31 Nutrition And Healing

Plant foods are nature’s cancer-fighters because they are full of cancer-healing phytochemicals. Not only are they helpful in preventing cancer, but certain plant foods are rich in nutrients that are proven to inhibit cancer by actually turning off cancer genes, reducing cancer cell growth, and destroying cancer cells. These compounds can change the course of cancer.

Plant Foods are Medicine

Plant Foods Improve Oncology Therapy

Targeted nutrition not only supports healing but also enhances treatment efficacy. Medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are more effective, a lower dose is needed, and the treatment duration can be shortened, when the patient is well nourished.

As a clinical nutritionist specializing in medical nutrition therapy, I have been developing oncology protocols and dietary guidelines for more than thirty years. I’ve seen the profound effects that nutrition has on disease reversal. More recently, nutrition studies from around the globe have changed the way we think about nutrition in disease management. Nutrition was once thought of as an adjuvant part of cancer care, only playing a supporting role in prevention. However, large-scale clinical trials have proven that food nutrients are necessary for healing and should be a primary part of every treatment plan. 

A nutrient-dense diet infuses our bodies with a constant supply of cofactors needed for proper function. Nutrients support our basic needs, such as sustained energy, brain fuel, hormone production, and digestion. They are also needed for more specific processes, which include cell turnover, detoxification, immune function, and apoptosis.

We need to take in nutrients consistently or we can develop deficiencies. When nutrient deficiencies go unaddressed, we limit the ability of our biological systems to function optimally. Nutrients not only support these key areas of health, but they also are cofactors in the removal of toxins and epigenetic management and prevent secondary issues such as inflammation and other side effects of cancer and its treatment.

Women who eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, while also minimizing red meat, salt, and processed carbohydrates, lower their odds of developing estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer, which accounts for about a quarter of all breast cancers. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that the likelihood of developing breast cancer was 20 percent less when women followed such a diet.

A poor diet based on processed and packaged foods that are high in sugar and fat provides little nutritional value and drives the growth of breast cancer cells. Food quality varies dramatically as some foods have been so highly processed that they are devoid of nutrients and laden with chemicals, many of which are known carcinogens.

Processed foods not only fall short of providing the necessary nutrients, but they also deliver unhealthy components, such as BPA from plastic food packaging, which drives the growth of cancer. Conversely, a nutritious diet can directly reduce the development, growth, and spread of breast cancer cells. Organic foods have been found to have a higher nutrient content and are free of agricultural chemicals. Many agricultural pesticides have been found to add to the risk of breast cancer and directly disrupt multiple metabolic pathways, which can prevent the body from properly defending itself against cellular mutations that lead to cancer. 

To avoid exposure to these carcinogens, look for the USDA Organic label, as organic certification forbids the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides on plant foods for human consumption. To learn about which foods have the least contamination and which are most heavily sprayed, visit www.ewg.org.

Aim for the highest quality foods available, which means those that are organic, unprocessed, and as fresh as possible.

Dietary Goals:

·      Limit animal products to 3 ounces, twice weekly

·      Limit seafood to one, 3 ounce serving, per week

·      Limit salt intake

·      Limit oil to one teaspoon daily

·      Avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates 

·      Avoid alcohol

·      Avoid processed foods

·      Avoid red meat and dairy products

·      Avoid trans-fat, saturated fat, and animal fat

·      Maintain proper hydration

·      Increase plant foods, including legumes

·      Increase vegetables, including herbs and legumes

·      Increase fiber 

A nutrient-dense diet can provide the level of nutrients we need for maintenance. However, whole foods may not contain enough specific nutrients needed to reverse a deficiency. For example, a vitamin D deficiency requires a high-dose supplement for several weeks to increase blood levels, after which, a whole foods diet may be sufficient for maintenance.

Consistent ingestion of plant food phytochemicals can exert biological effects on the processes that hinder cancer progression. For example, food nutrients have been found to:

 Induce apoptosis

 Inhibit migration of cancer cells

 Reduce angiogenesis

 Support white blood cell production

 Reduce inflammation

 Improve immune response

 Reduce breast cancer cell growth

 Inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells

 Decrease metastasis

 Inhibit microbial growth