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Nutrition therapy

Wholesome foods have healing power.

The Greek physician Hippocrates, regarded as the father of modern medicine, is credited with saying “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Almost 2,500 years later, this is still advice worth following. Eating a wholesome, varied diet is one of the simplest, yet most powerful, ways to improve your odds against cancer.

For instance, many berries and cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage and broccoli, contain compounds that can fight the spread of cancer cells. In fact, the benefits of consuming adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables are so remarkable that the National Cancer Institute recommends you consume at least five servings a day.

The nutrients found in many unprocessed foods may also help you respond more effectively to certain conventional therapies. For instance, brightly colored fruits and vegetables and cold water fish contain compounds that may enhance the potency of chemotherapy and radiation while protecting healthy cells from their toxic effects.

On the other hand, excesses of some foods may impair immune system function and contribute to the spread of cancer. For instance, it’s especially important to limit your consumption of foods such as sweets, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol. These foods are rapidly broken down into simple sugars and may contribute to insulin resistance, which can encourage the growth of some types of cancer.

You will also want to avoid trans fats, which are present in many processed foods and margarines. In fact, trans fats and other saturated fats are considered so unhealthy that food manufacturers now must list the amounts of these fats on their packaging.

When nutriton may count most

If you have cancer, meeting your nutritional needs may be difficult. That’s because cancer releases chemicals into your body that can decrease your appetite while raising your nutritional and caloric requirements. And some types of cancer, as well as many conventional cancer treatments, inhibit your ability to eat, digest food, or absorb nutrients. In addition, many of the side effects of cancer treatment and of cancer itself, such as nausea and fatigue, may further decrease your appetite.

People with cancer who are malnourished experience a reduced tolerance to chemotherapy, increased side effects, and a decreased quality of life. Under these circumstances, it’s critical to ensure that the food you eat is as nutritionally rich as possible. If you or your caregiver think you’re at risk for malnutrition, it’s a good idea to talk to a dietitian or licensed nutritionist.

Infinite variety

It’s important to keep in mind that there is no one miracle food or nutrient that can beat cancer. Your body needs all of the essential nutrients that can only be found in a varied, natural diet, including adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein. It’s also a good idea to consume organic, unprocessed foods whenever possible. While the selection of organic food may be limited where you live, non-organic foods may contain pesticides and other chemicals that can further tax your immune system when you’re ill.

You can also easily become dehydrated, especially if you’re having chemotherapy, so it’s important to drink lots of fluids. Severe dehydration can cause serious complications, so tell your doctor if you experience symptoms like dark urine, dizziness, or dry skin. Proper hydration also helps eliminate dead cells and toxins during treatment. In addition to purified water, green and herbal teas and fresh juices are smart choices.

Here are four of the main ingredients to a healthful, anti-cancer diet.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Try to eat at least five to ten servings of fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits a day. If that seems like a tall order, try making juices or smoothies to get all the nutrients you need.

Switch to unsaturated fats. Diets high in total fat, especially saturated fat from animal products and fatty meats, and synthetically processed hydrogenated fats, are associated with cancer. But the essential fatty acids (EFAs) in unsaturated fat sources, such as olive, canola, and flaxseed oil, not only keep you well-nourished — they’re critical to good health and may even help make your treatment more effective. Fish and shellfish, soy, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and walnuts are some other good sources of EFAs.

Get adequate lean protein. When you’re being treated for cancer, you need additional protein to maintain immunity and protect lean muscle mass. Eggs, yogurt, fish, soy, legumes, and lean meats are all good choices. Try to limit your consumption of red meat, and choose antibiotic- and hormone-free meat whenever possible.

Don’t forget whole grains. Whole-grain cereals, breads, and rice contain essential nutrients, help regulate blood sugar, aid elimination, and stimulate immunity.