NUTRITIONAL THERAPY FOR CANCER TREATMENT
Everything your body does depends on the nutrients that are supplied through your diet, the oxygen that you breathe and the water that you drink. What you eat or what you don’t eat — has a powerful effect on your health, including your risk of cancer.
“Let thy food be thy medicine”
Hippocrates the Greek physician and the father of modern medicine made this astounding connection between food and how it could heal the body more than 1500 years ago. Strangely, many doctors are ignorant of the power of food as medicine.
In the days before pharmaceutical companies took firm control of the practice of medicine, food was the medicine for the prevention as well the treatment of diseases; for example coconut water for urinary tract infection, aloe vera plant sap for insect bites or cuts, nutritious chicken soup for all sorts of ailments and many more. However, nowadays the wisdom of the ‘founding father’ is largely being ignored as we turn more and more to prescribed patented medicine.
Food, food and more food
Today, foods are mostly cheap and plentiful (too much), and gone are the days where we have to plant our carbohydrates, hunt for our protein, climb trees for our fruits and search the jungle for our honey. All these foods are now conveniently placed in the supermarkets, both locally grown and imported from afar and food stalls are operating 24/7 to satisfy our insatiable craving for food.
For busy people who are trying hard to balance their overworked and over stressed life, there is really very little time if any to manage meals. This is where the ‘quick fix’ meal like the instant noodles, microwaved food in a packet, ‘take-aways’, fast food restaurants, seems like heaven sent. Most of the food consumed from these sources are highly processed with added fats, sugars, additives, preservatives, high sodium (salt) and stripped off most of its nutritional values. Unfortunately, this is the type of food that many people are consuming and this eating pattern and habits are passed down to the children as well, who are exposed to this unhealthy lifestyle from young (in fact this exposure starts from in-utero and is one of the reasons for increasing early onset cancers and degenerative disease like diabetes).
Lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension have increased dramatically. In order for us to prevent cancer (and the other lifestyle diseases) and win the war on cancer it is important that we begin to pay attention to what we put into our body, for as amazing as our bodies are, it sets the stage for an eventual breakdown.
The nutritional therapy is based upon the simple premise of going back to wholesome food, avoiding foods that are known to be harmful and focusing on using foods that have been proven to be beneficial. Once we recognize that our health (and that of our families) is compromised every time we open a ‘pre-packed’ processed meal or those fast food ‘take-aways’, we would have taken the first step towards understanding “what food heals and what foods kill”.
So you are ready to adopt a healthy diet but aren't sure where to start? In this section we will give you simple tools to guide you towards healthy eating. You will need to learn some nutritional basics such that you won’t be easily influenced by misleading, half-truths by a wide range of sources. We hope that the information provided will equip you with the necessary knowledge to sort through the latest research, advertisement and advice and empower you to make meaningful and lasting changes to your nutritional plan.
Basics of nutrition - Nutrients
Nutrients - every cell requires optimum nutrients to survive and sustain all of your body processes.
Good nutrition does not directly cure cancer, your body does, but it needs the right ingredients to carry out the tasks.
Nutrients are substances found in the food that are needed (in varying amounts) in every living cell for energy, growth and various bodily functions Cells are the smallest component and fundamental units of life from which all your tissues and organs are made. Each living cell is surrounded by a thin layer of fluid which contains the nutrients, hormones, waste products and other substances essential for its function and well being.
What nutrients are important for healthy cells?
Thanks to extensive research we now know with a high degree of scientific certainty that our body needs about forty to forty five nutrients to function optimally. Broadly, the nutrients can be categorized under macronutrients, micronutrients and trace minerals as tabulated below:
Macronutrients - “macro” means large, hence macronutrients are nutrients needed in large amounts. These are carbohydrates, Proteins and fats
Micronutrients - nutrients that are required in small amounts. They enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for proper growth and development. These are:
Vitamins : 13 essential vitamins of which
Fat soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K
Water soluble vitamins are vitamins B1(Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B7 (Biotin)
B9 (Folate), B12 (Cobalamin) and Vit. C
Minerals: Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Calcium
Trace minerals: Iron, copper, iodine, manganese, chromium, zinc, selenium and molybdenum
Phytonutrients are nutrients that do not fit into the above categories but are equally critical in ensuring good health.
Water - has no calories or nutrients per say, but it keeps you hydrated. It makes up about 70% of your body weight. It is essential and is the solvent in which all the chemical reactions of life take place.
Oxygen (discussed under the topic of oxygenation)
Let’s briefly look at the various roles of the nutrients.
Carbohydrates - Is the main source of energy for the body, in the form of glucose. All of the cells in our body can use glucose for energy. Carbohydrates also create an energy reserve when they form glycogen. Good sources are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes
Proteins are crucial for both structural and enzymatic functions. Tissue repair, immune system functions and growth of children all require proteins. They are present in every living cell for example in the skin, hair, cartilage, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Important biomolecules like hemoglobin, myoglobin and various lipoproteins that carry oxygen and other substances within the body are also made up of proteins. Proteins hold together, protect, and provide structure to the body. As enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and globulins, they catalyze, regulate, and protect the body’s chemistry.
Protein is not usually used for energy, however, if the body is not getting enough calories from other nutrients or from the fat stored in the body, protein will then be used for energy. When eaten, the proteins contained in foods are broken down into amino acids. Sources of protein are fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, nuts, beans, and other legumes.
Note: Protein that comes from animal sources contains all of the essential amino acids that we need—they are called ‘complete proteins’. Plant sources of protein, on the other hand, do not contain all of the essential amino acids.
Fat is the most concentrated and energy efficient form of food. It is an essential component of cell membranes, insulates and acts as a shock absorber for bones and organs and assists in growth, development and brain functions. Some essential fats are also required for the formation of hormones. Good sources are animal and dairy products, fish, nuts, seeds and oils.
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats supply 90% of the dry weight of the diet and 100% of its energy.
Vitamins and minerals facilitates thousands of essential reactions and processes in the body but they do not provide energy. They have unique roles to play in maintaining your health. Vitamin A helps fight inflammation, while many of the B vitamins assist in deriving energy from the foods you eat each day. It is now well established that the sunshine vitamin D is one of the most important ant-cancer nutrient as it is involved in switching on or switching off more than 2000 genes. It is also critical to immune system function.
Minerals help to maintain normal body’s biochemistry and metabolic stability and aids immunity, inflammation, detoxification, oxidation and normal cell growth. For example calcium gives your bone strength and density and also builds and maintains strong, healthy teeth. Potassium keeps muscles (including heart muscle) and the nervous system functioning normally, iron transports oxygen through your blood and zinc helps keep your immune system strong, helps your body fight infections and repair cells.
Sardine fish (as above) give you the following nutrients: protein, fat, vitamin D, B2, B3, B12, minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, potassium, calcium and trace minerals including iron and selenium.
Nutritional deficiency occurs when the body doesn’t absorb the necessary amount of nutrients. Nutrient deficiency can lead to a variety of health problems such as problems of digestion, skin problems, stunted or defective bone growth and cancer.
How do we get the required nutrients?
Unlike plants, which synthesize (make) their own proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and all other phytochemicals, we must obtain all these nutrients through the foods and beverages that we eat and drink. We digest these foods to release the nutrients and make them available to the body.
The best way to get enough nutrients is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods. A balanced diet can provide all the essential nutrients in optimum quantity. It also delivers nutrients to the cells in a steady flow while unbalanced diet provides either too much (eg. excessive carbohydrates) or too little (essential minerals) of these nutrients.
The best foods are whole foods which human beings have adapted and consumed in the course of their evolution. Modern processed foods which are so widely available, enable us to avoid starvation, but this leads to obesity and ironically suffer malnutrition.
Empty or naked calorie foods are foods that are deficient in nutrients. They cannot be used in the body without vitamins and minerals and other digestive enzymes. For example a diet heavy in sugar or refined carbohydrates are striped of nutrients which inevitably lead to multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies. They cannot be metabolized unless vitamins and minerals are present. As a result the body must get them from other food stuffs. Essentially, you are robbing the body of the scarce nutrients available in the body by eating junk food or “empty calorie food”.
Excessive sugar is highly inflammatory and also leads to an excessive drain on the pancreas for insulin. High blood sugar and hyperinsulinemia is a powerful stimulant for cancer proliferation.
Nutrient deficiency can contribute to cancer initiation and can aggravate recovery efforts
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FOOD
Choosing the right food which gives your body the nutrients it requires is a conscious decision — therefore choose wisely.
Although the causes of cancer are continuously being investigated, there are a few things that are constantly being cited as the main contributors to the development of the diseases and that is your diet. Without realizing it, you may be eating many foods that fuel cancer, while neglecting the powerful foods that can protect you. Learning the value of and quality of food and choosing the right food is one of the most important things that you need to help you in your healing journey.
Choosing the right food means choosing foods that are:
- nutrient dense
- strengthen your immune system
- prevent the development of cancer
- contribute towards a slower progression of the disease or may even cure it
- boost your energy and give you the stamina to better tolerate the toxicity of treatment
- may increase the efficacy of treatment
- do not add additional ‘toxins’ to your body
Your sources of nutrients matter whatever your state of health, but especially when you are battling cancer. In the next sections are our guidelines on what you need to do in terms of meeting your nutritional needs and regaining your health.