What Role Does your Diet and Lifestyle Play in Cancer Recurrence- Few important tips to reduce the risk of relapse 

With treatment completed, you no doubt want to put cancer behind you and resume a more normal life.

“Now is the time to take charge of your health, focus on wellness, and swear off unhealthy habits, such as fast foods and a sedentary lifestyle. Research shows that the best formula for staving off another bout of cancer is proper nutrition combined with weight control and exercise.”

Exercise regularly

Exercising regularly improves fatigue symptoms, reduces stress, and impacts long-term overall health. The ten-year survival rate is higher in patients who exercise regularly than in patients who do not. It’s recommended that you engage in moderate exercise at least 3-5 hours per week.

Maintain a healthy weight

Women who are overweight are more likely to have their breast cancer come back. Maintaining a healthy weight is something you can do to reduce your chance of a recurrence as well as optimize your overall health.

Eat healthy: Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (at least five servings a day)

Eat a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. A serving can be a cup of dark leafy greens or berries, a medium fruit, or a half cup of other colorful choices. Phytochemicals, also found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains, are compounds that may thwart the action of carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) and aid cells in blocking the development of cancer.

  • Go for whole grains. Opt for high-fiber breads and cereals, including brown rice, barley, bulgur, and oats; avoid refined foods, such as donuts and white bread, and those high in sugar. Having said this, keep your carbohydrate intake to the minimum. 
  • Choose organic foods whenever possible. 
  • Wash produce thoroughly to minimize pesticide exposure. 
  • Limit red meat intake. Studies indicate that red meat promotes inflammation in human tissue; this inflammation is believed to stimulate the growth of cancerous tumors. Plant foods, on the other hand, contain antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E, which protect the cells from free radicals – unstable molecules that damage healthy cells and are linked to aging and disease.
  • Consume 2-3 servings of fish weekly. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or sardines, are especially beneficial (try to consume freshwater wild salmon whenever possible). These fats in these fish are the “good” heart-healthy omega-3 fats; other sources of these fats include walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseeds. 
  • Increase fiber intake. 
  • Avoid trans fat. 
  • Eat foods high in vitamin D. These include salmon, sardines, fortified orange juice, milk and fortified cereal. Research suggests that vitamin D, which also comes from sun exposure, prevents cancer and may decrease the risk of recurrence and improve survival. People in regions with limited sunshine may be deficient and thus benefit from a vitamin D3 supplement (ask your physician about a blood test to measure deficiency). 
  • Food – not supplements – is the best source of vitamins and minerals. There is no evidence that dietary supplements provide the same anti-cancer benefits as fruits and vegetables, and some high-dose supplements may actually increase cancer risk.
  • Be “mindful” when eating. Research suggests that we tend to eat more calories and food with fewer nutrients when we are watching TV, driving, or doing other activities.
  • Focus on gut health. Eat fermented foods and those high in probiotics, such as yogurt, kafir, kimchi and more. 
  • Limit alcohol consumption- when we drink alcohol, it’s turned into a chemical called acetaldehyde in our body. This happens mainly in the liver, but other cells and some bacteria in our mouths and gut can do this too. Acetaldehyde can cause cancer by damaging DNA and stopping our cells from repairing this damage.
  • Keep up with all scheduled screenings. 
  • Quit smoking- Poisons in cigarette smoke can weaken the body’s immune system, making it harder to kill cancer cells. When this happens, cancer cells keep growing without being stopped.
  • Report any physical changes to either your oncologist or primary care provider. 

“Healthy food and lifestyle choices can help you recover from cancer treatment and may reduce the chance of cancer coming back. Healthy choices also help to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other types of cancer. Choose a balanced diet based on cancer prevention guidelines.”

You can work towards your healthy eating goals and improve your health by changing your food choices over time. For many people making small changes over time is realistic and easier to maintain than making changes quickly. Find a way to make changes that work for you. Keeping a food journal can help you learn about your eating habits and work towards your goals.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are of the writer only.

Samara Mahindra

Founder & CEO of CARER
CARER works with cancer patients, caregivers, survivors, and specialists to prevent and help cancer patients. To know more about Carer (Cancer Prevention & Therapy Experts), please visit here.

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