Vegan Diet for Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Cancer still persists as the most dreaded disease in the world today Can a vegan diet for cancer actually make a difference?
In spite of the advanced development of medical science, an adequate cure for cancer remains elusive. We continue to seek ways to prevent or at least reduce their risk of developing it. The National Cancer Institute states that cancer is potentially preventable as 80% of cases are due to identifiable factors.
Food choices contribute to at least 35 to 50% while tobacco use accounts for 30% of cases. In view of our control of these factors, research shows that lifestyle choices contribute to the majority of cancer cases. Further, adjusting our food choices and lifestyle offers the best chance to prevent cancer.
What Is Cancer?
Cancer develops when a single abnormal cell in the body starts to multiply uncontrollably. A combination of such abnormal cells form tumors which can invade normal and healthy tissues thereby spreading cancer to other parts of the body. Cancer can be promoted by certain substances known as carcinogens. These carcinogens originate from the air or foods, or even from inside the body itself. Our immune system usually neutralizes these within the body before they cause damage. However, they may sometimes attack and alter the cell DNA, the genetic material of the body.
Cancer does not manifest immediately as certain cancer inhibitors prevent the cancer cells from growing. Therefore, it may take some years for the tumor to develop to a noticeable level. Many researchers believe cancer often grows for over 10 years before diagnosis. On the other hand, fat diets are known to promote the rapid growth of the abnormal cells.
A Raw Vegan Diet for Cancer Patient
Many people don’t know that lifestyle and diet play a major role in the prevention and treatment of cancer. A number of research studies have shown that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of developing cancer. In a review of the medical literature J.D. Potter and K.A. Steinmetz, of the World Cancer Research Fund, in London, discovered that plant foods in their natural or close to natural state, have preventive potential.
This includes consumption of raw and fresh vegetables, leafy green vegetables, carrots, and lettuce. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage provide benefits, too. Raw or lightly cooked vegetables and fresh fruit substantially lower the chances of developing cancer.
Fiber Helps to Fight Cancer
Dennis Burkitt, a British physician in 1970, observed that a high-fiber diet reduces digestive tract diseases. He observed that few cases of cancer developed in countries that consume plant-based diets high in fiber content. Similar results are observed around the world. Non-industrialized nations where meat is scarce and the menu is mainly plant food-based have lower rates of cancer. However, western countries and the United States that consume mainly animal-based diets low in fiber content have the highest rates of many cancers, including colon cancer.
Fiber is food contents that cannot be digested early in the digestive process by humans. Therefore, they are available to move and eliminate carcinogens in the body. Furthermore, by drawing water into the digestive tract, they dilute the carcinogens. This combination of fiber and water make the feces bulkier and easier to effectively eliminate carcinogens out of the body.
Additionally, fiber binds with bile acids that are secreted into the intestine to aid the digestion of fats. Certain bacteria in the intestine are capable of changing this bile acid into chemicals that can promote colon cancer. When fiber binds with these bile acids, it eliminates the chemicals from the intestines.1
Fiber prevents cancer
Fiber also protects from other forms of cancer. Studies have shown that high-fiber diet consumers have a lower incidence of breast cancer and stomach cancer.2,3 Fiber is known to affect the estrogen level in the body. Fiber binds with estrogen when the it is secreted into the intestine and moves it out of the body.4 Without adequate fiber, the estrogen reabsorbs into the bloodstream from the intestine. High levels of estrogen show a strong link to higher risk of breast cancer.
Food experts recommend 30 to 40 grams of fiber consumed per day.
However, the average daily fiber intake in the United States is 10 to 20 grams per day. Whole grains, peas, lentils, beans, vegetables, and fruits constitute the best source of fiber. Also, foods that are closest to their natural state, unrefined, and unpeeled foods in their natural state have the highest fiber content. Many studies reveal that fat in foods increases one’s risk for cancer, and for those who already have cancer, it may adversely affect breast cancer survival rates.5
There is also evidence to show that animal fat is more harmful than vegetable fat. One study conducted revealed that there is a 200% increase in breast cancer among those who consume pork or beef five to six times per week. A prominent cancer researcher from the University of Cambridge named Dr. Sheila Bingham, observed that meats appear more closely associated with colon cancer than any other factor.6 Ovarian and prostate cancers have also been associated with milk and meat consumption.7
The Value of Vegetables
Vegetables are not just low in fat and high in fiber. They also have many cancer-fighting substances. For example, carotenoids, the fruit and vegetable pigment that gives them their dark colors, have been shown to be of help in preventing cancer. In a similar vein, beta-carotene that is present in yellow and dark green vegetables helps to protect against lung cancer. Additional studies show it helps in preventing cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, bladder, and breast.
A Rainbow of Colors
Nutritionists suggest eating from the rainbow for a vegan diet for cancer. Actually, the same diet offers health benefits for all. Each type of plant-based food offers unique nutrients.
For example, vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, kales and Brussels sprouts contain indoles and flavones. These contribute to increasing resistance to anti-cancer.
Furthermore, vitamin C, found in many vegetables and citrus fruits, promotes a lower risk potential for cancers of the esophagus and stomach. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant that neutralizes cancer-causing chemicals formed in the body. It also blocks the conversion of nitrates to nitrosamines which causes cancer in the stomach.
Selenium that is found in whole grains offers the same antioxidant effects of beta-carotene and vitamin C. However, selenium is toxic in large dosage, hence its use as food supplement must be done with caution. Vitamin E also provides an antioxidant effect.
Vegan Diet for Cancer Patents
A vegan diet often proves quite helpful for the well-informed cancer patient. If you are new to a vegan diet, consult your physician for the best manner to change. Start by including as many familiar foods as possible, and use “new” foods to fill in the gaps. Use products that are quick and simple to prepare. Look for those easily exchanged for animal products in familiar dishes. However, if you consumed a vegan or nearly vegan diet before you are diagnosed of cancer, your health professional might suggest you increase your calorie and protein rich foods.
If you intend to follow a macrobiotic diet during cancer treatment, you need to consult a nutritionist who is familiar with both the diet as well as the specific cancer-related nutritional problems that are likely to develop and which you may encounter. While a plant-based vegan diet offers the ideal nutrition, you may need your nutrients adjusted during this time of increased stress on your body. Some undergoing treatment experience eating difficulties. Your nutritionist and physician should help adjust your vegan diet for cancer treatment.
The following guidelines can help reduce your risk of any type of cancer:
- Smoking has been shown to dramatically increase the risk of development of cancer.
Consume plenty of vegetables and plant-based food each day.
- While the American Cancer Society recommends 2-3 cups of vegetables a day, your body utilizes much more to increase your health. Most nutritionists advise more; two cups seems quite minimal. Also, the more you vegetables you eat, the more antioxidants available to your body to use.
Have one or less alcoholic drink daily.
- Women especially should have a maximum of one drink per day. Studies show that excess alcohol has a negative effect on your overall health and wellness program.
Avoid processed meats entirely.
- Also, consume little to none of any meat. Meats often contain a high-fat content and preservatives. Even low-fat meats such as chicken provide a strain on the body. Also, studies show that poultry fat like chicken skin or other visible fat forms the same pro-carcinogenic compounds as red meats when exposed to high heat.
Maintain an active lifestyle and healthy weight.
- If you are exercising for weight-loss, it is advised that you get at least five hours of exercise a week. Further, recommendations show that exercise helps even if you don’t need to lose weight. It helps retain a healthy weight and strengthens the entire body, including the immune system. Some studies show that 14 to 20 percent of cancer-associated mortality in America is due to overweight and obesity.
Adopt a Vegan Diet for Cancer Prevention and Treatment
You will achieve the best benefits by following a healthy, plant-based eating plan, also known as a vegan diet. It is important to follow the principles consistently, especially late in life when there is an increase in the risk to develop different types of cancer.
Mainstream organizations such as the American Cancer Society recommend putting a limit to consumption of meat and processed foods while increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, excessive heat destroys most of the protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients in foods. This is why major healing centers such as the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, the Hippocrates Institute, the Optimum Health Institute and Hallelujah Acres teach a raw, vegan approach to nutrition. Alternatively, consider eating at least half of your foods raw, while lightly cooking the remainder.
Food is Only One Part
Furthermore, an optimal diet must be combined with exercise and stress management for better effectiveness. A study published in Lancet Oncology stated that “Healthy lifestyle behaviors that encompass regular exercise, weight control, healthy nutrition and some complementary practices have the potential to greatly reduce cancer-treatment-associated morbidity and mortality in cancer survivors and can enhance the quality of life.”
North Texas at the Kotsanis Institute, in Grapevine, continues researching the potential effects of a simple, raw, organic, vegan diet combined with gentle, moderate exercise and relaxation methods on cancer patients. Results show that participants consistently exhibit improvements in standardized measures of fatigue and cognition, including mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Participants who are confirmed cancer diagnosis patients meet with the study researcher weekly for four weeks to receive support and monitoring of the specified protocol.
To Sum Up the Points
A cancer prevention diet must be high in fiber and must include an adequate quantity of fruits and vegetables while at the same time low in fat (most especially animal fat) content. There must also be a minimization or total exclusion of alcohol. A vegan diet for cancer offers a healthy solution for both prevention and treatment.
- Kritchevsky D. Diet, nutrition, and cancer: the role of fiber. Cancer. 1986; 58: 1830-1836.
- Risch HA, Jain M, Choi NW, et al. Dietary factors and the incidence of cancer of the stomach. Am J Epidemiol. 1985; 122:947-959.
- Lubin F, Wax Y, Modan B, et al. Role of fat, animal protein and dietary fiber in breast cancer etiology: a case control study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1986; 77:605-612.
- Goldin BR, Adlercreutz H, Gorbach SL, et al. Estrogen excretion patterns and plasma levels in vegetarian and omnivorous women. N Engl J Med. 1982; 307: 1542-1547.
- Wynder EL, Rose DP, Cohen LA. Diet and breast cancer in causation and therapy. Cancer. 1986; 58: 1804-1813.
- Bingham SA. Meat, starch, and non-starch polysaccharides and bowel cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988; 48: 762-767.
- Rose DP, Boyar AP, Wynder EL. International comparisons of mortality rates for cancer of the breast, ovary, prostate, and colon, and per capita food consumption. Cancer. 1986; 58:2363-2371.
Want to read more? See this article
Eat To Live, by Dr. Furhrman, presents a solid introduction into plant-based eating.
Your Vegan Diet for Cancer Prevention or Treatment
Whether now facing cancer or looking to avoid it, a plant-based diet offers a strong nutritional base. In fact, research indicates that our bodies function best as vegans.
As always, we recommend that you discuss the vegan diet for cancer with your nutritionist and other health care professionals. While research proves the value it offers each of us, your individual nutrient balance may influence the foods you choose to include.
Recipes? Yes, we have recipes!
A vegan diet for cancer does not necessitate eating lettuce leaves every day. In fact, enjoying the rainbow of foods offers the best nutrition.
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