Taxol (paclitaxel) is an effective treatment that protects against breast cancer recurrence and death. However, Taxol and other taxanes such as Taxotere (docetaxel) can result in side effects such as hair loss, mouth sores, fatigue, neuropathy, joint pain, cognitive impairment (chemo brain), low white blood cell count, and serious infections.
While patients understandably desire relief from these side effects, it is very important to avoid consuming foods or taking supplements that will lessen the cytotoxic impact of Taxol on breast cancer cells.

Foods that enhance the effectiveness of Taxol

The following foods are very good sources of compounds that have been shown to increase the anti-cancer effects of Taxol or reduce its side effects without interfering with treatment:

Supplements for patients being treated with Taxol

There is no supplement or combination of supplements that has been proven to reliably reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence in women. Attempting to take advantage of the apparent treatment effects of micronutrients and other dietary components by using supplements carries the risk of adverse and paradoxical effects, including promoting breast cancer growth and metastasis.
When a beneficial micronutrient is administered at low doses by consuming food, it is likely to have subtle chemopreventive effects, whereas when the same micronutrient is administered at high doses, it is more likely to have pharmacological effects, with mostly unknown results. Therefore, it is best to obtain beneficial compounds by consuming food, if possible. Supplements make sense if medically necessary or to make up for deficiencies that are difficult to correct through diet.
The following supplements generally have been found to be safe and beneficial for those being treated with Taxol:
CoQ10 (if needed for heart health)100 to 400 mg/day
Fish oil (from wild-caught fish)1000 to 2000 mg/day
Vitamin D1000 to 2000 IU/day
Avoid taking supplements during the two days before, the day of, and the day after each chemotherapy treatment. One 2023 study reported that pretreatment vitamin D insufficiency was a risk factor for peripheral neuropathy in patients with early-stage breast cancer treated with Taxol. Please consult your oncology team for advice concerning your situation and dosages. It might make sense to be tested for deficiency in vitamin D and plan for follow up to determine if your reading has reached a desirable level.

Foods that should be limited or avoided during Taxol chemotherapy

The following foods have been found either to interfere with the effectiveness of Taxol or, in the case of shellfish, should not be consumed by those with impaired immunity:

Supplements that should be avoided while on Taxol

The supplements below have been reported to interfere with the effectiveness of Taxol treatment. That is not to say that most other supplements are safe to take — there are no relevant scientific studies concerning the interactions between most supplements and Taxol.
Note that acetyl-l-carnitine, which is sometimes recommended for the prevention of taxane-induced neuropathy, has been reported actually to increase neuropathy.

Hesperidin and saffron could reduce cyclophosphamide efficacy

Hesperidin, a flavonoid found in oranges, tangerines, kumquats, lemons, limes and grapefruit, has the potential to interfere with chemotherapy regimens containing cyclophosphamide, such as TAC (Taxotere, Adriamycin and cyclophosphamide). Cyclophosphamide is an alkylating agent frequently used in combination with taxanes and/or anthracyclines to treat breast cancer. Hesperidin is found most abundantly in the peel, pith and membranous parts of oranges and other citrus fruits. Prepared food sources include orange tea, commercial orange juice, orange marmalade, and dishes that incorporate citrus peel such as Szechuan Orange Chicken. See oranges for a more complete explanation.
Saffron, as well as vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin C and vitamin E supplements, also have the potential to interfere with the treatment effects of cyclophosphamide.

Weight loss and weight gain during chemotherapy

Recent studies suggest that fasting around chemotherapy treatments could protect normal cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy while sensitizing cancer cells to the treatment. However, more studies and human trials are required before it can be determined under what conditions fasting during chemotherapy is safe and effective. Patients should rely on their oncology teams for guidance concerning fasting.
On the other hand, weight gain, which is common during chemotherapy for early stage disease, is known to be associated with less favorable prognosis and should be avoided.

Sources of information provided in this webpage

The food lists above, which are updated continually as new research becomes available, have been developed based solely on the results of academic studies. Clicking on any of the foods will take you to its webpage, which contains specific information concerning that food's relationship to breast cancer (including its overall ranking), as well as links to supporting studies.
Below are links to 20 recent studies concerning Taxol, breast cancer and diet. For a more complete list of studies, please click on the tag Taxol. Please see our article on how to optimize your breast cancer diet for information on what to eat during all stages of treatment and recovery.