Guest Post: Kelsey Julien, Dr. James’ Intern with a passion for nutrition and a freshman studying to be a Registered Dietician at D’Youville College.
There are many things you cannot control when it comes to cancer, but you can control your diet.
Hearing the word cancer can be someone’s biggest fear coming true; the fear of dying. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Cancer challenges you to your very core; it will take everything you have to fight it. Cancer is a very complex disease and to add to its complexity, it comes in over 200 forms. These nasty cancer cells want to deplete your body of nutrients, oxygen, and blood that is vital to your healthy cells. Don’t give cancer any advantages, you cannot afford too. There are many things you cannot control when it comes to cancer, but you can control your diet.
Statistics show 80 percent of cancer patients are malnourished and 40 percent of those patients die from malnutrition, not from the actual cancer.
Consumption of the foods that a patient eats impacts the cancer growing inside of them directly and indirectly.
Getting back to the basics is extremely important. So many toxins that are in our food today are promoting cancer formation or feeding the cancer you already have. Good nutrition is essential in keeping your body in balance during difficult treatment; balancing hormones, aiding the immune system, and improving and reducing inflammation. “When it comes to cancer treatment healing foods are not just fuel that makes the body run, they are the sparks that ignites each critical cancer fighting body system” (Lise N. Alschuler and Karolyn A. Gazella). Nutrition plays a major role in fighting cancer; the lack of a nutritious diet can aid in cancer growth. A balanced diet can be the first line of defense against cancer, but without it, it can be the first door open for cancer to come in. The three big food categories of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are familiar to most of us, but foods are much more than these food groups. They include essential vitamins and minerals; Vitamin A, C, D, E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium,potassium, selenium, zinc, flavonoids, and essential fatty acids. I know we have all heard the phrase, “eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables” but it is really true. Phytochemical means “plant”, some of us are not keen on the taste of vegetables, but our body does crave them. Like a guardian angel this chemical can help protect you against cancer. By directly disrupting important cellular signals between cancer cells, aiding in stopping cancer growth and killing some cancer cells. Research has shown that brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and kale are known as “cruciferous” which has been shown to kill cancer. Fruits are also very important. Fruits have to protect themselves from being damaged from ultraviolet rays of the sun, providing protection from flavonoids. Research has shown that this can have the same effect on our bodies.
The importance of fats cannot be stressed enough. Fats have gotten such a bad rap but are extremely important. Fats are in every cell membrane, organ, and tissue in our body. You can definitely say it is pretty important. Now lets not get carried away, there are definitely two groups of fats that everyone should stay away from. Trans fat extends the shelf life of many products, changing the structure of the molecule to a form our body has not seen before. This can interfere with anti-inflammatory functions, which are vital for cancer patients. Saturated fats come from animal products, and I know there are a lot of steak and beef lovers in the world, but these products can introduce bioaccumulated toxins and hormones. Excessive amounts of saturated fats can have a very negative effect and inhibit cancer treatment. Now lets take a look at the good fats, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. For some cancer patients it might be easier getting these fats directly from a dietary supplement, particularly cancer patients, whose systems have been effected. Olive oil is a great choice in cooked dishes, it is mono saturated and heat cannot damage it easily. Protein is also key for people receiving any type of therapy for cancer. Research has been shown that people might need 50 percent more protein then an average person would. Smoothies are a great way to add protein especially for a person who is lacking an appetite and are easily digested. Whey protein is a good protein powder to add to a smoothie, containing a high amount of essential and non essential amino acids. It contains something called Glutamine,which is fuel for white blood cells that divide quickly, and for a body fighting cancer. Do what ever you can to keep adequate nutrition during treatment.
Treatment can be exhausting and mentally and physically draining on a person battling cancer.
Sometimes your appetite can be affected. It could be time to get a juicer, all the fiber is removed and can easily be digested. Even though the fiber is removed, it still contains vitally important things such as water, sugar, vitamins, and minerals. Your body can produce energy and get health benefits more quickly by adding juice. Eating organic is healthy for everyone but ESPECIALLY important for people with cancer. Your body is under pressure during treatment, and it can’t afford to have toxins, hormones, and pesticides being added in. You need to give your body the best shot at fighting this illness. Let nutrition be an ally, not an enemy. Eat whole, fresh, and seasonally.
- The definite guide to cancer. By: Lise N Alschuler and Karolyna Gazella
- Cancer Fighting Kitchen. By: Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson