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Guide to Preventing Gastric Cancer  ( Home | Diet | Foods | Recipes )

12 Diet Tips for Fighting Stomach Cancer

stomach cancer diet

Stomach cancer (or gastric cancer) is the fourth most common cancer in the world. Although anyone can develop stomach cancer, men and people over 55 years of age are more likely to get it. In addition to gender, age and a number of other factors that can influence a person's risk of developing stomach cancer (see Stomach Cancer Q&A for details on the risk factors), certain dietary factors have been shown to increase a person's risk of stomach cancer, while other dietary factors have been shown may play a key role in the prevention of stomach cancer. The remainder of this section provides diet tips that may help you prevent stomach cancer.

Important notice: The information below and elsewhere on this website is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always seek the advice of a professional health care provider.

Red onions
Quercetin in onions has strong anti-cancer and anti-fungal properties.

#5:  Consume Foods That Contain Quercetin

Diet tip #1: Be sure to include plenty of foods that contain quercetin in your diet. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that has strong anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties and that is present in high concentration in red and yellow onions. According to one study, half an onion a day could reduce the risk of stomach cancer by 50%. In addition to yellow and red onions, good dietary sources of quercetin include apples, lovage, capers, broccoli, cherries, citrus fruits, red grapes, tea, and many berries, including lingonberries, raspberries, and cranberries.

#2:  Avoid Excess Protein

In 1902, John Beard, a Scottish cancer researcher, discovered that one of the body's primary weapons against cancer is pancreatin. Pancreatin is essentially a mix of protein-digesting enzymes, but these enzymes also have another purpose: the eradication of cancer. Diets that are extremely rich in protein keep the pancreatic enzymes busy digesting protein, and as a result, little time is left for these enzymes to fight stomach cancer. Many nutritionists recommend a protein-free period of approximately 12 hours a day to prevent cancer.

Curcumin has been shown to inhibit H. Polori, a stomach cancer causing bacteria.

#3:  Count on Curcumin

Curcumin is a phytochemical that gives turmeric its intense yellow color. Curcumin has been used, in the form of turmeric, in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries due to its medicinal and healing powers. In the recent past, also western scientists have started to pay greater attention to this extraordinary compound which, according to recent studies, has strong anti-cancer properties which make it highly effective against almost any type of cancer, including stomach cancer. One study conducted by University of Chicago researchers showed that curcumin inhibits a cancer-provoking bacteria (H. pylori) associated with stomach cancer. Curcumin has also been shown to trigger apoptosis — a self-destruct mechanism in cancer cells — and to destroy free radicals.

#4:  Avoid Nitrate-Containing Meat Products

Nitrates are substances that naturally occur in our environment. They are present in the air, soil, surface water, and ground water as well as in plants, including vegetables we eat. Nitrates are also used by food manufacturers to give certain meat products an intense red color. When you eat foods that contain nitrates, you body may convert the nitrates into nitrites, which in turn can form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines have been shown to cause certain types of cancer, including stomach cancer. However, nitrosamine formation can be prevented by certain antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. As vegetables are typically rich antioxidant vitamins, nitrosamine formation is not considered a concern when you eat vegetables that contain nitrates. This is supported by large-scale population studies that have found no link between a high consumption of nitrate-containing vegetables and cancer, but which show that diets high in nitrate-containing meat products can cause cancer.

#5:  Choose Low Glycemic Foods

Glycemic Index (GI) measures the impact of carbohydrate containing foods on blood sugar (glucose) levels. Foods with a low GI rating are slowly digested and help maintain stable blood sugar levels. Foods that break down quickly cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels and are considered high GI foods. Carbohydrates with a high GI rating have been associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer, including gastric cancer. Scientists believe that this link is related to the ability of high GI carbohydrates to stimulate the production insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF). Insulin and IGF are hormones that have been shown to stimulate tumor proliferation and progression as well as the spreading of cancer from one organ to another. Non-starchy vegetables, legumes and fruit typically have a low GI rating while refined carbohydrate-rich foods and generally have a high GI rating.

#6:  Eliminate Foods Contaminated with Aflatoxin

Carcinogenic substances can occur in foods when certain types of fungus grow on food producing toxins during processing, storage, or transport. These toxins include aflatoxin, a highly carcinogenic substance that causes DNA damage. A prolonged exposure to aflatoxin will result in an increased number of DNA mutations and thus increase the risk of cells becoming cancerous. Peanuts appear to be particularly susceptible to aflatoxin contamination, but also many other types of foods — including whole grains, legumes, nuts, and spices — are vulnerable to Aspergillus flavus, the fungus responsible for producing aflatoxins. Aflatoxin is stable and resistant to cooking and freezing, but you can greatly reduce your risk of exposure to this poison by carefully selecting your foods:

  • Select fresh seeds, nuts, legumes, and grains (or at least avoid nuts and grains from last year's harvest)
  • Look for signs of proper storage and avoid foods from countries that have substandard storage requirements
  • Discard nuts that taste stale or look suspicious
  • Eat green vegetables that are rich in chlorophyll to further reduce the risk of harmful impacts of aflatoxins; chlorophyll has been shown to reduce aflatoxins levels

#7:  Eat Plenty of Foods That Provide Allicin

Allicin is a phytochemical that occurs in garlic and other members of the Allium family of plants when the plant is crushed or chopped. Studies have confirmed that allicin has inhibitory activity on Helicobacter pylori, bacteria associated with an increased risk of gastric ulcers and gastric cancer. The may explain why populations with a high consumption of garlic have been shown to have a lower incidence of stomach cancer.

#8:  Reduce Fat Intake, Especially From Animal Fat

A diet high in animal fat has been associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer. One compound that seems to play a key role in this context is arachidonic acid, found primarily in fatty red meats, egg yolks and organ meats. This omega-6 fatty acid has been shown to enhance cancer growth and to facilitate its spread within the body, and some studies suggest that it may also destroy cells of the immune system. In contrast, omega-3 fatty acids, abundant in walnuts, flaxseeds, and fatty fish, are believed to have a protective effect against cancer. However, even then it is wise to limit the total intake of dietary fat to not more than 20% (of total caloric intake) because all dietary fat stimulates the production of bile which may be converted into apocholic acid, a proven carcinogen, if a lot of fat stays in the large intestine for too long. Furthermore, the high calorie content of fat can promote obesity, which has also been shown to predispose to stomach cancer.

#9:  Cut Back on Salt

Research suggests that a high intake of salt (sodium) can increase the risk of stomach cancer. Regions where salt consumption is high (e.g. Japan) tend to have a high incidence of stomach cancer, and regions where the use of salt as the main way of preserving foods has been replaced by refrigeration during the second half of the 20th century have seen falling rates of stomach cancer. If you feel the food is lacking flavor, try using spices and herbs instead of high amounts of salt. Be also aware of the "hidden" salt that is present in many packaged and processed foods, such as commercial cereals, canned vegetables, and frozen meals.

#10:  Ensure a Sufficient Intake of Vitamin C and E

Vitamin C, abundant in kiwis, can inhibit nitrosamine formation.

Vitamin C and vitamin E neutralize cancer-causing free radicals and boost the immune system, which is why foods rich in these vitamins should be included in any diet aimed at reducing the risk of stomach cancer. In addition to their antioxidant and immune sytem boosting activities, vitamin C and vitamin E can inhibit the formation of nitrosamine, a stomach cancer causing substance. However, the impact of vitamin C on nitrosamine formation might be relevant only if there is no fat in the stomach: A group of researchers replicated the chemical conditions of the upper stomach and measured the impact of vitamin C on the production of nitrosamines, both when fat was present in the stomach and when it was absent. In the absence of fat, vitamin C decreased the levels of nitrosamines, but when some fat was added, vitamin C actually boosted the formation of nitrosamines.

#11:  Eat Foods That Contain Beta-Glucans

Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides, present in various foods rich in soluble fiber. According to some human studies, beta-glucans can help combat gastric cancer by passing immune cells into the cancerous area and by destroying stomach cancer cells. The anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties of beta-glucans have also been observed in numerous animal tests. Good food sources of beta-glucans include mushrooms, cereal grains, and baker's yeast.

#12:  Eat Foods Rich in Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene

Scientific evidence suggests that there is an inverse relationship between the risk of gastric cancer and the consumption of foods rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene. A study cohort with more than 80,000 Swedish adults found that a diet rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene was associated with a significant decrease in stomach cancer risk. Good dietary sources of beta-carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, and winter squash.

For further information about the nutritional approach to preventing gastric cancer, check out: