The Ayurveda diet for cancer states that the body and its diseases are food products. Food is categorized as wholesome and unwholesome. Foods should be compatible with the body. Ayurveda lays great stress on the selection of food, it’s 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 that a natural diet guide emphasizes balancing the desire for food consumption and the associated digestive processes.
Ayurveda diet for cancer generally insists that dietary planning should be aligned with nature and environmental conditions. The 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, provides essential nutrients, and possess 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 specific to the individual’s age and disease-specific. These are to be aligned with an individual’s digestive system and metabolism.
Food, according to Ayurveda, comprises five basic elements—air, water, earth, fire, and ether. The three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—that I have described earlier are the biological derivatives of all things material, including food.
Twelve food categories are listed in Ayurveda. These are corn, wines, pulses, water, meat, milk, milk products, vegetables, sugar cane and related products, fruits, cooked products, greens, and food adjuvants.
Diet planning is nature-based, holistic, and personalized. It stems from the belief that the body has a self-healing capacity and that the body’s self-healing property occurs whenever disease afflicts it. The physician should not, therefore, prescribe either food or medicine or recommend any other intervention that impedes the body’s auto-healing process.
Diet planning is nature-based and holistic. It considers an individual’s lifestyle, diet, exercise, medication, and mental state. Individuals are different, and recommendations are aligned with the body and personality type of the individual.
A diet should be appropriate to the climate, season, patient’s condition, and digestive power, palatable, in the right quantity, and follow prescribed restrictions. The food should be appropriately cooked and processed, adaptable and appropriate to individual requirements, adequately potent and rich, and in accordance with the patient’s bowel habits, and mealtimes should be followed. Diet is aligned with an individual’s dosha.
According to Ayurveda, diet plays a role in keeping the mind healthy. They have classified three types of diet—Sattvik diet, which is vegetarian, nonoily, and nonspicy. Rajasik’s diet is spicy, hot, sour, and salty, and it excites the mind, while Tamasik’s diet is oily, heavy, and brings in lethargy.
There are contradictory diets that are indicated in Ayurveda. For instance, fish and fish products and milk, milk or milk products and alcohol, radish with milk, lotus stem with honey, or honey with clarified butter are not recommended to be taken together. This is not an inclusive list, and I recommend that readers consult an Ayurveda nutrition specialist before self-administering a diet.
The diet should be varied with the season. In spring, bitter, hot, and astringent diets are advised; salty, sour, and sweet food should be avoided during this season. Wheat, barley, honey, fruits (such as mango and jack fruit), and lean meat are recommended.
In summer, cooling foods and liquid, sweet, and oily foods are recommended, but the hot, spicy, sour, or salty diet should be avoided. Rice, milk, clarified butter, sugar, grapes, coconut water, and lean meat are recommended foods.
During the rainy season, sweet, sour, and salty foods that are hot, dry, fatty, and easily digestible are recommended. Preserved rice, wheat, barley, and mutton are advised this season.
In winter, the recommended food is hot, sweet, sour, and salty. Milk, sugarcane, rice, oils, and fats are commonly advised food. In autumn, clarified butter with bitter, pungent, and light diet is recommended. They also recommend purgation in this season.
Cancer is a debilitating disease. Nutrition management is an important part of cancer management. A diet that will help restore the body to a reasonable shape as soon as possible is recommended. Therefore, they recommend a low-fat but nutrition-rich diet. The focus is on fruit and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants. Cancer patients are advised to avoid refined sugars and foods containing additives. Organic food should be eaten, and the patient should avoid overeating.
Ayurveda specialists advise abstinence from foods that cause an imbalance between the three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. They recommend nutraceuticals that help improve the digestive functions of the body. Normally, Triphala, a combination of Terminalia bellerica, Terminalia chebula, and Embilica officinalis, is prescribed. It is said to tone digestive functions.
The Ayurveda natural diet guide is associated with the dosha type. Vata-type people should eat cooked, warm foods, take spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and ginger in food, and stay away from icy drinks. They should eat sweet berries, fruits, small beans, rice, nuts, and dairy products. Moderate exercise and meditative yoga are good for such people.
Pitta people should avoid alcohol and tobacco. Fresh vegetables, juicy fruits (such as cherries, mango, cucumber, and watermelon), salads, and greens should be eaten. Kapha individuals should take light, warm food, spices, ginger, chillis, etc.
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 require 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.
Weight loss, fatigue, and low immunity are common problems people face with cancer. The selection of foods with the appropriate quantity and type of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and micronutrients lies at the heart of the nutrition management of cancer patients.
Foods are known to build and maintain a strong and healthy immune system. Foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, squashes, and tomatoes are rich in carotenoids, converted to Vitamin A by the body.
Bananas, baked potatoes, chickpeas, certain types of fish (e.g., tuna), and lean chicken are rich in Vitamin B6. Citrus fruits, strawberries, guava, leafy vegetables, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach are a source of Vitamin C.
Cereals, milk, and fatty fish have high levels of Vitamin D. At the same time, almonds, broccoli, hazelnuts, spinach, and sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E. Beans, peas, and leafy green vegetables are rich in folic acid. In contrast, poultry, seafood, beans, broccoli, and kale are good sources of iron.
Selenium is found in barley, broccoli, garlic, sardines, tuna, and zinc in chickpeas, baked beans, lean meat, poultry, yogurt, and crabs. Vitamins and minerals are critical to building the immune system, which helps the body fight infections and disease.
Modern-day dietitians look at diet and nutrition for cancer patients and survivors in not too dissimilar terms as ancient medicine systems.
The demand for energy in cancer patients is particularly high. Cancer patients lose much weight due to the loss of muscle and stored body fat. Patients must choose foods that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. These are found in vegetable oils (such as olive, peanut, canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, and flaxseed) and seafood.
Saturated fats are to be avoided. These can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Foods to avoid include meat, poultry, milk, cheese, butter, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and palm oil. Trans-fat-containing foods such as margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and animal products are not recommended. Trans fats increase the bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol.
Carbohydrates meet the immediate need for energy. The best source of carbohydrates are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These also contain vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients. Foods containing insoluble fiber are highly recommended. These help in easy stool evacuation, a problem often faced by cancer patients.
Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine systems diets are more personalized. At the end of the day, if you keep the basic principles of diet for cancer patients in view and stick to what works best for you, then you are good.