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DIET IN CANCER

OVERVIEW

Cancer is one of the most appalling diseases affecting human lives and is the leading cause of death and morbidity in human population.

It is characterized by an uncontrolled and abnormal growth of body cells.

Cancer may affect any individual at any point of time in their lifetime. The causes of cancer and the factors that put any person at a higher risk of developing cancer are very diverse.

HOW DO CANCERS OCCUR?

We all know our body is made up of cells which constitute each and every part of it. Cancer can affect any part of the body as an abnormal growth which kicks off first in a single cell.

The disorder sets in when a cell starts to grow abnormally and uncontrollably, dividing into further similar abnormal cells leading to the formation of a tumor.

This tumorous mass may be restricted to its own organ or site when it is called benign tumor. But when this tumor turns malignant, it develops the capability to invade nearby organs, lymph nodes and the whole body may eventually get affected progressively.

INCIDENCE OF CANCER

The ferocious nature of cancer can be simply understood by the statistics that suggest that 1 out of every two men and 1 out of every three women have the possibility to be diagnosed with cancer at some point of time in their life time.

There are numerous types of cancers depending upon the site of their origin and the types of cell affected.

AYURVEDIC POINT OF VIEW FOR CANCER

Ayurveda considers the vitiation of the vata, pitta and kapha type of body energies to be responsible for the growth and development of cancer in the body out of which kapha is the major dosha that affects cancer growth.

The vitiated vata or the air body humor is responsible for the abnormal and rapid growth of cancer cells and the kapha element is what causes the tumor to increase in size and density. It is because of the excessive kapha element involved that the cancers do not suppurate.

The vitiated doshas then go on to involve the other seven dhatus or body tissues mainly Rakta (blood tissue) and Mamsa (muscle tissue).

Cancers have been described in detail in Sushruta samhita (400 B.C.), a popular ayurvedic text.

IS CANCER HERIDITARY?

Certain cancers run in the family. This is because members of the same family have a similar type of lifestyle and therefore are prone to develop similar type of health problems.

If a cancer is hereditary, it does not mean that the cancer will affect the next generation by birth itself.

HOW TO DIAGNOSE CANCERS?

Diagnosing the type of cancer and its staging involves a tedious process in which multiple investigations and clinical examination are carried out to conclude the exact type of cancer affecting the person.

Cell cytology of the area affected is carried out for confirmatory diagnosis. Different types of investigations are carried out depending up on the type of cancer suspected in the person.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO PREVENT CANCER?

Certain types of cancers are preventable if the carcinogen and other precipitating factors are avoided. E.g. mouth cancer can be prevented by avoiding tobacco chewing and smoking.

There are other forms of cancer that can be managed quite well, if an early diagnosis is made and proper treatment protocol is followed.

HOW DOES DIET AFFECT THE GROWTH AND PROGRESSION OF CANCER?

Many types of cancer have been linked to particular types of diet that have resulted in the development of malignancy. For example – high fat diet can lead to cancer of the intestine, colon, rectum etc.

There are however many health foods that prove to be very beneficial for many cancer patients. These include, carrot juice, milk, citrus fruits, vegetables etc.

The American society for cancer universally supports the use of green leafy vegetables and fruits for preventing cancer.

DIETARY SUPPORT FOR CANCER PATIENTS

As a supportive therapy for cancer patients, a healthy and nutritious diet coupled with appropriate exercises is very essential to ensure better health.

Patients can incorporate fresh green vegetables, fresh fruits and fruit juices, less of red meat and a low fat diet. Broccoli, Carrots, Beetroot, corns, Cow ghee, papaya, kiwi, coconut water, carrots and citrus fruits are a few good options to choose from.

General guidelines

  • Consume a diet low in carbohydrates and sweets and high in proteins.
  • Drink extra milk and eat more eggs and cheese to get this protein.
  • Cancer patients need extra iron, calcium and vitamin D from their diet.
  • Sardines, cabbage, broccoli, milk, eggs, cheese and bread provide calcium.
  • Vitamin D is found in margarine, butter, oily fish and eggs.
  • The iron in red meat is more easily absorbed by the body than the iron found in fish, soy, egg yolk, leafy green vegetables and dried fruit.
  • Avoid eating too much of fiber, beans and lentils as they are difficult to digest and may make the patient feel full.
  • To control nausea symptoms a few lemon juice drops can be consumed as and when required. Try and stick to a bland diet (less spicy) for this.
  • Avoid too much of liquid intake before and just after having meals.
  • Sweets in general are to be avoided.
  • Consume small and frequent meals to avoid too much burden on the stomach for digestion.

Consume snacks in between meals when hungry. Some of the examples of the snacks are:-

  • Two tablespoons of natural peanut butter on banana slices
  • Greek yogurt (any flavor) plus one cup of ripe melon
  • Graham crackers with natural peanut butter
  • Juice prepared from Carrot, Beetroot and little ginger will also be very good for consumption.

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