Abstract: Do cancer patients really have to abstain from certain foods? What are the harmful foods? And why? Are there studies done on the connection between diet and cancer? If so, how come doctors and oncologists keep advising cancer patients that they can eat anything they like. They need not pantang (i.e., abstain from certain food). Worse still, patients are advised to eat more meat to increase their strength, etc? The amount of information available on nutrition and cancer, diet and cancer is voluminous. There are a lot of books and articles written by medical doctors, nutritionists, PhDs, cancer researchers, cancer survivors, health and cancer organizations on the subject – that is, if you care to read. If you are a cancer patient or if you are afraid of getting cancer, I think you should read! This is because when you have cancer, your life is on the line, not the life of your doctors.
Yeong Sek Yee
10, Jalan SS 19/1K, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor.
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Nutrition is a wide subject to deal with and is, unfortunately, a boring subject too. No one likes to get cancer and no one with cancer likes to be told that he/she cannot eat this and that, or that he/she can only eat certain types of food and not what he/she likes. How true is this? Do cancer patients really have to abstain from certain foods? What are the harmful foods? And why? Are there studies done on the connection between diet and cancer? If so, how come doctors and oncologists keep advising cancer patients that they can eat anything they like. They need not pantang (i.e., abstain from certain food). Worse still, patients are advised to eat more meat to increase their strength, etc?
Where can one obtain scientific studies to support the notion that food is important for cancer healing? Are such studies available in the first place? If there are, how come my doctors are not aware of it or have not mentioned them to me? I wonder how much do doctors know about nutrition? Is there a positive link between diet, nutrition and cancer?
My Search for Some Answers on Nutrition and Cancer
The amount of information available on nutrition and cancer, diet and cancer is voluminous. There are a lot of books and articles written by medical doctors, nutritionists, PhDs, cancer researchers, cancer survivors, health and cancer organizations on the subject – that is, if you care to read. If you are a cancer patient or if you are afraid of getting cancer, I think you should read! This is because when you have cancer, your life is on the line, not the life of your doctors.
The main purpose of this article is to guide and inform readers the books, journals, articles, studies and websites available on nutrition and cancer. I have made a brief summary of them hoping to you help you decide whether you should eat the healthy way or follow your doctor’s sweet advice that you can eat anything you like.
My favorite books are those written by Medical Doctors – because words and wisdom from MDs seem to carry an “air of authenticity and authority” compared to non-M.D. Patients would challenge, who are they? They are not doctors!
You will find that as you read the various books, articles, reviews, etc., certain facts or information (such as the type of harmful foods) are repeated. These are done to stress to you the reality of such harmful foods. For example, if thirty medical doctors write about meat, dairy products, etc., as harmful foods, how would these facts weight against your own doctor’s advice that “you can eat anything you like?”
While browsing through the web recently, I came across an article entitled: Many cancer survivors Initiate Lifestyle Changes to Benefit Their Health. This was published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in their news for patients from ASCO’s Journal of Clinical Oncology (July 25, 2005 volume III, Issue 37). The above article can be viewed at www.plwc.org/plwc/external_files/jco-ca-7.25 pdf
Let me share with you some brief points:
a) A review of more than 100 studies found that many survivors adopt healthier behaviors (following a cancer diagnosis) such as following a healthier diet, quit smoking, abstaining from alcohol and do regular physical activities. Many of these changes should be beneficial because cancer survivors are a vulnerable population, at increased risk for second cancers, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
b) However, the study also found that while physicians are among the most powerful catalysts for promoting behavior change, only 20% of oncologists (in Malaysia 0% ?) provide such guidance because of time constraints, competing treatment or health concerns.
A Brief Review of What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine May Be Killing You by Dr. Roy Strand, M.D.
This most aptly-titled book by Dr Strand will give you an insight why doctors do not give any emphasis to nutrition and diet when dealing with diseases. The following are some of the points highlighted by the author:
a) Physicians are disease-oriented. We study disease. We look for disease. We are pharmaceutically trained to treat disease.
b) Are you aware that less than 6% of graduating physicians receive any formal training in NUTRITION?
c) Another reason doctors haven’t accepted the nutritional supplement idea as good preventive medicine is that practising physicians do not fully understand the causes of degenerative diseases.
d) Physicians are simply too busy treating disease to worry about educating their patients in healthy lifestyles which will help avoid developing degenerative diseases in the first place.
e) … doctors usually assume that most patients will never change their lifestyles and the only realistic salvation is the drugs they can prescribe.
Dr Ray Strand, a graduate of the University of Colorado Medical School, has been in private family practice for over thirty years. So he is authoritative enough.
Dr Ray Strand found himself in a losing battle. He was unable to treat his wife who had suffered chronic pains and fatigue (fibromyalgia). He tried all possible conventional medical approaches but failed to help his wife. He turned his attention to nutrition. Much to his surprise, his wife’s condition began to improve almost immediately. That amazing turn of events led him to dedicate himself to researching alternative therapies in medicine, particularly in the arena of nutritional supplements.
In his authorial debut, Strand advocated the use of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other nutritional supplements. By doing so he earned many formidable opponents: the government, food suppliers and the medical establishment. According to Dr. Strand these people just disregard evidence that the RDA recommendations are inadequate to supply us with the weapons to fight chronic diseases.
Despite the alarmist title of the book, those who suffer from or at risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc., may want to weigh the evidence for themselves. Strand’s book is designed to provide an alternative perspective. In the book are various supplemental regimens which Dr. Strand has devised. His message is a simple one: Let’s protect and care for our bodies and may we live until we die.
Let me highlight his chapter on chemoprevention and cancer. Dr Strand explained that chemoprevention aims to reverse the damages that has already occurred to the body’s cells besides maximizing the body’s immune system and antioxidant defenses. The best defense is by eating a healthy diet. The first step toward building a strong immune system is to eat a high-fiber, low-fat diet largely made up of fruits and vegetables.
Additionally, medical research is beginning to demonstrate that taking antioxidants in supplementation to our diet is very important in chemoprevention. Antioxidants not only aid in the battle against cancerous cells, but they also improve the defense of healthy cells against the damaging effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
Nutritional science offers the greatest hope in our fight against cancer and other degenerative diseases. They not only help prevent cancer but may actually enhance the traditional chemo and radiation therapy. How can the process of building up the body’s natural defense be bad? Shouldn’t physicians want their patients to be as healthy as possible, since cancer treatments are going to put patients under the greatest stress they have had to endure in their lives?
Drugs may be great, but without the body’s healing power, it may not be that useful after all.
A Brief Review of Natural Strategies for Cancer Patients by Dr. Russell Blaylock, M.D.
Dr Blaylock, a neurosurgeon, has written a most truthful and definitive book on nutrition which is the result of more than twenty years of nutritional research directed towards improving the results of conventional medical treatments.
There has been an ongoing controversy about the role of nutrition, and especially, antioxidants, in the treatment of cancer, because they might interfere with the standard treatment of chemotherapy. Dr. Blaylock has been treating cancer patients with nutritional supplements for about thirty years, and has “ never seen a single case of tumor-growth acceleration or interference with conventional treatments.”
In Natural Strategies for Cancer Patients, he not only refutes these fears as “myths,” citing a growing number of scientific studies, but also provides the evidence for nutritional supplements being able to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy, as well as prevent chemo side effects. In fact, supplements powerfully protect normal cells from becoming cancer cells… “This not only is important in preventing cancer from forming in the first place, but is especially important in preventing secondary cancers created by chemotherapy and radiation treatments themselves,” says Blaylock.
He also writes about diet and nutrition in very clear terms making “nutrition” much easier for the average patient to understand, especially in the context of cancer. For instance, several studies have found that eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables, not only retards the growth of cancers, but also can convert very aggressive cancer into much more benign tumors.
Dr Blaylock explains the cancer process and how cancer cells differ from normal cells…. “Selected nutritional supplements affect the cancer cell at multiple steps in its metabolism….Nutritional supplements do this more effectively than either chemotherapy or radiation treatments….”
The author describes supplement use in detail, explaining the important difference between natural and synthetic vitamins, and cautions against taking single vitamins alone. In fact, Dr. Blaylock says depending on supplements alone will fail, because first of all, nutrients work synergistically – i.e., vitamins never occur alone, they interact. Blaylock insists that cancer patients change their diet, and not just depend on supplements.
Dr. Blaylock shares his considerable accumulated wisdom in treating cancer patients in this book. There are detailed explanations of dietary protocols, from his experience, as well as citing many recent studies that explain, for instance, that chronically ill people are much more likely to develop cancer than healthier people, and their long term medication use depletes nutrition, so that cancer patients are usually undernourished when they begin treatment.
In a chapter titled: Chemotherapy: Poisoning Cancer (and You), the chemical compounds used to treat cancer are looked at, and how they work. The many complications and side effects of chemotherapy are covered: fatigue; nausea and vomiting; food aversion; hair loss; bone marrow depression (specific supplements are recommended); cardiac toxicity (a major cause of death of cancer patients); pulmonary complications; gastrointestinal complications; liver and kidney injury; neurological complications; and of course, damage to the immune system.
Nowhere does Dr. Blaylock suggest that a cancer patient should avoid conventional treatment – only that they learn and use nutritional supplements and dietary changes to greatly improve their chances of recovery. He clearly differentiates between theory and research, and has the ability to communicate complex processes better than most other authors. He laid out his facts, presented results of studies, etc., and let the reader come to his/her own conclusions, although Blaylock lays out the oncology scenario for all to see – that oncologists will try to dissuade patient from taking antioxidants – not out of knowledge, but out of ignorance.
The role of immune surveillance is covered thoroughly, and the theory that some cancer cells lay dormant until the immune system fails through lack of essential nutrients, is examined. Conventional cancer treatments can severely damage the immune system, which is another primary reason for providing a nutritional program.
In general, Dr. Blaylock advised cancer patients to keep the following points in mind about food:
a) Avoid red meats such as beef and pork, which are high in two powerful cancer Promoters.
b) Avoid all commercially prepared foods. Try to make all goods from fresh ingredients.
c) Do not use commercial sauces, mixes or seasonings unless they are made with pure herbs or spices.
d) Avoid cow’s milk, cheese, and other milk-based products, especially if low in fat. Low fat milk products have a higher concentration of glutamate (an excitoxin).
e) Avoid foods containing aspartame, MSG, additives, sweeteners.
f) Avoid all foods and drinks in plastic containers, (plastics release estrogenic-like compounds).
g) Avoid sugar, no matter what the source.
h) Avoid coffee, smoking and alcohol.
i) Avoid unhealthy snacks – contain mainly pro-carcinogenic oils and high amounts of sugar and food additives.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, I strongly urge that you read this book thoroughly. With Dr. Blaylock invaluable guide, anyone can become a more involved and more enlightened participant in their own cancer treatment.
Some thoughts for reflection (as quoted from Dr. Blaylock’s book)
What you eat can make the difference between treatment failure and success ….the central and most important part of the treatment program is …diet… Dietary compliance is the most difficult problem I face in treating cancer patients …. the dormant cancer can be re-activated by a bad diet
Concluding Remarks: I strongly urge you to take time off to read widely to get a better perspective for your cancer healing journey. Also, with knowledge you will have a sense of empowerment and control over the situation that you are facing.
To end this introduction, let me leave you with this parting thought of Dr. Ian Gawler (in You can conquer cancer).
Diet may not be the total answer to cancer, but without a good diet, there is no answer.
The following are more references or link about Diet, Nutrition and Cancer
1) Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective: by the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute of Cancer Research. 1997.
2) Diet, Nutrition & Cancer by The National Academy of Sciences, USA. 1982.
3) Diet, Nutrition & The Prevention of Chronic Diseases by WHO Technical Report Series 797.
4) The Harvard Report On Cancer Prevention. 1996.
5) UICC Statement on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer 1999 by UICC – International Union Against Cancer.
6) Nutritional Aspects of the Development of Cancer by The Health Education Authority, UK, 999.
7) Cancer & Nutrition – The Positive Scientific Evidence by Dr Rosy Daniel of the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, Bristol.
8) Guidelines on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention 1996 by the America Cancer Society.