Nutrition and cancer
Winter has finally arrived with a vengeance. Ice, wind and snow
in the South Island - torrential rain and floods up North. Hard to
believe that residents on the North Shore lost power for up to 6
days! Despite all of these dramatic scenes outside my surest
indicator of seasonal change remains the simple fact that it takes
5 minutes longer for each person to undress for their examination
as they peel off layer after layer of clothing!
I was able to escape to Tonga for a week of R and R with my
family earlier this month. A flight to the capital Nukialofu
followed by a light plane journey to Niafu in the Vavau group of
islands - only half a day of travel and suddenly you feel
transported back in time 1000 years. The people in this outer group
of islands live a simple subsistence life style. Fresh fish from
the sea shellfish collected off the reef at your doorstep -
vegetables grown fresh in the small cultivated patch alongside your
house - an abundance of coconut trees and "free-range" pigs running
through the streets. Well you certainly know exactly where your
food originated from, how it was grown and processed and how fresh
What a contrast with our "modern" supermarkets - shelves stacked
with products packed with preservatives, irradiated to prolong
shelf life or pre-frozen months ago.
I am sure that as a society we need to focus more attention on
our food supply. We are what we eat - it sounds so simple and yet
it seems so hard to pay adequate attention to our meals and diet in
the rush of everyday life.
I am frequently asked to advise what changes are necessary in a
patients diet to help to prevent breast cancer or at the time of a
cancer diagnosis to improve treatment and survival. There are so
many different diets and opinions that it can all become quite
overwhelming. Keep it simple.
The first practical observation is that most of us simply eat
too much. Reducing the size of a helping and combining this with
regular vigorous exercise would be an excellent starting point.
Keep a log-book for 2 weeks listing all meals, drinks and exercise.
You will be amazed at how different things look on paper compared
to a quick guess at what you consume!
Now make some simple modifications
Fresh fruit and vegetables contain many beneficial vitamins,
minerals, fibre and phyto-chemicals. It seems that many of these
are better absorbed and metabolised when part of normal food rather
than when taken as artificial supplements.
- High fibre is good.
- Reduce fatty food
- Reduce red meat
- Reduce sugar
Make sure that you choose lots of the following foods that
potentially can fight cancer
- Green tea which contains flavonoids
- Cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower,
brussel-sprouts, and cabbage
- Whole grains, wheat, rice, oats and barley
- Tomatoes are rich in lycopene - an anti-oxidant
- Nuts and seeds rich in essential fatty acids and Selenium
Read more in the book Foods that fight cancer by Richard
Beliveau and Denis Gingras. This is a fascinating a well-written
book that I can strongly recommend!
Make time to exercise. Choose an activity that you enjoy.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week although daily
is even better.
Make time for fun and relaxation. We really enjoyed our week of
sailing and snorkelling in Vavau and have all come back recharged
at least for the next few weeks!
I have now taken delivery of a new ultrasound machine that you
will notice at your next visit. It is remarkable how ultrasound has
transformed breast assessment - improving speed and accuracy of
diagnosis at the bedside. Technology continues to evolve and the
newer units give excellent resolution and allow for easy electronic
storage of images. They are compact and portable which means that I
can even take it through to theatre to assist with localisation
procedures when required.
Keep active and well through the winter