A diagnosis of cancer will rock your world. It brings with it fear both of the disease and of the treatment. It may feel like nothing will ever be the same again.
Having recovered from breast cancer some 15 years now, I know what it feels like to be in your shoes, but I also know that you can get through this. The medical teams have great resources to treat you, and there is also a lot you can do to help yourself.
It may seem a tall order to ask you to change elements of your diet and lifestyle at a time when you may well be in turmoil. So seek the help and support of others too, of family, and friends, and neighbours. You are surrounded by people who love you and will want to do what they can to help you. Help them to help you.
There’s lots of advice and support I could give you as you start on your journey back to health. For now, here are some top tips to help you on your way:
- Don’t be discouraged if your medical experts are less than enthusiastic about dietary and lifestyle interventions. If they tell you that you can eat what you like, then that is just not true. Doctors are not trained in lifestyle and nutrition and so have no perspective of just how powerful it can be. Do though keep your oncologist informed of any supplements you are taking. If you are working with a Nutritionist they should check for drug- nutrient interactions and should be willing to write to your oncologist should you wish them to.
- Embrace a Mediterranean diet. You’re looking for fresh and natural ingredients which are teaming with vitamins, minerals and fibre. Base your meals on moderate amounts of high quality meat, fish, eggs, nuts, pulses, seeds, fruit and vegetables. Limit or exclude high starch foods like rice, pasta and especially bread – it has a high GL and very poor nutrient profile.
- Sugar feeds cancer. Are you keen on biscuits or sweet stuff, or platefuls of pasta? All carbs break down to glucose and studies are clearly showing that elevated blood glucose levels are associated with increased cancer risk. In one study, tumour bearing mice were fed equal calories made up from either a low carb diet or a junk food Western diet. Only one mouse on the junk food diet achieved a full life span, whilst more than 50% of the low carbers reached or exceeded normal lifespan. It’s time to cut out those little treats that you know aren’t good for you. Replace them instead with homemade goodies made from quality ingredients (this is where the loved ones come in…)
- Look to your lifestyle. Where are your stresses? What do you enjoy? What would you really like to make time for? Take some time to reflect on where day to day pressures may be impacting on your life as it is currently and, in your own time, begin to make changes that make for a happier, more balanced you. Exercise is consistently associated with improved outcomes in cancer. It doesn’t have to be vigorous – just a short walk each day helps to get your circulation moving.
- Supplements can be very helpful to combat the side effects of treatment, not least because the drugs can cause significant nutritional deficiencies. At the very least a high quality multi vitamin may be helpful. Other popular supplements are turmeric, probiotics and milk thistle. Quality does matter, so always choose a reputable brand. It is worth asking your GP to check vitamin D levels. If you have the resources a Nutritionist can give you more personal guidance, and can also access functional tests which help to establish your own individual needs.
By taking a proactive approach you are not only helping your own recovery, but also giving yourself a real sense of purpose. I wish you good luck on your journey back to health.
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