Cancer diet, dietary planning, and dietary therapy are all critical to cancer management. Most cancers are triggered by lifestyle. Cancers are therefore categorized as lifestyle diseases. The following are the listed risk factors for cancers (Understanding Cancer Risk):

  • Older age
  • A personal or family history of cancer
  • Using tobacco
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol
  • Some types of viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Specific chemicals
  • Exposure to radiation, including ultraviolet radiation from the sun

As you see from the list above, some things are within your control while others are outside your control. Let me explain this a bit further. Just because someone in your family has had cancer or that you possess cancer-causing genes does not mean that you are destined to get cancer. These genes need to be triggered to start proliferating uncontrollably, causing cancer. Many of the triggers are under our control.

Ayurveda and TCM philosophy emphasizes more on preventive healing rather than treatment. They both focus on nutrition, food, and psychotherapeutic aspects of recovery. Cancer diet and diet therapy are important components of Ayurveda, TCM and Tibetan Medicine management of cancers. From the standpoint of the natural solution, my research informs me that an individual can do the following at his end as prophylactic against cancer:

  1. Add a good measure of fruit and vegetables to your diet. These are rich in antioxidants and will neutralize oxidants regularly produced as the body grows and interacts with oxidants we get from the environment.
  2. Sleep 7–9 hours a day. This will reduce stress and keep you rested and active throughout the rest of the day. Focus is one of the triggers for cancers.
  3. Exercise regularly. My preference is yoga, tai chi, gi gong, meditation, walking, sport, and jogging.

In Ayurveda, the body and its diseases are products of food. Food is categorized as wholesome and unwholesome. Foods should be compatible with the body. Ayurveda lays great stress on the selection of food. It is processing and cooking and has defined rules for healthy eating. They also believe that the processes of nutrition are accomplished only when the inner biological fire system (Agni) and the inner transport system (srotasmi) are in order. I would interpret this to mean an emphasis on balance between the desire for food consumption and the associated digestive processes.

Ayurveda insists that dietary planning should be aligned with nature and environmental conditions. Diet should be in tune with the individual personality (Prakriti), adverse personality traits (Vikriti), dosha, and body type.

Dietary supplements for the restoration of the body from the disease are also used in Ayurveda. Supplement treatment is called Rasayana therapy. Rasayanas are essential nutraceuticals. This help builds the immune system, maintain mineral bio balance, provide essential nutrients, and possesses anti-aging properties.

Ayurvedic nutraceuticals or rasayanas could be tissue- and organ-specific. Thus, there are specific nutraceuticals for the heart, skin, brain, etc. They are also particular to the individual’s age and are disease-specific. These are to be aligned with an individual’s digestive system and metabolism.

After chemotherapy or radiotherapy, a protein-rich diet becomes critical. Proteins are required to repair body tissue and keep the immune system healthy. Cancer patients need more protein than normal people to offset the damage caused by the disease and the effects of the cancer treatment medication.

Ayurveda practitioners and nutritionists in oncology hospitals recommend a diet rich in nuts, nut butter, beans, peas, lentils, fish, poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy products, etc. Modifications based on an individual’s dosha type are made while recommending a diet to a cancer patient.

Given the hesitation of oncologists in accepting Ayurveda interventions in patient management, diet recommendations based on Ayurveda principles are practically restricted to patients coming to Ayurveda hospitals. However, these systems provide interesting concepts and can be incorporated by modern nutritionists.

Chinese medicine also looks at health and treatment holistically. Diet is central to its philosophy. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), health problems are outcomes of imbalances in our diet. Diet, a combination of herbs and food, is the first option to treat an ailment. It illustrates the importance given to diet therapy in ancient herbal medicine systems. A cancer diet is an important component of TCM treatments.

Unlike the Hindu concept of healthcare described in Ayurveda, which focuses on vegetarianism, small amounts of animal and seafood protein with substantial quantities of grain and vegetables are recommended in Chinese cuisines. Excess of any food type is frowned upon in this system. The emphasis, here, too, is on balance.

The balance between Yin and Yang is emphasized in TCM and Tibetan medicine. Dietary therapy helps to balance Yin and Yang and nourish the life energy—qi—and blood. It helps restore the smooth functioning of organs and the meridians. (Meridians are pathways in the body through which qi flows). The disease is said to be caused when there is a blockage in the meridians, and the energy flow to various organs is impeded.

Food has four properties. These are also referred to as energies of food—cold, cool, warm, and hot. There is another category—neutral foods with no energetic temperature. Cold/cool foods such as watermelon and salad greens are said to clear heat and fire in the body, cooling the blood and eliminating toxins.

Warm and hot foods are garlic, chicken, etc. These strengthen Yang, invigorate blood, and eliminate colds. Neutral foods are bridges or harmonizers and help bring balance to the body. Warm and hot foods are recommended when an individual suffers from a cold-induced condition; cold and raw foods should be avoided. The reverse recommendation is made when heat-induced conditions prevail in the body.

Each food is associated with a meridian and an organ. TCM believes that ailment conditions are treated with food appropriate to a specific meridian and its associated organs. The emphasis is on recommending the right food, which will help restore any imbalance in the body. This further illustrates the importance given to cancer diet in this system.

Alcohol, sugar, and greasy fried foods are regarded as bad. These are Yang foods. When consumed in excess, they deplete the Yin. In TCM, as in Ayurveda, dietary recommendations relate to the seasons.

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