“What do I do to keep cancer from coming back?” “What do I eat/not eat?” “How do I live a cancer free lifestyle?” These are questions I hear from my patients every day.
The answer is simple. The foods you should avoid in preventing cancer are the same ones you should avoid with post-cancer care.
Although cancer creates a feeling that one’s life is out of control, there is one factor you can control: your food intake! Don’t get bogged down by all the different diets you find online. Variety is the spice of life and there is no one diet for everyone. However, there is a diet that everyone can certainly avoid: the “SAD” or Standard American (Western) Diet.
It is estimated that dietary factors are related to 30% of all cancer development, and the SAD diet captures them all. When eaten over time, foods high in poor quality protein, refined sugars/carbohydrates, and bad fats (breads, processed/fast foods) can lead to the development of cancer by influencing your genetics, increasing your stress levels, depleting your immune system, and adding to your weight.
For cancer prevention and post-cancer care, avoid these top 5 inflammatory foods:
Alcohol. Alcohol is a poison to your body and has a direct and linear correlation with increased risk of multiple types of cancer. A 2011 European study of 350,000 men and women estimated about 10% of all cancer in European men and 3% of those in women to be the result of alcohol consumption. The more alcohol you drink on a daily basis, the higher your chances of getting cancer.
Grains, legumes/beans, and refined carbohydrates. All grains and legumes have molecules called lectins, an inflammatory glycoprotein, that in great enough quantity can strip away your gut lining. These foods also increase your blood sugar and can spike your insulin levels, leading to increased weight gain and the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Sugar. Sugar is used as fuel in all of your cells, so you do need some sugar in your body. However, too much sugar is inflammatory. Over time, it can increase your chances of diabetes and obesity, two strong risk factors for cancer development.
Processed food. Processed foods are high in sodium, chemical preservatives, and food coloring, and low in nutrient value. Skip the convenience excuse and invest time in your health by eating whole foods as often as possible.
Non-organic meat and dairy products. As these are often contaminated with antibiotics, pesticides, growth hormones, and unhealthy fats, it is better to choose cleaner, leaner options such as bison, grass-fed beef and lamb, and wild caught fish.
Heal Your Gut After Treatment
The key to good health starts in your gut. One of the unfortunate side effects of conventional cancer treatment is the destruction of your digestive system, so one of the first steps in any type of recovery is restoring proper function. The process includes many steps, however, one of the most important is removing foods that cause additional inflammation. The more you reduce inflammation, the more your body can heal and recover, and the more you reduce your future cancer risk.
Dr. Sonja Fung is a naturopathic primary care doctor with a focus on integrative oncology at the Live Well Clinic in La Quinta. Their “Nutrition After Cancer” program starts in December. For more information visit www.livewellclinic.org or call (760)771.5970.
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