Understanding Bladder Cancer and Nutrition

What you should know about eating healthily with bladder cancer

Many patients and their families want to know what they can do to help prevent bladder cancer or prepare their bodies for treatment. Good nutrition is important for everyone, but balanced, healthy diets are strongly recommended for those undergoing bladder cancer treatments.  Everyone can benefit from knowing more about how good nutrition impacts bladder cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship. 

BCAN’s 2018 Young Investigator Awardee, Dr. Eugene Lee from the University of Kansas, produced a series of videos that provide important information and nutrition tips. These include how to prepare tasty, healthy recipes, what you can do to manage treatment side effects with your diet, and how to incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle. You can find great tips and recipes in our “Nutrition during Bladder Cancer” and “Living Well with Bladder Cancer” sections.

Many patients also experience some less than pleasant side effects during treatment, such as a metal taste in their mouth, or diarrhea. Experts suggest foods that have a lemon or lime juice as part of the seasoning to help take away the metallic taste and make sure that there is enough fiber to help ease diarrhea. Find out more about other common issues and tips on how to deal with them in our “Overcoming Issues Section.”

What You Should Know About Eating Healthy with Bladder Cancer

Eating healthy and having good nutrition during your bladder cancer journey can be hard, but there are several things that you can do to stay healthy and well-nourished.

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet generally includes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, skinless poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical oils.
  • Eat foods with plenty of fiber. This will help ease some of the symptoms associated with bladder cancer treatment.
  • Stay hydrated. Each person needs a different amount of water, so talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking every day. If you are having trouble drinking plain water, you can stay hydrated with water flavorings such as lemon or lime slices, or unsweetened herbal teas.
  • Eat plenty of lean protein
    Protein helps your body stay strong throughout your cancer journey.

We have great bladder cancer diet recipes for those who wonder what they can make to help them during this process.

Bladder Cancer Food and Drink Myths

Myth 1: Eating Sugar Will Cause Bladder Cancer to Grow

False! Our bodies are made up of healthy and cancer cells that convert sugar, or glucose, into energy. There haven’t been any studies that show sugar consumption makes cancer worse. There are also hasn’t been evidence that shows avoiding sugars will help the cancer go away. However, overeating sugar can contribute to gaining weight or obesity, which are major risk factors for cancer. A sweet treat occasionally will not ruin your bladder cancer diet!

Myth 2: Artificial Sweeteners Can Increase the Likelihood of Bladder Cancer

Artificial sweeteners are sugar-free substitutes you add to food to make it sweeter without added calories. Former studies from the 70’s have shown that certain additives that have been removed from the food market, led to bladder cancer in some lab animals. However, this did not seem to happen with humans. While they are not all the best option, they will not increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Recommendations for Bladder Cancer Treatment Symptoms

While undergoing treatment for bladder cancer, you might experience uncomfortable side effects. Try to follow a healthy and intentional bladder cancer diet by following the eating tips below to combat these symptoms.

Change of Smell or Taste

This is a common symptom for most cancer patients, particularly those going through chemo or those with bladder cancer undergoing a cystectomy. Many times, patients experience a metallic taste in their mouth. Sometimes using plastic over metal utensils can help.

Constipation or Diarrhea

Constipation is another symptom those with bladder cancer may encounter. It’s very important to keep your liquid intake up by drinking at least eight cups of fluids a day, or more if possible! Tracking your intake of water can also help ensure you are meeting this goal. Some hot liquids like tea, coffee, broths and soup can move the contents through your gut more quickly.

Diarrhea is also associated with bladder cancer treatment. As mentioned above, stay hydrated as much as possible to replace the fluid loss that comes with diarrhea.

Consuming smaller meals and replacing your electrolytes like potassium and sodium through apricots, bananas, broth and nuts can help ensure you avoid this discomfort. Consume low-fiber, lower-residue foods too. Drink your beverages and eat foods at room temperature, and try to avoid:

  • Greasy and spicy foods
  • Dairy products
  • Sugary drinks
  • Caffeine
  • Sugar-free candy and gum
  • Alcohol


Nausea is another common symptom during bladder cancer. Eating small meals throughout the day when you have an appetite is really important to make sure you avoid overeating when you get too hungry. Stay on top of your liquids and try to eat things at room temperature and avoid foods that are greasy, sugary and spicy when you are on a bladder cancer diet.

Talk to your doctor before starting any new diet.

Free nutrition resource for bladder cancer patients

BCAN has partnered with Savor Health® to bring personalized nutrition support to help people with bladder cancer eat healthily and stay well-nourished throughout treatment and beyond. Using text messages, you can access knowledge and advice from Ina® that comes directly from registered dietitians, nurses, and doctors who are experts in treating and supporting cancer patients. Registration and unlimited 24/7 access to Ina® is freesafe, and secure. Just enter your cell number to begin your nutrition support.

Additional resources


    Try something that is tasty and nutritious tonight.


    There can be many side effects to bladder cancer treatment, but we have some tips on how to manage them.

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