Eating Right with Neuroendocrine Tumors

Three generations of a family eating a midday meal together

Proper nutrition helps support cancer treatment goals for improving outcomes, improving quality of life, and minimizing nutrition-related side effects.32  What, when, and how you eat can help ease burdensome symptoms associated with neuroendocrine cancer.

Diet choices for neuroendocrine tumors

Diet is important for those with neuroendocrine tumors. Fifty-eight percent of NET patients say they had to make dietary changes as a result of their disease.2 As a rule of thumb, choose foods and drinks that are gentle on your digestive system.

What to avoid eating if you have NET symptoms

To reduce the frequency and severity of gastrointestinal symptoms, try to reduce or cut out irritating food. If you’re experiencing digestive problems, avoid eating foods that are:

  • High fiber (insoluble fiber)
  • High amine
  • High fat
  • High sugar
  • High salt
  • High heat/hot spices (capsaicin)
  • High alcohol content
  • High in caffeine
  • Highly carbonated beverages
  • Highly processed foods

Talk to your doctor about your diet. Maybe even ask for a referral to see a registered dietitian who is well versed in nutrition for neuroendocrine tumor patients.  

When and how to eat to help manage symptoms

  • Minor adjustments in when and how you eat can also help alleviate diarrhea for those with neuroendocrine tumors.
  • Eat small, frequent meals.  
  • Don’t drink while you are eating. Drink 30-45 minutes before a meal.
  • Young happy man drinking water in kitchenConsume six to eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day. Spread fluid out during the day, taking regular sips of water.  When you have diarrhea, drink no more than 4 ounces at a time.
  • Freeze food items right away.  Dispose of aged, expired items. Throw out leftovers after 48 hours.  
  • Pay close attention to food safety to avoid food-borne illness.

What foods to eat when you have a neuroendocrine tumor

Work with your doctor, dietitian, and treatment team on a personalized nutritional plan to support your health. Your medical history and any co-occurring conditions will drive your daily food choices. Some of the foods choices others have found helpful are included in the below chart.37

Eat ThisAvoid This
Vegetables & FruitPeeled, cooked vegetables
  • potatoes
  • squash
  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • zucchini
  • summer squash
  • turnip
Tomato and tomato products
Cooked vegetables
  • asparagus
  • string beans
  • peas
  • shallots
  • onions
  • green onions
  • red bell pepper
  • Corn
  • cruciferous vegetables
    • Broccoli
    • cauliflower
    • cabbage
    • Brussel sprouts
Raw vegetables
  • Leafy greens
  • celery (with ribbing peeled)
  • cucumber (peeled and seedless)
  • Raw onions
  • Pickled vegetables
Peeled fruits
  • apple
  • pear
  • peach
  • nectarine
  • mango
  • papaya
  • Dried fruit
  • Canned fruit in heavy syrup
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Cantalope/Honeydew Melons
  • Pineapple
  • Overripe Bananas
  • Watermelon
  • Oatmeal
  • White rice
  • White Bread
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat
  • Dried beans
    • Red
    • Black
    • pinto
  • Lactose free if lactose intolerant (rice or almond milk)
  • Low-fat
  • Aged Cheese
  • Skinless chicken
  • Fresh fish, seafood
  • Eggs, egg substitute
  • Lean meats
  • Bacon, processed meats (luncheon meats)
  • Fatty fish
  • Nuts
  • Smoked meats
Fats and Oils
  • Unsaturated fats
    • canola
    • Safflower
    • Sunflower
  • Saturated fats
    • Butter
    • Shortening
    • Coconut oil
  • Fried foods
  • Chips
  • Pastries
  • Avocado
  • Water, flavored water
  • Diluted sports drinks
  • Diluted fruit drinks
  • Caffinated Beverages like coffee and tea
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Fruit juice

2Singh S, Granberg D, Wolin E, et al. Patient-reported burden of a neuroendocrine tumor (NET) diagnosis: results from the first global survey of patients with NETs. J Glob Oncol. 2016;2(1):43-53.

32National Cancer Institute. Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version. Accessed October 9, 2018.

37Find Food You Love. Lexicon Pharmaceuticals, In. 2017. Accessed October 31, 2018.