Lifestyle Oncology Learning Academy
Where treatment ends, lifestyle is the new beginning. Lifestyle Oncology Learning Academy (LOLA) is my multi-faceted sandbox for learning and maintaining an anti-cancer lifestyle through management of the 3M’s: Metabolism, Malnutrition and Mayhem.
Most of us associate malnutrition with developing countries, but in western society we seem to have managed to evolve our diet into self-selected malnutrition as a default. Malnutrition is not just hunger: it is a lack of nutrients. Also known as empty calories. In the past I had such free choice of healthy food available but often chose to please my palate at the expense of my health. Salad isn’t garnish, I can actually eat it: in fact, on hindsight, I think I should more often have ordered the garnish as the main event! I considered my diet to be *reasonably* healthy but not compared to my standards now. Every meal is an opportunity to nourish the body so I always make sure I’m actually eating food, not junk. I don’t trust my tastebuds as the receptionists of my body, they often give bad advice! Junk food satisfies the appetite too easily but gives us nothing back in terms of health. It’s lottery ticket mentality instead of sound investment. We wouldn’t put diesel in a petrol fueled car so why not start treating our bodies the same?
I studied a Professional Certificate in Nutrition and Disease, Plant-based nutrition as well as the Human Microbiome. From many research studies, it’s becoming more apparent there is a clear connection between nutrition and disease, including cancer – I mean, why wouldn’t there be?! We knew we could cure scurvy with foods rich in vitamin C so why wouldn’t other foods have an impact at a cellular level? Food has the power to switch genes on and off so even if you have a genetic predisposition for a particular disease, this risk can be reduced by eating healthy foods. What I like best about nutrition is that it gives me a way to have some control of my health. I think that’s all most people want after a cancer diagnosis really. I’m going to have a good try anyway!
In the field of nutrition, an important discovery for me was the whole-grain plant based diet: Dr T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and Dr Michael Greger’s ‘How not to Die‘ and the nutritionfacts.org website; a treasure trove of information (and there’s a book title which grabs your attention!) The videos on there are nothing short of genius! Unfortunately *watching* the videos will not improve my health, I actually have to *eat the healthy foods* suggested! There is a mobile phone app: Daily Dozen which has helped to keep me on track with this as it is so easy to forget what a healthy day’s food intake looks like when you’re busy. This app has made me realise that my habits slip a bit more at the weekend when I’m not in a daily routine. I’m not too concerned about this as I know I have formed some really healthy habits over all. It’s the cumulative effect which is important in terms of nutrients. Over time, I’m also learning how to pack in the nutrients with each meal. Here is an example of a typical day for me:
Breakfast: Porridge oats or muesli, milled flaxseed, dried goji berries and/or fresh blueberries, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, chopped mixed nuts.
Lunch: Mixed salad vegan Buddha bowl
Tea/Dinner: tofu/soya curry or veg/bean stew or Thai stir fry
Snacks: olives, crudite veg sticks, hummus, dried apricots, dried mulberries, almonds, walnuts, dark chocolate, fresh berries and fruit
WCRF have some great healthy snack alternative suggestions
Drinks: Coffee with non-dairy milk, 3 cups of green tea (see also matcha) dandelion root tea, chamomile tea, alcohol-free beer or alcohol-free red wine and *water*
I follow a whole-grain plant based diet but I believe there are some takeaways from the keto diet which work synergistically with the whole-grain plant based diet:
– Avoid high Glycemic Index and refined/processed food
– Increase healthy fats: nuts & seeds, hemp, chia, flax (omega 3), olive oil
– Intermittent fasting: (Nightly fasting for more than 13 hours has been associated with reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence in vivo).
Some people are concerned about protein intake when reducing or eliminating animal product consumption. Here are some suggestions for plant-based proteins. The following website is an excellent resource for health professionals and individuals.
Cruciferous vegetables (for example; broccoli, cauliflower) are important for creating an anti-breast-cancer environment and may also help with cancer treatment-related menopause side-effects and fatigue. This study demonstrates the impact of sulphoraphane (a component of cruciferous vegetables) in relation to endocrine resistance. Confirmation that eating broccoli results in bioavailability in the breast tissue is explained here at Nutritionfacts.org. Similarly, increasing intake of legumes (soya, beans and lentils) is associated with risk reduction. This is explained in a user-friendly fashion here at Nutritionfacts.org. A daily helping of ground flaxseed is also considered healthy for risk reduction, explained nicely here at Nutritionfacts.org.
I chatted with a friend about whether we should eat nightshades or not. Tomatoes (especially cooked) are rich in lycopene which is a valuable nutrient outweighing any negative trace elements. The poor humble potato which we know and love is rich in vitamins but it’s also a starchy carbohydrate. I wouldn’t be adverse to a small portion occasionally or a few fries/chips but I don’t want the increased glucose surge in my bloodstream habitually. Potatoes are linked to type 2 diabetes which is a cardio-metabolic disease, so I reduce consumption of them. If I make mash with potato I often mix them with sweet potato, carrot, swede and/or butternut squash to add moisture (and extra nutrients) without the higher Glycemic Index. A common problem with potatoes is that they usually get cooked in an unhealthy fashion (deep frying) or have butter or margarine mashed into them to make them palatable. Perhaps this could be a confounding factor which gives the potato a bad reputation rather than the potato itself.
We’ve moved beyond antioxidants now in terms of research and polyphenols & flavonoids & catchetins are being researched as anti-cancer agents and these are really easy to combine into my everyday eating habits. The following research article gives a nice summary of foods in each polyphenol category and in what food source you can find them. Here is a user friendly summary of polyphenols and flavanoids from Nutritionfacts.org. Polyphenols in herbs are also demonstrating anti-cancer effects in vitro and in vivo.
Green tea and Oolong tea have positive research for having anti cancer properties and taste great too. I drink green tea with jasmine which has a nice natural, floral sweetness or Oolong tea with a splash of plant based milk.
LDL cholestrol has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer recurrence. A whole-grain plant based diet keeps this in check which explained further here at Nutritionfacts.org. Here is further advice on reducing cholestrol from the NHS. It’s always advisable to avoid hydrogenated trans-fats as these have been linked to high LDL cholesterol and inflammation.
A research study suggests a link between decreased GLA and EPA fatty acids in Inflammatory Breast Cancer breast adipose (fat) tissue. I take supplements for these to ensure I don’t risk having this deficiecy. GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid) can be found in evening primrose oil, blackcurrant seed oil, starflower/borage seed oil, hemp seed oil, and also in edible hemp seeds, oats, barley and spirulina. EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) can be found in algae oil, seaweed, nuts, sunflower seeds. More info here.
The supplements which are generally recommended are vitamin B12 for vegans, vitamin D for all during the winter months and folic acid during pregnancy. It’s always preferable to get all nutrients from a balanced diet. If you’re on a tight budget then consider frozen fruit and vegetables which are still healthy.
A 2020 publication cautions against dairy for breast cancer. I haven’t had any dairy products since my diagnosis in March 2017. I will never eat or drink dairy products again. This is my personal choice. Diets high in saturated fats from animal products also increase cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. After cancer treatment there is an increased risk of heart damage so avoiding or reducing animal products is beneficial. For help with reducing animal products and increasing plant foods, this app is very useful: 21 day kickstart
For getting to grips with even more nutritional information, specific to breast cancer, the following website maintains a staggering collection of research papers: foodforbreastcancer. This website has certainly helped me to make evidence based decisions. I don’t expect anyone to tell me what I should or shouldn’t eat but I think if evidence is provided I can make better informed choices.
Prolonged Nightly Fasting and Breast Cancer Prognosis
Dairy, soy, and risk of breast cancer: those confounded milkshttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32095830/
Natural anti-clotting foods
Natural Compounds as Modulators of Cell Cycle Arrest: Application for Anticancer Chemotherapies
The Effect of Flaxseed in Breast Cancer: A Literature Review
Intake of bean fiber, beans, and grains and reduced risk of hormone receptor‐negative breast cancer: the San Francisco Bay Area Breast Cancer Study
Common Beans and Their Non-Digestible Fraction: Cancer Inhibitory Activity
Natural compound found in broccoli reawakens the function of potent tumor suppressor
Dietary intake of soy and cruciferous vegetables and treatment-related symptoms in Chinese-American and non-Hispanic White breast cancer survivors.
MediterrAsian Diet Products That Could Raise HDL-Cholestrol: A Systematic Review
Comparative efficacy of extracts from Lycium barbarum bark and fruit on estrogen receptor positive human mammary carcinoma MCF-7 cells.
Why Is Water Important? 16 Reasons to Drink Up
Hollman PC. Unravelling of the health effects of polyphenols is a complex puzzle complicated by metabolism. Arch Biochem Biophys 2014;559:100-105
Mozaffarian D, Wu JHY. Flavonoids, dairy foods, and cardiovascular and metabolic health: a review of emerging biologic pathways. Circ Res 2018;122:369-384
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)
Ludwig DS, Willett WC, Volke JS, Neuhouser ML. Dietary fat: From foe to friend? Science 2018;362:764-770
Hu FB, Willett WC. Current and future landscape of nutritional epidemiologic research. JAMA 2018 Oct 31
Antimetabolic Effects of Polyphenols in Breast Cancer Cells: Focus on Glucose Uptake and Metabolism
Epidemiological Evidences on Dietary Flavonoids and Breast Cancer Risk: A Narrative Review
Polyphenols: food sources and bioavailability
Suppressive Effects of Tea Catechins on Breast Cancer
Pink Lotus_Dr Kristi Funk research:
Magnesium and Calcium: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4759402/
Lycopene and beta-carotene induce cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis in human breast cancer cell lines.
Matcha green tea (MGT) inhibits the propagation of cancer stem cells (CSCs), by targeting mitochondrial metabolism, glycolysis and multiple cell signalling pathways
Killer Tomatoes and Poisonous Potatoes?
Impact of pre-diagnostic triglycerides and HDL-cholesterol on breast cancer recurrence and survival by breast cancer subtypes
Dietary acrylamide intake and risk of breast cancer: The Japan Public Health Center‐based Prospective Study
LDL-cholesterol signaling induces breast cancer proliferation and invasion
Walnuts Have Potential for Cancer Prevention and Treatment in Mice
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I do not claim that anything which worked for me would work the same for you. This blog is no substitute for the advice of your doctor. Always seek medical advice if you have any concerns. Always check with your consultant before taking any supplements. This blog is my personal journey and a journal of how I coped. I do not take any financial incentives from any products mentioned.