Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Post: Fighting Cancer with Diet and Exercise

By Jackie Clark

Discovering the presence of cancer can inspire a host of questions while simultaneously sending you into a state of disbelief. One of the first questions you might ask is the survival rate of your particular cancer diagnosis. Survival rate statistics give a general idea for most in your situation but cannot give you individualized percentages on the chance for cure or remission. However, no matter if diagnosed with a rare form of cancer like mesothelioma or more common forms of cancer of the prostate or breast, survivability increases based on treatments and healthy lifestyle changes.

Diet and exercise are two controllable factors you can change once diagnosed. Nutrition is a key factor because you need all the nutrients you can get to maintain normal bodily functions, particularly if undergoing intense treatments. The National Cancer Institute suggests including healthy foods rich in vitamins, minerals, lean protein, carbohydrates and unsaturated fats in daily meals to ensure proper nourishment. Good eating habits not only energize you to take on the day but also help maintain body weight, strength and boost your immune system, which is an essential component of fighting cancer. Depending on the type of cancer, you might need to follow a particular diet to properly digest food, prevent nausea or gastrointestinal disturbance and reduce the risk of pain associated with the cancer.

Following a mostly plant-based diet supplies your body with antioxidants to prevent further cell damage. The American Cancer Society notes when fighting cancer, eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains provides your body with a natural source of antioxidants to help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence after treatment. However, limiting consumption of saturated fats from fried foods and fatty red meat also helps in the process of maintaining good nutrition and health. Additionally, eating a well-balanced diet reduces the risk of depression, fatigue, weakness and stress associated with cancer symptoms and the residual effects of treatment.

Regular exercise along with healthy diet optimizes the cancer-fighting power of the immune system, protects your major organs and lowers the risk of muscle and tissue wasting. Walk for 20 minutes a day, up to five times a week or engage in specific workout routines based on your abilities. Include one day of stretching exercises like yoga to maintain muscle elasticity. Add strength-training exercise at least once a week using lightweights to target upper and lower body muscle tone. Walk, jog, swim or use cardiovascular machines at the gym, three to five times a week, to maintain cardiovascular health. Alternate your routines for diversity but always check with your physician first, before engaging any new exercise or nutrition program.

Coping with cancer can seem like an arduous process and at times might cause intense emotional pain. You can regain a sense of normalcy in spite of the diagnosis by taking action and fighting with the best defense systems you have, which includes the choice to live healthy, even against the odds.

About the Author: Jackie joined the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance in 2009 as research assistant after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in fitness and nutrition. Jackie’s experience in technical and medical research has allowed her to assist in the development of medical content and outreach efforts, with specializations in alternative care, cancer support programs, and social media campaigns.

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  1. Sage advice, for sure. I look at my mom, who is on her third round/type of cancer and wish I could get her to lead a healthier lifestyle. I'm convinced it would help with the quality of life, if nothing else.

  2. the emotional roller coaster cancer puts you on is exhausting. proper diet & excercise is key.

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