Cancer is now the fourth leading cause of death in India. So the most pressing question today is — what are you doing to lower your risk? In FOOD MATTERS: The Role Your Diet Plays in the Fight Against Cancer, author Dr Shubham Pant asks readers to ‘focus on the mundane solutions’.
Oncologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, Dr Pant recommends eating a good diet, staying a healthy weight and considering other lifestyle interventions to keep cancer at bay. Citing case studies in the book, Dr Pant also suggests how patients diagnosed with and recovering from cancer can best manage their nutritional needs.
Dr Pant, who is an associate professor in the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics and the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology at the University, shares his inspirations for the book. “Since my early days in practice, I was always interested in the interplay of diet and cancer. Patients from India and of Indian origin always asked me what they could eat during therapy and I noticed there was a paucity of data for the Indian palate. When I started writing and researching the book, I realised that there was a lot of misinformation on cancer prevention and how to stay healthy during and after cancer therapy. The book aims to address these issues in a data-driven approach but is written with real world examples and so that anyone can read and understand nuances when it comes to diet and cancer,” he says.
FOOD MATTERS discusses how to cut through the background noise and focus on a healthy diet and stop being impacted by food fads. The book also discussed what patients can eat to better deal with side effects during and after cancer therapy.
Dr Pant, who spent approximately two years researching before he started writing the book, says he felt that to write a book on an important subject such as cancer, he needed to have data from reliable sources. “I relied on peer-reviewed articles, which were published in well-respected journals and data from organisations that had done exemplary work in the field,” he adds.
The doctor points out that there is a paucity of reliable sources with many of the articles focusing on individual ‘miracle foods’ without looking at what we eat as a whole. “I read a lot of research articles and distilled the information into an easy to read format without taking the science out of it,” elaborates Dr Pant. “We have one hundred and seventy six references in the book. I also felt that the stories needed to be told from a survivor’s view point and I was lucky enough to connect with amazing cancer survivors who were kind enough to let me share their stories.”
Constipation & cancer
Constipation is a frequent side-effect in cancer patients and is a source of great discomfort, which can lead to belly pain, swelling, bloating, gas and even nausea. In general, constipation occurs as the stool takes a longer time to travel through the large intestine (also known as the colon), which allows more water to be absorbed, leading to hard, dry stool. Interestingly, one can have constipation and diarrhoea at the same time as liquid stool can pass behind the obstructing solid stool. Medicines such as morphine (belonging to a class of medicines called opioids) bind to receptors in the gastrointestinal system and slow down the transit time in the gut, leading to constipation. Below are a few recommendations that can help with constipation:
Eating high-fibre foods, such as whole-wheat chapati, wholegrain and bran breads/cereals, oats, fruits, vegetables, prunes, lentils, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds in meals and snacks daily can help prevent constipation. However, remember that the increase in fibre should be gradual and not sudden.
Speaking of fibre
Soluble fibre absorbs water, making stool softer and improving its form and consistency, which makes it easier to pass through your intestines. Examples include oats, apples, beans and peas.
Insoluble fibre adds bulk to the stool, easing its passage through the intestines, and can help in the movement of material through the digestive system. It also helps expel stool rapidly. Examples include the skin of fruits, whole wheat flour and brown rice.
Other factors that ease out constipation
Patients with constipation should have a goal of eight cups of total fluids each day. Try warm water and prune juice. Avoid foods and drinks that cause gas, such as cabbage and carbonated beverages.
Avoid chewing gum. Above all, it is important to exercise and stay active as this can help movement of food in the gut.