Have you ever wanted to punch your doctor in the nose?
not literally in the face, but for a moment, the thought has crossed my mind.
Why you ask?
Because he forgot one of the most important rules when dealing with a health crisis: Food really, REALLY matters.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I
received my first cancer diagnoses. At
the time, I had never had more than the flu, so I did what any frightened, naive person would when told terrifying information; I panicked.
And what is the first thing a girl (or this girl) does in peril? I went home and headed straight for the fridge.
Brownies always make things better. And cookies. And hot coco with the little marshmallows. I ate my feelings. I ate my fears and my longing for a normal life. I ate until I wanted to throw up, then I ate a little more. Has this ever happen to you?
As I dragged my bloated, sluggish body back to the oncologist the next day, confessing the sins of the evening and swearing off sugar forever he said, “Relax! Nutrition has nothing to do with disease anyway. If it makes you feel better, knock yourself out and eat whatever you want.”
Talk about a free pass. I took his words and ran out the office door to the nearest In-and-Out for some Animal fries.
As the days progressed and I was about to start treatments, I found myself feeling worse and worse. I didn’t normally eat this poorly, but felt cancer was a perfectly legitimate reason to binge. After doing some of my own research, I discovered that I was very wrong.
Here is what I found out:
1. Cancer cells feed off of sugar. Processed sugar, such as refined or white sugar, is one of the primary driving forces behind the growth and spread of cancer tumors.
2. Synthetic trans fats, common in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil such as crackers, chips, most store bought baked goods and fried foods, can interfere with enzymes your body uses to fight cancer, decrease immune function/response and block insulin receptors.
3. Artificial colors like Red #40 have accelerated the appearance of immune system tumors in mice and Blue #2 was linked to brain tumors.
4. Preserves such as Sodium nitrite, commonly used in hot dogs, deli meats and bacon, has been linked to higher rates of colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancers (as if my original diagnosis wasn’t bad enough).
But if eating my problems wasn’t the answer to solving them, what was? The answer was two pronged.
First, I needed to process what was happening to me, not through food but by writing, crying, whining, then looking at what I needed to learn from this experience. Then, I discovered that clean eating is the best eating. When we are sick, everything can be overwhelming so keep it simple and remember, the closer food is to nature, the better. Think organic, fresh, local if possible. If it has a list of ingredients with more than two or three items, move on. Also, clean eating makes us feel better emotionally which I definitely needed.
Second, light to moderate exercise may be a key component in successful cancer prevention and treatment. It can also reduce reoccurrence and speed up recovery. One study showed breast and colon cancer patients who exercise regularly have half the recurrence rate than non- exercisers as well as less treatment side effects like depression, anxiety, fatigue, range of movement, pain, appetite loss and bone density.
Armed with my not so sexy but informative research, I smugly handed it over to my doctor during my follow up visit. After a quick review he handed it back and said it was interesting but he still didn’t think it made a difference.
That was the day I realized that doctor’s call it a ‘practice’ for a reason. They don’t have all the answers and we shouldn’t expect them too. We need to take in all the information we get, and do what resonates. I knew how much better I felt when I ate healthy and exercised regularly when I was well, why would it not work when I wasn’t?
Violence wasn’t the answer (so there would be no punching during my visit) but a clean diet and a little exercise was. If our insides are happy, our overall wellbeing will follow, which just may save our life.
Is there a go-to comfort food that you can switch out for healthier version to make your insides happier? Let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!