Every time you pick up a magazine or tune in a talk show it seems like there’s some new diet trend your should be following to reduce your risk of developing cancer. Drink more coffee. Fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables. Sip green tea. Avoid grilled meats. Eat more fish. Have a glass of red wine with dinner. Nibble on dark chocolate. The list of cancer nutrition tips goes on and on.
Confusing Diet Advice
The list of healthy eating tips for preventing cancer seems to get longer every year. Trying to keep up with the types and quantities of food you should eat to keep various types of cancer at bay can be confusing and may seem contradictory. (Which is better, tea or coffee?) While eating to prevent cancer is a worthy goal, what should you eat to stay as healthy as possible if you already have cancer?
Diet Linked to Cancer
Researchers have found a strong link between diet and cancer that makes paying attention to what you eat important. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly, eating a Mediterranean-style diet is generally recommended not only to help prevent cancer; but also to increase survival rates for people with cancer.
The Mediterranean Diet
Because certain foods can interfere with cancer treatments and medications, you should always follow the dietary recommendations of your cancer team. That said, the Mediterranean diet (click for diet details) benefits cancer patients by boosting the body’s immune system, aiding your natural ability to fight the recurrence or spread of cancer.
Among the many issues cancer patients must deal with on a daily basis, proper nutrition is at the top of the priority list. Whether patients are in the initial stages of cancer, advanced stages, or in remission, maintaining a balanced diet is important for many reasons including avoiding malnutrition.
A balanced diet helps deter or eliminate nutrient deficiencies in patients that can help in the healing and/or recovery process
Helps patients maintain energy levels and body strength
A proper diet helps maintain a leaner body mass and supports the immune system
Patients maintaining nutritional balance have a stronger body composition when undergoing treatments
A stronger body due to nutrition management stands a better chance of less infections
Overall, good nutrition in cancer patients and recovering patients enhances the their quality of life
Patients in the advanced stages of cancer may not be able to achieve weight gain but proper nutrition helps in other ways.
Good nutrition helps in reducing the risk of infection
Side effects from treatments may be reduced
Patients experiencing weakness may see an improvement
With reduced side effects through proper nutrition, patients may have an increased comfort level
Lessening the chances of a recurrence of the disease for those in remission or who have been cured is supported by maintaining the right diet. Proper nutrition may also help individuals avoid other illnesses including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
Over the past few decades adult obesity in the U.S. has doubled and childhood obesity has tripled. Cancer researchers warn that unless Americans can trim down and learn to manage their weight more effectively, the obesity epidemic is likely to cause a spike in cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths.
While researchers are still working to understand how obesity promotes cancer development, it appears that fat tissue creates an ideal environment for the development and growth of numerous types of cancer. Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, colorectal cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, thyroid cancer, gallbladder cancer, endometrial cancer and liver cancer.
An excess of fat cells can result in metabolic dysfunction, compromising the body’s immune system and its ability to fight cancer. Researchers have discovered that fat tissue stimulates the production of estrogen and other cancer-related hormones; can disrupt insulin production which can lead to chronic inflammation; and interferes with cytokines, disrupting vital cell communication and opening another door to cancer-related inflammation.
Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight promote a healthy immune system and can help prevent cancer. More and more oncologists recommend diet and exercise goals for cancer survivors to reduce the risk of cancer’s return. Issels cancer treatment specialists recommend to their patients, according to their individual needs, an organic vegetarian diet that is high in immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, enzymes and micronutrients.
There seems to be a lot of truth to the old saw “You are what you eat.” Research has found strong evidence linking diet to heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Now researchers are adding cancer to the list of chronic illnesses that may be preventable by eating a healthy diet.
As previously noted, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly are the three smartest things you can do to reduce your cancer risk and improve your odds of survival if you do contract cancer.
According to estimates by the American Institute of Cancer Research, more than 100,000 cases of cancer a year could be prevented in the U.S. if people ate a healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight and avoid obesity.
“Dozens and dozens of studies show that people who are overweight or obese have higher rates of many different cancers,” Walter Willett, M.D., head of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health told AARP in a recent article. “It’s not just one study or two,” he says. There is “a massive amount of evidence.”
In concert with the National Institutes of Health, AARP studied the long-term effects of eating a Mediterranean-type diet on the development of cancer. While the study focused on people over age 50, the findings were so remarkable that researchers believe the benefits will prove true for people of all ages. The study provides the most powerful evidence to date of the strong links between diet and cancer.
As noted in our previous post, a cancer diagnosis does not exempt you from the aches and pains of daily life. When these occur, many cancer patients prefer to turn to natural solutions. Many foods are known to help alleviate certain aches and pains and carry the additional benefit of boosting the immune system. Always talk to your Issels treatment team before adopting home remedies or adding supplements to your diet.Here are some additional pain-fighting foods and home remedies:
Red grapes are rich in resveratrol which blocks tissue-damaging enzymes and can help ease the back pain associated with cartilage damage. Blueberries, cranberries and red wine are other potent sources of resveratrol and also contain powerful antioxidants that promote a healthy immune system.
Soyprotein has the potential to decrease osteoarthritis pain. The isoflavones (plant hormones) in soy have anti-inflammatory properties. A daily dose of 40 grams of soy protein is recommended and patience is required. It can take 2 to 3 weeks to take effect and a significant decrease in pain may not be felt for several months, but the effects can be significant with pain levels dropping by as much as 50%. Soy protein is found in tofu, soy milk and edamame.
Cherries contain high levels of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that decrease inflammation and may help ease arthritis pain.
Fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, halibut, snapper and tuna may have a positive effect on chronic pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, migraines and other autoimmune diseases. For greatest benefit, add fish to your diet 2 or 3 times a week.