How Diet Can Affect Carcinoid Syndrome
Learning to Make Healthier Choices
Knowing about nutrition can help everyone make healthier dietary decisions. It can be especially important for people living with carcinoid syndrome, as food choices can impact your symptoms and overall well-being.
NET Fusion: Helping you make educated nutrition decisions
It’s important to understand how certain types of food break down in your body and can impact your symptoms, so you can make informed nutritional choices.
NET Fusion is an educational disease awareness program designed by Novartis Oncology to help patients with carcinoid syndrome better understand the science of their food and make educated dietary decisions as part of their disease management plan.
Here are some helpful resources to get you started.
Connect with others
Learn some vacation tips
Join Doris in her travels, and get tips on finding the best foods for your digestive system when you are vacationing with your family.
Hear from friends
Watch as Doris interviews her friends in the neuroendocrine tumor (NET) community and hear their stories on living with NET and carcinoid syndrome.
Learn about the effects of food
Here's a helpful visual chart to understand how certain food groups affect the digestive system. You can print this to share with your doctor on your next visit.
How Does Nutrition Affect Symptoms?
During digestion, the body breaks down food, which provides nutrition, hydration, and energy. But certain types of foods and meals may impact carcinoid syndrome, worsening symptoms such as diarrhea and flushing.
Food triggers are different for each person, so understanding which specific food categories may cause your symptoms can help identify your individual food triggers.
Discuss nutrition with your doctor
Dietary changes are just one part of your overall disease care, so it’s important to discuss them with your doctor and health care team to determine the best approach for you.
Nutrition information you can use
Eat lean protein
Protein (found in food sources like lean meat and eggs) is an important nutrient for patients with carcinoid tumors. That’s because it contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid needed to build other proteins and produce chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin. Carcinoid tumors deplete tryptophan, which can lead to a deficiency of this amino acid in people living with carcinoid syndrome. Since the body does not make tryptophan, it must be obtained from your diet.
Ease up on hot spices
Hot spices, including pepper, cayenne pepper, and spicy mustard, contain substances that can cause food to move more quickly through the digestive tract. When this happens, food is not properly digested and can lead to looser stools or diarrhea.
Steer clear of foods high in fat
Foods high in fat, like baked goods and fried foods, affect normal digestion and absorption processes. When high-fat foods are consumed, the stomach empties too quickly. The body is unable to absorb the fat properly, leading to poor absorption of fat and nutrients, and diarrhea. Reduce your fat intake and choose healthier fats, such as extra virgin olive oil and seeds.
Eat small meals and often
Large meals can overload the digestive system, making it harder for chemicals called enzymes that break down food. This leads to decreased nutrient absorption and increased stress on the waste elimination process. Smaller meals throughout the day may help you digest your food more easily. Try eating 4 to 6 smaller meals a day instead of 3 large meals.
Watch your fiber intake
Fiber may help to promote healthy digestion, but for people with carcinoid syndrome, it can make symptoms like diarrhea worse. Fiber affects how quickly or slowly food and nutrients are digested and absorbed in the body. It also affects the movement of waste products, or stool, through the colon.
Aim for foods lower in amines
High-amine foods, like alcohol, cured meats, and aged cheeses, can contribute to an already high level of amines in the body produced by carcinoid tumors. In people with carcinoid syndrome, these foods can affect blood vessels, increasing blood pressure, heart “fluttering” (palpitations), and flushing.
Try to avoid, or at least limit, foods that are high in amines and choose ones that are lower in amines more often, as listed below:
AVOID high-amine foods:
Aged cheeses—cheddar, Stilton, Camembert, etc.
Smoked, salted, or pickled fish and meats
Yeast extracts, brewer’s yeast, and hydrolyzed proteins (used as flavor enhancers in some processed foods)
Fermented foods—tofu, miso, sauerkraut, shrimp paste, fish sauce, soy sauce
PICK low-amine foods:
Fruit (except bananas, raspberries, avocados)—in moderate amounts
Starchy grains (low fiber and/or cooked)
Unaged cheeses and dairy (low-fat mozzarella, low-fat milk, and low-fat yogurt)
Fresh soy foods (soy milk, edamame)