Cancer is a disease of uncontrolled growth of normally regenerating cells, a defect in the routine make-up and break-up process of our body cells. Nutrition has a significant bearing on this process. While talking to hundreds of cancer patients that visit TATA hospital in last 8 years we have realized that one question is never missed…
Doctor what should I eat?
A common mistake that we make is, define health as absence of disease. But health actually means a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. Do you see a doctor if you feel tired or because you are overweight or you couldn’t sleep properly for a week? But it still means absence of complete health. It is nutrition that contributes to build up, sustain and re-institute all aspects of health.
We generally eat anything and everything available and at any time, throughout our life, especially according to our taste. We think of “Eat Right” only when we are ill. Why not eat right anyway?? Well, it is never too late to mend. What remains important is to change and maintain the change throughout your life.
|| उदरभरण नोहे जाणणजे यज्ञकर्म ||
This means eating food is not merely filling our stomach but a pious process like an offering or sacrifice made to the sacred fire to be worshipped meticulously with complete devotion and faith as you would pray to your Almighty!
It is interesting to know that researchers currently estimate that diet could account for approximately 30% of cancer deaths, similar to the number accounted for by smoking. Shouldn’t we put labels on the food products that they cause cancer? We cannot. Because it is not necessarily the food that you eat, but actually the habit that is wrong.
Having said that, anyone with healthy eating habits and who exercises can get cancer. But one needs to understand that the causality of cancer is multifactorial. Around 10% cancers run in family. So wouldn’t a good dietary habit be one of the best investments one can do, to fight and prevent cancer? A person in health will not only tolerate the treatment well but also will have better outcomes as compared to the malnourished patients.
Here are some habits that you might want to follow:
1. The first giant leap towards healthy nutrition would be to eat natural and preservative free food. STOP at once all the packed, ready to eat foodstuffs, fast foods coming to your doorstep. This will minimize the intake of food monsters like bad fats, extra carbohydrates, added sugar and salt to a greater extent.
2. Energy, protein and fluid requirements increase in cancer patients and the relative intake is usually low, secondary to loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea. And this needs to be corrected under supervision to prevent acute and/or long term problems.
3. A constant supply of fuel keeps the fire steady. Similarly, body produces energy (fire) from the food (fuel) we eat.
a. Wake up early in the morning, eat small frequent meals (at least 3 hrs apart)
b. Breakfast after sunrise, lunch around 12 noon, dinner atleast 2 hrs before bedtime is in sync with body’s circadian rhythm.
c. Go to bed early
d. Eat only when you feel hungry. Whenever hungry eat small portions, only to be hungry again in 3 hrs.
So what should go on the plate?
1. High fibre whole grain cereals like jowar, bajra, nachani, etc. – Keeps large bowel healthy.
2. Avoid excess sweets, added sugars, salt, maida.
3. Good fats should be regularly included in diet. Cow-milk’s ghee, egg yolk, full fat milk or yoghurt, unprocessed dry fruits
4. Avoid Hybrid foods as much as possible and try procuring authentic organic foods
5. Snack in between the main meals - Homemade chiwda, nuts, a glass of buttermilk, multigrain thalipeeth or a seasonal fruit.
6. A glass of lukewarm milk with teaspoon of ghee can be consumed at night just before bed.
7. Consume a variety of vegetables and seasonal fruits. Many phytochemicals have tumor killing properties too, similar to the drugs used anticancer medicines.
8. Cow’s milk & ghee, amla, honey can help regenerate & restore the goodness of the body.
What goes on the side?
Good hydration helps getting rid of the toxins. Around three litres of liquids a day is the adequate intake for an individual. But do remember the water requirement varies, person to person and according to climatic conditions. Liquids in the form of plain or lukewarm water, lemonade, kokam or amla sharbat, freshly prepared fruit juices, vegetable and lentil soups, but no flavoured water, canned juices or aerated drinks, tea or coffee can be consumed.
In short, what you eat may not drastically change anyone’s cancer treatment and is never a substitute to mainstream treatment options but these habits can go a long way. We all have damaged cells, which are potentially cancerous. But our ‘GOOD HEALTH’, specially our immunity keeps a check by eliminating such cells. It is Nutrition that can actually give us a chance to empower immunity and prevent cancer. Wrong quality and wrong quantity of food, both are harmful.
We see many patients diagnosed with breast cancer and care-givers with urgency to find a dietary solution to fight the disease. Plus, with the google revolution and due to“friends-family”, we find so many claims reporting a fruit, a vegetable or some food item as a“breakthrough” or “miracle” food. What we need to understand is that anecdotal evidences or bunch of cases of such miracles cannot be considered as standard of care. Such claims should raise red flags or alarms in our minds.
In all it looks simple doesn’t it?
We like to say it’s simple!
To you it might look difficult, but it certainly isn’t impossible.
We say it’s just a matter of making sustained efforts towards inculcating healthy eating habits. Take baby steps, but do take them! Eat to heal rather than for taste. One can make healthy food tasty but cannot always expect tasty food to be healthy.
Patients show amazing dedication to eating a pill for years once the disease strikes, and somehow lack this same dedication towards eating healthy.
There isn’t a pill for healthy eating!
It is time to beat this irony people. It’s time we started truly living!
-Dr Ashutosh Tondare
Breast Surgical Oncologist
-Dr Nishtha Paleja
Physician (Ayurved) & Nutritionist
Founder & Chairperson, Neyah Naturals.