Surviving Cancer

Autumn country - woman walk dog in meadowSUSIE YOUNG, R.D.  |  OCTOBER 1, 2014

The word “cancer” experienced during a doctor visit is frightening, and the subsequent treatment truly changes a person forever. As a registered dietitian, I have patients ask me if specific diets or supplements “will cure their cancer.”  Below, I will list three common traits that are consistent among cancer patients who seem to do the best during treatment and who recover quickly once treatment has finished.

The most successful survivors I have seen follow three lifestyle patterns. Their success does not depend on the type of cancer, gender, stage of disease, or age – but rather the consistent pattern of these three things; decreasing stress, expanding diet variety and increasing fruits and vegetables, and exercising on a daily basis

1.  Decreasing stress – Successful patients will do two things to decrease stress; surround themselves with loving and supportive people and practice meditation and/or relaxation. This does not mean patients become dependent on others. Instead, they spend time with friends and family members who offer support, love, and respect. They also find time to relax and decompress every day. This mindfulness may just be 5 minutes of watching the birds out of your kitchen window: the key is to find the time to stop – and focus – on what is right in front of you.

2.  Increase variety of diet and eat more fruits and vegetables – The most successful patients eat a minimum of 5 vegetables and 2 fruits per day. There is always an ongoing debate about juicing or eating only vegetables and avoiding fruit due to its sugar content. The argument for either diet plan is unproven and can cause nutrient deficiencies and stress (see point #1). A far better way to eat is to include variety – eat broccoli, mushrooms, onions, berries, bananas, apples, melons, cabbage, Swiss chard, beets, potatoes – yeah, you get the picture. Eat it all, and if you want to become obsessive focus on adding variety. This rule is true for protein sources, dairy products, and whole grains. Eat it all and don’t feel guilty or create more stress.

3.  Complete some type of exercise on a daily basis, even if the exercise lasts 5 or 10 minutes. Exercise boosts the immune system, stabilizes blood sugars, maintains muscle mass, provides a social outing, decreases constipation, improves sleep patterns, decreases stress (see point #1), and improves overall mood and outlook.

These suggestions are cost effective, will rarely interact with treatment, and have the potential to enhance the effectiveness of traditional treatment.  They can become a new way of life and a new way to view the world.

Our guest blogger,  Susie Young, RD is a registered dietician and nutritionist with Centura Health, Durango Cancer Center, and Southwest Oncology in Durango, Colorado.

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