Star foods for cancer: alfafa sprout, almond, apple, apricot, asparagus, beans, beansprout, brazil nut, broccoli, brown rice, Brussels sprout, carrot, cauliflower, chicory, evening primrose oil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, ginger, green tea, kale, lentils, lettuce, linseed and linseed oil, mango, pea, pulses, pumpkin seed, quinoa, salmon, sesame seed, shiitake mushroom, soya milk, sunflower seed, sweet potato, tofu, tomato, turmeric
Cancer kills more children than any other disease in the developed world. In the US, one in every 330 children develops some form of the disease before the age of 20. In European countries, it is estimated that one out of every 500 children will be diagnosed with cancer before they reach the age of 15.
Cancer occurs when ordinary healthy cells in the body mutate and multiply. When a cell is damaged (by free radicals, for example) it develops abnormally and then divides and multiplies in its damaged form. A build-up of these cancerous cells creates a tumour. This process of cell damage is happening all the time in our bodies and, usually, antioxidants in the body keep this process in check. Cancer forms when the body's protective mechanisms are overwhelmed. Cancer cells divide and multiply uncontrollably. They also have the ability to metastasize, meaning that they spread through the lymphatic system and bloodstream and appear in other parts of the body.
Childhood and adult cancers differ. When first diagnosed, children generally have an advanced form of their particular cancer. In 80 per cent of cases, it will already have spread to distant sites. With adult cancers, two thirds are caused by smoking and poor diet and less than 20 per cent will already have spread on diagnosis. One reason for the far higher rate of metastasis in childhood cancers may be that childhood is a time of great growth, and this includes both healthy and unhealthy development. The most commonly diagnosed types of childhood cancer are leukaemia and cancer of the brain or the lymphatic system. Less common are cancers of the bone, muscles, kidneys and nervous system. While childhood cancer is often at a relatively advanced stage when diagnosed, the good news is that up to 70 per cent of children with the disease can now be cured.
Medicinal foods for cancer
Children undergoing chemotherapy are likely to lose their appetite and suffer dramatic weight loss. Frequent small meals and snacks high in vegetable protein, soluble fibre and essential fatty acids will help to redress the balance.
Children on hormone therapy (steroids) often develop insatiable appetites and gain weight rapidly. They also have a tendency to retain water, which further adds to their weight gain. For these children, a diet high in fruit and vegetables, which will help to eradicate the excess water, is recommended. They should also avoid fatty foods and instead eat wholegrains with fish and sources of vegetable protein, such as soya products, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds. Snacks should consist of fruit, vegetables with dips and corn crackers, muesli bars, muffins and cakes.
In general terms, serve a child with cancer a diet rich in wholegrains such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta, millet, oats, barley, rye and quinoa. The fibre these foods contain helps to balance blood glucose levels and to carry toxins and carcinogens out of the body. Include plenty of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, in the diet as these contain anticarcinogenic compounds. Offer lots of colourful fruits and vegetables (red, yellow, orange, blue and black) and juice them to provide concentrated forms of their high levels of vitamins and phytonutrients. Vitamin C-rich foods have a restorative effect partly because vitamin C is used to make collagen, which strengthens cell membranes, thereby helping to stop the cancer cells from multiplying.
Other key anticarcinogens are onion and garlic. Add them to soups, broths and juices. Almonds contain a substance called laetrile, which has anti-cancer properties. They can be served raw as a snack or as almond milk.
Avoid dairy products and high-fat meat products. Cancer thrives on arachidonic acid, which is a by-product of fat metabolism. Also, chemotherapy sometimes causes lactose intolerance in children. Protein should come mainly from vegetable sources such as soya products, beans, pulses, grains, nuts and seeds as well as fish if well tolerated. Also avoid refined sugar, flour, processed and refined foods and salt, all of which suppress immune function and can cause blood sugar fluctuations.
Nutritional supplements are usually advised in addition to a good diet. However, always seek guidance from a nutritionist specializing in cancer before giving your child any vitamins or minerals.
Extracted from Immunity Foods for Healthy Kids by Lucy Burney, text © 2004, published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London.