Watch your diet during cancer treatment, and adjust these habits
Cancer is a general term for a group of diseases capable of sending shivers down the spine for even the strongest of men and women. Every year, cancer accounts for more than 10 million deaths worldwide, and close to 800,000 deaths in India. People often underestimate the importance of diet and lifestyle changes during cancer treatment, and the positive impact they can have.
Let’s find out more about the foods we must eat or avoid. But before that, let’s know a little more about cancer.
What causes cancer?
The elements, which can cause cancer, are referred to as carcinogens or carcinogenic elements. The World Health Organisation (WHO) maintains a huge list of carcinogens and classifies them into – physical, chemical, and biological carcinogens.
The physical carcinogens include ultraviolet and ionizing radiation. Even though present in nature most freely, these are not the top cause for cancer. Chemical substances such as asbestos, tobacco, aflatoxin, and arsenic are the most prominent carcinogens around. Other causes are radiation, chemicals, sunscreens, and pesticides; they do cause cancer but the contribution of those to the whole population is very little.
Thus, despite all the naturally prolific substances, tobacco and diet are the top two causes of cancers worldwide.
What happens in cancer?
The human body is made up of millions of cells. These cells divide and produce new cells, when the old cells are dying or the body needs them. Normally, this is a very controlled process. However, at times the damaged or ageing cells which should’ve been lost to the time, start to grow and multiply out of control. This is a sign of cancer.
Studies point to the presence of cancerous mutations by default in any multi-cell organism, as we have all evolved from single cell organisms. However, this primal seed only flourishes in the presence of the right environment. While the body is equipped and capable of keeping the cancerous process in check, certain factors can create the environment for cancer mutations to grow:
* Exposure to carcinogenic substances in the environment
* Use of tobacco and alcohol
* High body mass index (BMI) or fat to muscle ratio
* Low fruit and vegetable intake
* Lack of physical activity
* Prolonged emotional and psychological stress
Can cell damage be reversed?
Although seemingly impossible, the reversibility of cancerous tumours is a rare yet very real phenomenon. One of the ways to reverse or stall cancerous growth is to starve the cancer cells. Due to their damaged mitochondria powerhouse, which converts nutrients to energy for it, cancer cells can only consume carbohydrates for energy.
So, cutting down processed sugar and white flour helps reduce the supply line of carbs for the cancer cells.
Other factors you should consider during cancer treatment:
Diet for cancer reversal or repair
Cancer leads to lower immune response and tissue damage, especially in the liver. Also, cancer treatment can aggravate liver damage due to the toxins released in the bloodstream. The recommended diet for patients going through cancer treatment should include high potassium and low sodium foods with little or no fats and oil.
The few things to avoid include animal proteins, alcohol and tobacco products. Juices of raw fruits, vegetables and even raw liver are important. These foods provide important active oxidizing enzymes to facilitate the repair of the liver.
Including a lot of green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits in your diet strengthens your body’s natural responses to damaged and dying cells. Such a diet has been proven to help stall the progress of malignant tumours and aid in recovery.
Weight management and exercise
Emotional stress and obesity or Body Mass Index above 30 have been the leading catalysts for some of the most common cancers around the world. Chronic inflammation has been known to cause oxidative DNA damage and can ultimately lead to cancerous developments. Emotional stress, on the other hand, is also one of the leading causes, which expose the cells to the risk of cancer.
Thus, along with diet, an active lifestyle, including regular exercise, can play an important role in managing cancer stress. Exercise or physical activities are known to produce chemicals that relieve stress, anxiety and negative mood.
On top of that, exercise can help you burn excess fat and reduce the chances of inflammation as well.
Fasting in oncology (medical science discipline for cancer studies) has been used as a treatment for cancerous growth. The process involves controlled starvation of cancerous cells and the medical term for the process is autophagy.
The scientific use of autophagy points to a balanced approach and the use of the process for the whole body, instead of just for the malignant tumour. The trick is to use intermittent fasting or time-controlled fasting, instead of prolonged fasting.
Intermittent fasting means controlled food intake without restricting the nutritional intake. Intermittent fasting will activate the natural autophagy process of the body and avoid anaemia.
Natural autophagy helps reinforce the stress resistance of healthy cells and makes cancerous cells more susceptible to therapeutic interventions.
Vegetarian diet and healthy lifestyle
Plenty of studies on the causes of cancer have pointed to the lack of a vegetarian diet, and excess alcohol and tobacco use as a cause. Lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle also adds to the woes.
So, if you want to avoid falling victim to this dangerous side of the medical world, better include more of these in your lifestyle.