, including A, C, D, E and K, plus eight B vitamins.
The body can make some D and K, although most people do not make enough to meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for these substances.
This nutrient is found in organ meat and other animal foods. The body also can make it from beta carotene and other carotenes in vegetables and fruit.
Beta carotene from food is linked with lower risk of lung disease among smokers and people exposed to asbestos.
However, large clinical trials show vitamin A and beta carotene supplements increase lung cancer risk and total mortality in smokers and asbestos-exposed people.
The safest way to get enough vitamin A is to eat carotene-rich plant foods.
Vitamin A Food Sources
- Sweet potatoes and carrots
- Tomato juice
- Green leafy vegetables
In addition to its role in cancer risk and prevention, vitamin A supports proper vision, immune function, cell-to-cell communication and reproduction.
There are eight B vitamins that help the body use energy from food and contribute to a variety of important cell functions.
Folate is an important B vitamin for mesothelioma patients. Certain chemotherapy medications must be taken with folate to minimize the risk of severe drug toxicities.
If your cancer care team recommends this cancer-fighting vitamin during therapy, take the folate exactly as prescribed. This will minimize the risk of serious treatment side effects.
Vitamin B Food Sources
- B6: Good food sources include chickpeas, fish, beef, chicken, potatoes, whole grains, cottage cheese, raisins and tofu.
- B12: This vitamin is only found in animal-based foods such as seafood, fish, beef, milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs.
- Biotin: Dietary biotin sources include eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts, sweet potatoes, spinach and broccoli.
- Folate: Excellent folate sources include dark green leafy vegetables, avocado, asparagus, rice, wheat germ and broccoli.
- Niacin: Nuts, beans, grains, poultry, fish and beef all supply niacin in the diet.
- Riboflavin: Riboflavin-rich foods include fortified cereal and grain products, yogurt, mushrooms, milk and clams.
- Pantothenic acid: Fortified breakfast cereals, shiitake mushrooms, sunflower seeds, chicken, tuna and avocados are the best sources of this B vitamin.
- Thiamin: This B vitamin is found in fortified cereals and grain products, pork, trout, beans and shellfish.
In addition to the important role of folate during cancer therapy, B vitamins foster healthy cellular communication and regulate the production of genetic material, red blood cells and hormones.
These nutrients are necessary for the conversion of food energy into forms the body can use and support metabolism of drugs, steroids and fat.
Vitamin C enhances iron absorption when eaten with iron-containing foods. This may be helpful for cancer patients who struggle with iron-deficiency anemia.
The nutrient is very important for mesothelioma patients because of its vital role in wound healing and immune function.
It helps rebuild collagen, protects the body against oxidative damage, supports other antioxidants, participates in the regeneration of vitamin E and aids in neurotransmitter production.
The following food sources provide at least half the RDA for vitamin C per serving.
Vitamin C Food Sources
- Red bell peppers
- Oranges, grapefruits and the juice of these fruits
- Kiwi fruit
- Green peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Tomato juice
Research studies conflict on whether megadoses of vitamin C are safe during cancer treatment. Most health experts agree low doses — up to twice the RDA — are safe. Read labels to ensure you do not exceed this amount from dietary supplements.
Studies show many cancer patients have low vitamin D levels. It isn’t known with certainty if this is a consequence of the cancer process, but low blood levels are linked with increased risk of several cancer types.
The body can make D with sun exposure. In many areas of the U.S., however, the sun is not strong enough in winter to trigger production. The ability to make it diminishes with age, too.
Vitamin D taken by mouth must be converted to the active form by the liver and kidneys. If a person has liver or kidney disease, they may need a prescription supplement of the active form.
The nutrient regulates the growth and death of cells, is critical for calcium absorption and lifelong bone health. It also regulates cell growth, neuromuscular activity, hormone function, immunity and inflammation.
Vitamin D Food Sources
- Fortified orange juice and cereals
- Fortified dairy foods
- Egg yolks
Vitamin D is only found in a few foods, so you may need a dietary supplement to get enough of it.
The tolerable upper limit, defined as the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects, is 4,000 IU of D per day. Never take more than this unless directed to do so by your doctor or dietitian.
This fat-soluble substance has been studied extensively for potential cancer-prevention benefits. While getting plenty of vitamin E from food is linked with reduced risk of some types of cancer, the same cannot be said of dietary supplements.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Evidence to date is insufficient to support taking vitamin E to prevent cancer. In fact, daily use of large-dose vitamin E supplements (400 IU) may increase the risk of prostate cancer.”
The nutrient acts as an antioxidant during fat metabolism and regulates cell signaling, gene expression, blood vessel dilation and blood-clotting processes.
Vitamin E Food Sources
- Vegetable oils
- Wheat germ
- Sunflower seeds
- Peanut butter
- Other nut butters
The body can make some of this fat-soluble nutrient, although most people do not make enough vitamin K to meet the recommended dietary allowance.
The nutrient is best known for its role in proper blood clotting and bone health. Some medications designed to prevent blood clots interfere with its activity in the body.
Some research points to the importance of one form of the nutrient, vitamin K2, for reducing cancer risk and decreasing inflammation.
Vitamin K Food Sources
- Natto, a fermented soy product found in Japanese cuisine
- Green leafy vegetables
- Soy nuts and soy nut butter
If you are taking blood-thinner medications, also called anticoagulants, do not take vitamin K supplements or increase your intake of foods rich in this nutrient without talking to your doctor first.
A varied diet of lean protein, nuts, vegetables, fruit, beans and whole grains will ensure you get plenty of cancer-fighting vitamins after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
If you are losing weight or unable to eat your usual foods during cancer therapy, ask your doctor or dietitian if you need a vitamin supplement to fill in the gaps.
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