〰️ Let Food Be Thy Medicine 〰️
AND MEDICINE BE THY FOOD…
I have always eaten well. I has always been healthy, and thought about what I put in my body. Always making sure I have a good balance of food groups, had enough vitamins, didn’t eat too much crap. On the rare occasion I had fast food I’d make sure I ate a salad the day after to make me feel better about my dirty life decisions. I have also suffered with IBS for at least 7 years, so I have tried cutting out and reintroducing different food groups to no avail over this time. I picked up on a few trigger foods but nothing substantial so I’ve just tried to eat intuitively, listening to my body and knowing when I did and didn’t want certain foods, and this worked well for me most of the time.
After being diagnosed with cancer, a friend sent me the link to Fork over Knives and I watched it straight away. From there I got lost in a rabbit hole of nutritional documentaries and articles for a few weeks. I came across loads of information about using food as medicence and the best way to treat disease that was echoed from one website to the next. Very few things conflicted and the message was the same across the board; vegan, plant based, alkaline, no sugar was the best way to tackle any disease. Had I watched all of this before my diagnosis, my response would have been very different. I would have been interested in the evidence, and I would have wished I could have done it, but then I would think about chicken, and cheese, and cups of tea and it would be short lived. Now with cancer, I’ll try anything that might help, especially if its tried and tested.
I have always been a believer in natural medicine being better than a ton of chemicals being pumped into your body and have never been one to take conventional medicine if I can avoid it, always preferring a natural route. Whilst I will definitely agree that cancer is a different ball came and I am not suggesting that some carrots and kale are the only things you need to cure Cancer, I am definitely of the mind that the earth grows everything you need to keep you healthy and well.
After researching all I did, I instantly got rid of anything that wasn’t good for me and went cold turkey on all the badness. I haven’t eaten a single bit of meat or dairy since, nor have I consciously consumed any refined sugar (this is so much harder because it is actually in EVERYTHING so I might have been victim to this without my knowledge!)
Now, I know there are a lot of people that don’t believe in any of this (doctors included) and I completely respect that. There is a also a lot of people who take the view that when you are living with an illness like this why would you deprive yourself of something that you love and enjoy when there is enough shit going on and it is not clinically ‘proven’. But for me it was an easy choice, and using food as medicine is the oldest form of health care, and is in fact what modern medicine is based on, and is still used today in some cultures as a first line treatment.
There is substantial evidence to prove that certain foods promote cancer growth or help heal cancer, and many other diseases. There is also a significant amount of evidence and studies to prove the benefits of things like turmeric, cannabis oil and all the other “quack” ideas that a lot people don’t want to pay attention to. I am not saying that taking a turmeric tablet a day is going to get rid of your cancer, nor am I am expert on any of this but I have extensively researched and learned this subject over the last 6 months, and have read factual evidence so I wouldn’t be doing it if I want convinced. My feeling is, if there is any evidence to support it, and it’s natural, then trying it isn’t going to do any harm. To be honest if someone told me to hop on one leg with straws up my nose for 20 minutes a day I’d probably do it if it was going to help. I am still very much learning all of this but I have written a little bit below to try and explain why a plant based diet helps with disease. I am going to continue doing blog posts on more specific things that I am doing, certain foods and diets, but for now this is just a snapshot, so this blog post doesn’t become war and peace!
VEGAN / PLANT BASED / CLEAN EATING…
All the above are slightly different, but the overarching theme is the same. Some vegans eat processed foods, plant based and clean eating people eat some animal products for example, but generally the message for all is the same, fresh, whole foods, avoiding anything processed and refined is best for your health. Being plant based for me has been much more of a lifestyle change rather than just a dietary change and I felt huge health benefits instantly.
MEAT & DAIRY…
The issue with animal produce is two fold. Firstly the farming industry is not what it was 50 years ago, so when your grandparents tell you they’ve eaten meat their whole lives and they are fine…this is irrelevant. Yes eating grass fed organic produce is better, for environment and for your health, than ordinary farmed meat and dairy, but the cost of organic grass fed produce is not an option for a lot of us.
Mass production of factory-farmed animal products for one, don’t take into account the welfare of either the animals or us as consumers. The impact that industrialised livestock and dairy production has on the ecosystem is now also becoming apparent. These industries alone as responsible for at least a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions therefore contributing highly to the climate change crisis. There are recent conversations regarding the impact of harvesting crops, and some arguing that this is just as bad, however the figures just don’t seem to stack up, and more importantly even if the effect on the environment was the same, it would still be less dead animals (bonus!) and we wouldn’t be eating meat pumped with chemicals, just lovely fresh vegetables (double bonus!)
Conventional meat and dairy is also produced using a ton of anitbiotics, and added hormones which help increase production and give you those big ‘ol juicy (unnatural) chicken breasts. (Side Note : Even ‘free range’ farms sometimes use these, so it is worth checking they are ‘hormone, antibiotic free’) Considering I don’t take antibiotics because I don’t like the idea of chemicals in my body, and because I have a hormone driven cancer, it seemed like an obvious choice for me to cut out.
Secondly, meat is highly inflammatory and most disease if essentially inflammation in the body. In short is doesn’t make sense to eat highly inflammatory foods when you already have a lot of inflammation going on already.
My first thought in beginning to cut out meat and dairy was worrying about missing out on key nutrients from meat, dairy etc, and this is the first thing that people come back at me with when discussing my diet. We are taught to believe that we need these things to get the vitamins, milk and cheese are you source of calcium, protein from chicken, iron from red meat. Well, I am here to tell you that it is all nonsense. I will probably go in to this in more detail in the future, about daily allowance etc, but for now, just a few myths debunked below to start the ball rolling!
1 lean steak = 4 mg
1 cup of lentils = 6.5 mg
1 cup of spinach = 6 mg
1 cup of black beans = 3.6mg
1 tablespoon of spirulina = 4mg
1 cup milk = 300mg
1 cup rocket = 125mg
1 cup kale = 90.5mg
1 cup Spinach = 240mg
1 cup broccoli = 180mg
Also – calcium is best absorbed when consumed with magnesium so actually you get the benefits of calcium more if you eat something like spinach, almonds or one of the above with swiss chard, black beans or anything else high in magnesium.
3 ounce chicken = 21g
1 cup lentils = 18g
1 cup black beans = 15 grams
1 cup almonds = 20g
SUGAR & PROCESSED FOODS…
There is overwhelming evidence to prove that sugar promotes cancer growth. Fructose and corn syrup have been shown to increase the risk of various cancers and in particular in the growth/spread of tumors and metastasis.
Sugar is in EVERYTHING in some form or another so it can be really tricky to cut out, but even just limiting your sugar intake to natural sugar is better than nothing. Luckily corn syrup is not approved for use in the UK so we are free from that evil, but refined sugar is still very much used. Basically, refined sugar is extracted from the sugar cane or sugar beets and then added to everything from cakes to tomato sauce, to even salad dressing, and even more so in low fat foods to add flavor that is missing from removing all that good healthy fat!
Natural sugars found in fruits, although healthy and full of fibre, vitamins and minerals, are still not great for cancer, as your body will use whatever sugar you give it for energy. Having said that, berries and apples, are loaded with antioxidants which can actually help cancer….confused yet??…so sticking to these as your bit of sweetness is ideal if you tackling a disease.
Processed and refined foods in general are more difficult to digest, full of calories and suagr, and they are sparse in nutrients so essentially they are pointless for our health. This includes wheat flour, wheat, soy, corn….and anything that is made by man. All of these things can also be subject to use of pesticides, GMO’s and heavy metals, so again just better to stay away from as much as possible.
The way I think about it is, if someone gave me those chemicals, pesticides or antibiotics on a plate would I eat them…definitely not…so why eat them by proxy through a piece of meat or a cake??
Some other nasty chemicals to be aware off;
Pesticides & Herbicides
Modern day farming practices use various pesticides and herbicides to kill incests on crops, or weeds that might ‘compete’ with the growth of crops. These are obviously harmful to us, there is not question of that, and the only way to try and avoid this is to eat organic or grow your own. Otherwise make sure you wash everything thoroughly!!
This is generally found in fag smoke, and used to make plastic, but its also found in loads of starchy foods, bread, crackers, cakes and produced in potatoes when cooked for long periods of times and at high temperatures.
Things such as emulsifiers that are added to milk, dairy products, processed meat, some bread have been shown to have an effect on tumor development. The reason these are bad for you is because they change the composition of your gut and therefore weaken you immune system, increase inflammation, and harmful gene expression. These are also in a lot of beauty products, but that’s for another post.
So this went on for a bit, but to be honest it is merely scratching the surface. It is clear that we as westerners eat too much packaged, processed food. It may not be 100% proven to be bad for you yet, but honestly this kind of food only appeared on our shelves in the 50’s, so 50 odd years is probably not enough time to measure this. But disease rates have increased substantially, as have obesity rates in the last 50 years, so by process of elimination there isnt much else it can be right? Our lives as westerners, eating toxic processed food, and using chemicals on our skin, in our food, in our clothes in the air has, in my mind has no doubt got something to do with it.
This kind of eating certainly isn’t something that everyone can or will want to stick to, but I would highly recommend trying to cut down on animal products and refined and processed foods and try and eat fresh organic plants as much as possible, even if it just for a few more meals a week! My health has dramatically improved in the last 6 months. My energy levels are unlike anything I have known, and my IBS is a thing of the past, and I am on chemotherapy! I have also lost weight which was a bonus!
All that being said; each to their own, do what your comfortable with. I am not preaching about anything, I was a meat eating dairy lover 6 months ago, I am purely sharing my experience and thoughts!