By CHESHIRE QUE
When faced with the big C, patients would normally ask their physicians about what foods they should eat during treatment or what else they can take to prevent recurrence when they go on remission after treatment. Unfortunately, proper endorsement to a registered nutritionist dietitian is often not done. Patients find themselves at a loss as to how to go about nourishing their bodies in a way that will support treatment or boost their immune system to prevent cancer from coming back with a vengeance.
During treatment, patients may be told that what they eat doesn’t matter or they may be asked to avoid antioxidant-rich foods for fear that these may interfere with or decrease the efficiency of chemotherapy or radiation. The truth is nutrition plays a crucial role in cancer management. It is part and parcel of successful cancer treatment and prevention.
The American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Society are on top of researching and publishing up to date guidelines that are relevant to patients currently dealing with cancer, those who have survived cancer, and those who need to reduce their risk of developing cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends achieving and maintaining a healthy weight throughout life, adopting a physically active lifestyle, choosing a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant foods, and limiting the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
With the increasing demands for foods that have health benefits beyond basic nutrition, the rise in the production of functional foods or nutraceuticals has ballooned over the recent years. Most cancer patients are advised against the use of these products including dietary supplements while on treatment for a couple of reasons: the lack of convincing evidence and the possibility of clinically significant interaction with the treatment.
The world has a lot more to discover and learn when it comes to how medical treatments and nutraceuticals can synergistically work together in cancer treatment. However, there are a few of these that have made it to the list of useful nutraceuticals recommended by oncologists who are using an integrative approach in managing their patients.
- Green tea: brewed from the unfermented leaves of Camellia sinensis, green tea contains polyphenols that works in various ways to inhibit cancer. Decaffeinated ones may not have the same effect as regular green tea. Consumption must not exceed five cups a day to prevent any adverse effects that are usually related to stomach upset or gastrointestinal
distress. Patients taking anticoagulant warfarin should avoid this drink due to its high vitamin K content which interferes with the drug.
- Curcumin: a component of turmeric, curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antioxidant. It can inhibit tumor development and growth according to studies. Intakes of up to 12 grams have shown no adverse effects. Curcumin is best taken with black pepper, olive oil, avocado, fish oil, milk, and seeds for optimum absorption.
- Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms like maitake, shiitake, enokitake, reishi, and turkey tail contain polysaccharides that have anti-tumor and immune boosting properties. Medicinal mushrooms must always be cooked before consumption or can be taken in the form of powder, capsule, or infusion. A combined intake of green tea and medicinal mushrooms show further risk reduction of cancer. A word of caution, some mushrooms may be carcinogenic.
When in doubt, it is best to consult a registered nutritionist dietitian, a nutritional immunologist and an oncologist that practices integrative and functional medicine when it comes to the use of functional foods or nutraceuticals.