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Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors and Diet

  • Ask the Nutritionist

    Q: My husband is s GIST patient and it has progressed to his liver and he has Hepatitis B. Recently he experienced liver failure and had to go on a low protein diet. He is also a diabetic on insulin. Would you please help me plan his diet, with smoothie ideas as well?

    January, 2016

    A: Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GISTs, originate from specialized cells in the GI tract. Often, these tumors can cause pain and/or obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract, making it difficult to eat. Our primary goal in patients with these tumors is to maximize the amount of nutritious foods a patient can consume while they undergo treatment.

    With liver metastasis and failure layered over the GIST, we want to focus a bit more on the foods that will not hurt the liver more. This includes excessive amounts of animal proteins, alcohol, trans-fats, and saturated fats.

    A reasonable way for GIST patients with liver failure to get adequate nutrition is through eating many fruits and vegetables, with a focus on plant-based proteins. These plant-based proteins include things such as whole grains, nuts, and natural soy foods including tofu and edamame. We recommend about five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, with 2-3 servings of whole grains or other plant protein sources. Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, arugula and kale contain naturally occurring phytonutrients that help support natural detoxification processes in the liver. With consideration of diabetes, we would recommend pairing the fruits and vegetables with a source of fiber and plant protein to help slow down the rate of glucose metabolism, to avoid a sudden spike and subsequent drop of blood glucose.

    Especially when a patient is experiencing pain with solid foods or has a partial obstruction of the GI tract, smoothies are a great way to get calories and adequate protein. Here are a couple of smoothie recipes that might work for you:

    Green Smoothie (388 Calories, 9g protein)

    • 1 cup almond milk, or milk of choice
    • 1 ripe banana, preferably peeled + frozen
    • 2 cups spinach
    • 1 tablespoon chia seeds OR 1 tbsp ground flax
    • 1 tablespoon nut butter
    • 1-3 ice cubes
    • 1/4 cup of avocado if desired

    This smoothie is a great way to sneak more vegetables into your life. With the sweetest of the banana and richness of nut butter you’ll have no idea you’re getting the powerful nutrients of spinach too. Starting with the liquid, add in 1 cup of milk of your choice. Now add in the chia or flax and nut butter. Next, add in the spinach followed by the banana on top. Blend until smooth. Add in your ice cubes and blend some more.

    Berrylicious Smoothie (255 Calories, 5.7g protein)

    • 1 large frozen banana
    • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
    • 1.25 cups almond milk
    • 1 cup frozen strawberries
    • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries

    Add almond milk into blender followed by the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Add sweetener if preferred.

    Smoothies are very versatile, so feel free to play around with the recipes. Just make sure to add a source of fruits and/or vegetables and a small amount of plant-based protein.

  • Ask the Nutritionist
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST)
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