Eat To Heal

Have you ever paused to reflect on how you view the food you eat? While many of us associate food with pleasure and emotional comfort, delighting in its flavours and textures, we seldom contemplate its primary function and its impact on our body. Fundamentally, food is more than just a source of enjoyment; it’s the essence of nourishment and energy, a vital component that sustains our lives.

Understanding this fundamental distinction between food as a source of pleasure and food as a source of sustenance can be challenging for most people. We live in a world where delectable treats and enticing meals tempt us at every turn. The tantalising aromas, the satisfying tastes, and the comforting rituals associated with food, all contribute to our perception of it as a source of pleasure and emotional wellbeing.

But if we take a step back and look beyond the surface, we begin to understand the profound role that food plays in our lives. Every bite we consume holds the power to either fuel our bodies, providing the nutrients and energy necessary for our very existence. Food offers the foundational building blocks that allow our cells to work, our organs to function, and our brain to orchestrate the intricate dance within our body.

Imagine for a moment, a world where food was purely a means of survival, devoid of any sensory pleasure. In such a world, we would approach eating with a different mindset, recognising the crucial role it plays in sustaining our lives. While we may still seek enjoyment from the act of eating, our primary focus would be on selecting foods that nourish and sustain us, rather than solely satisfying our desires.

By making this distinction, we gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between our food choices and how it affects our overall wellbeing. It empowers us to make conscious decisions about what we consume, considering not only the immediate pleasure it brings but also the long-term impact on our health. We become more attuned to the nutritional value of our meals, recognising that food is not just a source of temporary gratification, but also a means of supporting our bodies and enabling us to lead fulfilling lives.

Our bodies are composed of billions of cells that tirelessly work together to sustain life and allow us to experience this wonderful world. Every day, on average, we have five opportunities to choose between either nourishing these cells with quality foods, or damaging them with refined carbohydrates, alcohol and junk food. That’s 35 chances per week, and a staggering 1,820 opportunities per year that we are presented with the choice to either strengthen our cells or disrupt their delicate balance with what we choose to put in our mouths. These choices have a profound impact on our cellular wellbeing and can influence our overall health, including our vulnerability to conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

In the realm of nutrition, not all carbohydrates are equal. Refined carbohydrates, including white bread, pasta, sugary snacks, and processed foods, undergo extensive processing that strips them of their natural fibre and essential nutrients. What remains are simple sugars that are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. In response, the pancreas releases insulin, a storage hormone that not only transports glucose into cells but also facilitates the storage of fats within cells. The regular fluctuations in blood sugar levels can place strain on the pancreas, potentially leading to conditions such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Elevated blood sugar levels can have detrimental effects on your health, especially during cancer recovery. Here are a few reasons why regulating your blood sugar levels is crucial:

1. Reducing Inflammation: High blood sugar levels trigger an inflammatory response in your body, which can impair the immune system and hinder the healing process. By minimising refined carbohydrates and stabilising blood sugars, you can help reduce inflammation and support your body’s ability to heal.

2. Promoting Healthy Weight Management: Refined carbohydrates are often high in calories and low in nutritional value. They can contribute to weight gain, which is associated with an increased risk of cancer recurrence. By choosing nutrient-dense whole foods and maintaining a healthy weight, you can enhance your body’s resilience and lower the chances of cancer relapse.

3. Balancing Hormones: Blood sugar fluctuations can disrupt hormone levels, including insulin, which is a storage hormone and plays a vital role in regulating cell growth. Consistently high insulin levels may promote the growth of cancer cells as well as encourage your body to store fat. By adopting a diet that promotes stable blood sugar levels, you can help regulate hormone balance and create an environment less conducive to cancer development.

The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a scale that measures how quickly and how much a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels after consumption. It is a valuable tool for understanding how different foods affect our bodies, particularly in relation to blood sugar control and the functioning of the pancreas.

The GI scale ranges from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating foods that cause a rapid and significant increase in blood sugar levels. Foods with a GI value of 55 or less are considered low on the scale, while those with a GI value of 70 or above are classified as high. Foods with moderate GI values fall somewhere in between.

When we consume foods with a high GI, such as refined grains, sugary snacks, pasta and processed foods, they are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, leading to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This spike triggers the pancreas to release a large amount of insulin, a hormone responsible for transporting glucose from the bloodstream into the cells to be used for energy or stored for later use. However, constant consumption of high-GI foods can strain the pancreas and potentially lead to insulin resistance, a condition associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.

On the other hand, low-GI foods, like whole grains, legumes, high fibre, low sugar fruits and vegetables, are digested and absorbed more slowly, resulting in a gradual and moderate increase in blood sugar levels. This allows for a more controlled release of insulin from the pancreas and promotes stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Fill your plate with an abundance of fresh vegetables, low sugar fruits such as berries, low GI whole grains, legumes, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods are rich in essential nutrients, antioxidants, and fibre, which support your immune system and overall wellbeing.
Opt for nutrient-dense foods, which provide a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Excellent choices include dark leafy greens, colourful vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon. These foods offer powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and support the body’s natural detoxification processes.
Opt for nutrient-dense foods, which provide a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Excellent choices include dark leafy greens, colourful vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon. These foods offer powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and support the body’s natural detoxification processes.

Adequate hydration is vital for overall health and plays a crucial role in the recovery process. Drink plenty of water and include hydrating foods such as cucumbers, juiced greens and herbal teas in your daily routine. Staying hydrated helps flush out toxins, supports digestion, and keeps your body functioning optimally.

Calculating your water intake is essential to ensuring proper hydration and supporting overall health. While individual water needs can vary based on factors such as activity level, climate, and health conditions, a general guideline can help you estimate your daily water intake. Here’s a simple method to calculate how much water you should drink:

  • Determine your weight: Start by knowing your body weight in pounds or kilograms.
  • Multiply by a factor: Multiply your weight by a specific factor to estimate your daily water intake. The recommended factor is typically around 15 millilitres per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you multiply that number by 15mls (or approximately 2.25 litres) of water per day.
  • Adjust for activity level: If you are physically active or live in a hot climate, you may need to increase your water intake. Add an additional 8 ounces (240 millilitres) of water for every 30 minutes of exercise or any strenuous activity.
  • Consider other factors: Certain conditions like pregnancy, breastfeeding, living in a very hot environment, high daily activity levels or illnesses may require increased water intake. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for specific recommendations in such cases.

Remember that this calculation provides a general guideline, and individual needs may vary. Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your water intake accordingly. It’s always a good idea to drink water throughout the day, rather than trying to consume it all at once. Stay hydrated and listen to your body’s needs for optimal health and wellbeing.

While we don’t necessarily agree with following a completely vegan diet, incorporating a variety of plant-based foods into your diet can provide significant benefits for cancer recovery and maintaining general health. Plant-based foods are packed with phytochemicals, antioxidants, and fibre that support your body’s healing process. Here are some reasons why you should include them in your meals:

  • Antioxidant Protection: Plant-based foods, such as colourful fruits and vegetables, are rich in antioxidants that help neutralise harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals can damage cells and DNA, leading to an increased risk of cancer. By including a wide range of plant-based foods, you provide your body with a powerful arsenal of antioxidants to protect against further cell damage.
  • Fibre for Digestive Health: Whole plant foods, such as low GI whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, are excellent sources of dietary fibre. Fibre plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy digestive system, promoting regular bowel movements, and supporting the elimination of toxins and fats from your body. It also helps you feel full and satisfied, reducing the likelihood of overeating or consuming unhealthy snacks.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Chronic inflammation is associated with various health issues, including cancer. Many plant-based foods possess natural anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to compounds like flavonoids and polyphenols. Berries, leafy greens, turmeric, ginger, and green tea are examples of foods that can help reduce inflammation and create an environment that supports healing.

Creating an alkaline environment within your body can be a powerful strategy in the fight against cancer. The concept of acidity and alkalinity refers to the pH level of our internal environment. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A pH level below 7 is considered acidic, while a pH level above 7 is alkaline.

Cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment, where they can proliferate and evade the body’s natural defence mechanisms. By shifting the pH balance towards alkalinity, you create an inhospitable terrain for cancer cells to flourish. This is because an alkaline environment promotes optimal cellular function, strengthens your immune system, and supports your body’s ability to heal itself.

One of the most effective ways to create an alkaline environment is through our diet. Consuming alkaline-forming foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, and sprouts can help raise the pH levels in our body. These foods are rich in essential nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Additionally, they are often low in sugar and processed ingredients, which can contribute to acidity in the body.

It’s important to note that the goal is not to eliminate all acidity from the body, as certain organs and processes require a slightly acidic environment to function. Rather, the aim is to maintain a balanced pH level that leans towards the alkaline side. This can be achieved by reducing the consumption of acid-forming foods such as processed meats, refined sugars, alcohol, and excessive amounts of caffeine.

By embracing an alkaline-promoting diet, you not only support your body in its battle against cancer but also promote overall health and vitality.

Take some time to plan your meals and snacks for the week. This will ensure that you have wholesome options readily available and reduce the temptation to reach for unhealthy convenience foods. Create a shopping list that includes foods listed on the Fit 50 list so that you are not tempted to impulse buy foods that might be harmful to your health.

If you have delegated grocery shopping to a family member or a friend, remind them the importance not to buy foods that you know could derail your progress.

Replace refined carbohydrates with healthier alternatives. Instead of white rice, opt for quinoa or brown rice. Choose low carb bread instead of white bread. Replace sugary snacks with berries and yoghurt or homemade protein balls made with nuts, coconut oil, and sweetened with stevia, (recipe can be found on the RECIPES page). Small changes like these can have a significant impact on your overall health.

Slow down and savour each bite. Pay attention to the flavours, textures, and sensations of the food you eat. Chew slowly and take time to appreciate the nourishment you are providing your body. Eating mindfully not only enhances your enjoyment of food but also helps you tune in to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness, reducing the chances of over-eating.

Remember that food is not just fuel for your body; it can also be a source of comfort and enjoyment. During your recovery, it’s essential to nourish not only your physical body but also your emotional wellbeing. Share meals with loved ones, savour the pleasure of preparing delicious and nutritious dishes, and indulge in the occasional treat guilt-free.

In our quest to control the odds in our battle against cancer, it would be remiss of us to not explain the amazing benefits of fasting due to the powerful process of autophagy. However, before I start, it’s crucial to note that fasting should only be considered if individuals are at a healthy weight, and medical advice should be sought before embarking on this journey.

During fasting, our body undergoes a metabolic shift, depleting glycogen stores and utilising stored fat for energy. Beyond the benefits of helping with weight management, this metabolic state triggers autophagy, a cellular process with immense potential for cancer control and improving general health. Autophagy acts as a cellular self-cleaning mechanism, clearing away damaged or malfunctioning cells. In the context of cancer, autophagy may aid in identifying and eliminating cancerous cells, inhibiting tumour growth, and potentially improving treatment outcomes.

When following fasting protocols, a remarkable shift occurs within the body after the 12th hour of fasting. As your body exhausts its readily available energy stores, it begins to rely on alternative energy sources, including stored fat. This metabolic switch activates autophagy, marking the start of a cellular rejuvenation process. By the 12th hour, the body’s cellular machinery is in full swing, breaking down and recycling damaged proteins and organelles, helping to cleanse and optimise cellular function.

Furthermore, fasting has been shown to have positive effects on the immune system. It can help regulate immune cell function and promote immune system rejuvenation. Fasting activates immune cells and promotes the clearance of damaged cells, thereby enhancing immune surveillance against cancerous cells.

Studies conducted on animal models, and some preliminary human studies, suggest that fasting or fasting-mimicking diets may promote certain regenerative processes. One such process is the activation of stem cells, which can lead to the production of new cells and potentially support tissue and organ regeneration.

In recent years, scientific research has revealed a fascinating connection between gut health and cancer. The trillions of bacteria residing in our digestive tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome, play a crucial role in maintaining our overall wellbeing. Let’s take a look at how the influence of gut health can affect cancer and explore the importance of a healthy gut microbiome in supporting the immune system. We will also discuss dietary strategies and lifestyle changes that can promote gut health and potentially reduce the risk of cancer.

Our gut is home to a complex ecosystem of microorganisms; including bacteria, viruses, and fungi; that collectively form the gut microbiome. These microorganisms coexist in a delicate balance, influencing various aspects of our health. Researchers have discovered that the gut microbiome not only aids in digestion and nutrient absorption but also plays a vital role in regulating our immune system.
Studies have revealed a strong link between an imbalanced gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, and the development of certain types of cancer. Chronic inflammation, compromised immune response, and alterations in DNA expression are some of the ways dysbiosis can contribute to cancer progression. Understanding and nurturing a healthy gut microbiome can potentially help prevent and even aid in the treatment of cancer.

Our immune system acts as the body’s defence mechanism against harmful pathogens and cancerous cells. A healthy gut microbiome supports immune function by promoting the production of immune cells, regulating inflammation, and enhancing the body’s ability to recognise and eliminate cancer cells.

Foundation for a healthy gut microbiome is a result of what we choose to put in our mouths. A mostly plant-based diet rich in fibre, antioxidants, and phytochemicals can nurture a diverse and beneficial gut microbiome. Fermented foods, prebiotics, and polyphenol-rich ingredients are all foods that can be consumed to help promote gut health.

Beyond diet, certain lifestyle factors can influence our gut microbiome and have a negative or beneficial effect on gut health. Lack of exercise, stress management, inadequate sleep, smoking, pharmaceutical and recreational drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, and environmental toxins can have serious negative effects on our gut health, immune system and cancer risk.

Supplementing the diet with probiotics and prebiotics has gained significant attention for its potential benefits in nurturing a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that can be consumed through certain foods or supplements. These beneficial microorganisms help maintain a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria and inhibiting the growth of harmful ones. They have been linked to various health benefits, including improved digestion, enhanced nutrient absorption, and a strengthened immune system. Probiotics can also help alleviate digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and diarrhoea.

In addition to probiotics, prebiotics also play a crucial role in supporting gut health. Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre that serves as food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. They are not digested by the human body, but instead reach the colon intact, where they stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics can be found in foods like onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and whole grains.

Fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotics. They undergo a natural fermentation process in which beneficial bacteria transform the sugars and carbohydrates in the food into organic acids, vitamins, and enzymes. Some popular fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso. Regular consumption of these foods can introduce a diverse range of beneficial bacteria into the gut, promoting a healthy gut microbiome.

Another popular beverage that has gained attention for its potential gut health benefits is kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented tea made by fermenting sweetened black or green tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The fermentation process produces probiotic-rich kombucha, which can support gut health and improve digestion. Kombucha is also rich in organic acids, enzymes, and antioxidants, providing additional health benefits such as detoxification, immune support, and improved liver function. Kombucha is an easy drink to make at home.

While probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods can contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, it’s important to note that individual responses may vary. What works for one person may not work the same way for another, so it’s advisable to listen to your body and experiment with different probiotic-rich foods to find what suits you best.

The connection between gut health, cancer prevention, and recovery is an intriguing area that continues to unfold. Cultivating a robust gut microbiome through dietary strategies and lifestyle modifications possesses significant potential in bolstering your immune system, enabling your body to proficiently combat cancer cells. By prioritising a healthy gut, you can enhance your immune response and promote optimal wellbeing, contributing to effective cancer prevention and facilitating a smoother recovery process.

Expressing gratitude before eating can be a powerful practice that goes beyond religious or spiritual beliefs. Taking a moment to say “Thank you for the nourishment I am about to receive” before a meal can help shift your mindset and enhance the healing process, particularly during a cancer journey. Here’s how this simple act can positively impact your relationship with food and promote healing:

  • Cultivating mindfulness: Saying a gratitude statement before eating encourages mindfulness and presence in the present moment. It brings your attention to the nourishing qualities of the food in front of you and helps you develop a deeper appreciation for the nutrients it provides. By being fully present, you can savour the flavours, textures, and aromas of your meal, enhancing the overall eating experience.
  • Focusing on the positive: Expressing gratitude directs your attention to the positive aspects of the food you are about to consume. Instead of dwelling on restrictions or limitations, it shifts your mindset towards the healing potential and beneficial effects the food can have on your body. This positive outlook can foster a sense of hope and empowerment, contributing to your overall wellbeing.
  • Enhancing healing intentions: When you express gratitude for the nourishment you are receiving, you are acknowledging the potential healing properties of the food. This conscious act can reinforce your intention to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to support the healing process during your cancer journey. By aligning your thoughts and intentions with the positive impact of the food, you create a sense of synergy between your mind, body, and the nourishment you consume.
  • Emotional and psychological wellbeing: Cancer journeys can be emotionally and mentally challenging. Practicing gratitude before eating can help cultivate a more positive emotional state and promote a sense of emotional wellbeing. Focusing on the good that the food will do within you can provide comfort, reassurance, and a sense of control over your health.

Remember, expressing gratitude before eating is a personal practice that can be adapted to suit your individual beliefs and preferences. Whether silently acknowledging your appreciation, or saying the words aloud, the intention behind the act is what matters most. Embracing gratitude as a part of your eating ritual can contribute to a holistic approach to healing and enhance your overall wellbeing during your cancer journey.

Choosing organic isn’t merely following a trend. Rather, it’s a commitment to provide your body with high-quality, nutrient-rich foods. Organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilisers, or genetically modified organisms, making it a healthier option, especially for individuals battling cancer.

There are several reasons why organic is a beneficial choice. Organic foods generally contain higher nutrient levels, including antioxidants – the natural compounds that help bolster your immune system and combat harmful free radicals.

When you choose organic, you minimise your exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals that could accumulate in your body over time and increase cancer risk.

However, we understand that organic food may not always be accessible or affordable for everyone. In such instances, there are still measures you can take to limit pesticide exposure.

One practical method is washing your fruits and vegetables in a solution of warm water and vinegar. The vinegar aids in removing any pesticide residues, ensuring your produce is safer to consume. Simply mix a cup of white vinegar in a basin of warm water, soak your fruits and vegetables for around 20 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly.

Ultimately, opting for organic when possible, and ensuring proper cleaning of produce when not, puts you in control. It’s about making the best possible choices to nourish your body, supporting your health, and tilting the odds in your favour in your fight against cancer.