Understanding why it’s important to eat an anti-inflammatory diet is helpful to compliance. The National Cancer Institute continuously updates its database on several aspects affecting cancer remission and prevention. Many of these recommendations are specific, like reducing intake of red meat to three servings per week. These findings and others are based on nutritional contents of foods that we consume and their inflammatory affects. For example, both cow dairy and red meat contain a higher amount of something called omega 9 fatty acids. These are not ‘bad’ fats per say, but if we consume too many of them, we can tip the balance toward inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation can create damage and reactions that beget more inflammation, causing the cycle to continue. When the damage caused by inflammation exceeds the body’s ability to ‘clean’ it up, we begin to get damage at a cellular level. Damaged cells can turn into cancer.
Another example of the importance of eating an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet has to do with insulin sensitivity. Many people mistakenly attribute sugar as being the culprit in feeding cancer cells. This is not entirely correct. It is the insulin surges that are related to some solid tumors’ aggressive growth. Insulin is a hormone that is secreted in response to glucose, or sugar, levels in the blood stream. Insulin presence signals to the cells to grow and divide. Normal cells consume the glucose at a normal rate, divide, and then have a mechanism to turn themselves off. Some solid tumor cells, research shows, more aggressively take up glucose, given the signal by insulin, and they do not contain the mechanism to turn off growth or slow down growth. Eating a diet containing complex carbohydrates and whole foods causes the blood sugar and insulin levels to maintain a steady state, that is, no big ups or downs in insulin. Eating this way with whole foods is the foundation of an anti-inflammatory diet.
The easiest way to adhere to an anti-inflammatory diet is first to be conscious of what we are eating. Take a week or two to just assess what you are eating:
How many boxed and processed foods am I eating?
How many times a week am I eating out and what kinds of foods am I eating?
How much processed sugar and simple carbohydrates am I eating per day?
How many whole foods do I have in my diet?
Once you have assessed this, make steps to trade out one thing at a time. For example, maybe you eat lunch out at a fast food restaurant five times a week. The first step could be that you eat out four times a week and bring a healthy meal from home once per week. Or you could choose to eat at a healthier venue that offers lean meat, salads and healthy soup options. Small changes, for many, add up to long term compliance. Of course, some people are very successful in making a 180-degree change in their diet once diagnosed with cancer. That’s okay as well.