After radiation and chemo treatments are completed and there is no sign of cancer, the cancer may come back. But not all patients have the same chance of the cancer coming back.
Experts believe that patients who are overweight or obese, have high levels of chronic inflammation inside their bodies, or have elevated levels of the hormone insulin (which regulates blood sugar levels) are at an increased risk of having some forms of cancer return regardless of how advanced the cancers were to begin with.
Eating a healthy diet can definitely help maintain a healthy weight, reduce inflammation, keep insulin levels in check, and promote faster recovery after treatment. A healthy diet may even prevent many forms of cancer from returning and increase how long people live after cancer treatment.
What Should I Eat?
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1. Replace all processed foods with natural and whole foods.
Processed foods didn’t exist until perhaps 200 years ago, and processed foods, being heavily modified, lack vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber which are found in natural and whole foods. Processed foods include white bread, white rice, white sugar and fructose corn syrup, and most foods that come packaged in bags or boxes like cookies, chips and soda..
- Eat whole grain breads and pastas instead of white bread, flour, and pasta.
- Eat more brown rice instead of white rice.
- Get your sugar from fruit, which contains vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.
- Cut out soda.
- Don’t add white sugar or artificial sweeteners. For sweetness, try natural sweeteners like Stevia or Agave Nectar.
Research has shown that people who eat a plant-based diet (in other words, “natural and whole foods”) not only have lower risk of developing cancer, but also a better prognosis after having developed cancer. The Mediterranean Diet is one plant-based diet that appears to have an “anti-cancer” effect.
What does a plant-based diet include? Green vegetables, berries and other fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and spices. You don't necessarily have to be vegan or vegetarian, but plants should be by far the main form of food in each meal.
A plant-based diet is anything but bland or boring. For great recipes, check out http://www.cancerproject.org/recipes/index.php.
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Dr. Shalin Shah is a radiation oncologist who works at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Sugar Land, Texas.
Dr. Niraj “Raj” Patel, a nuclear medicine physician at the Houston VAMC, is the author of “The Healthy Indian Diet.”