Are Lifestyle Changes During & After Cancer Treatment Really That Important?Apr 16, 2023
Healthy habits and nutritious, anti-cancer diets aren’t just for longevity and chronic disease prevention; they also play an integral role in fighting cancer, preventing recurrence, and boosting the immune system after treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy. And while it can be tempting to fall back into unhealthy patterns when we’re celebrating remission or coping with the side effects of treatment, numerous studies support the use of nutritional therapy during and after cancer treatment!
Keep reading to learn more about the importance of making long-lasting lifestyle changes after receiving a cancer diagnosis, and to discover five of the steps you can take today to optimize treatment outcomes and reduce your risk of recurrence.
The Importance of Making Long-Lasting Lifestyle Changes
Just as diet and lifestyle play a role in the development of many types of cancers, the way we eat and live our lives has a HUGE impact on how we respond to cancer treatment (and ultimately, win the war on cancer). This is because everything we do — from the food we eat and the products we use, to how we cope with stress and exercise — has the potential to support or harm our health.
Through the lifestyle choices we make each day, we’re either nipping cancer cells in the bud and preventing them from posing a problem — or we’re promoting cancer growth. A few of the lifestyle and environmental factors that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer (and poorer treatment outcomes) include:
- Consumption of meat, dairy, alcohol, sugar, and processed foods.
- Diets low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Tobacco use.
- Exposure to environmental toxins (e.g. polluted air and water, asbestos, mold and mycotoxins, and formaldehyde).
- Physical inactivity.
- Chronic stress.
- Exposure to UV and ionizing radiation.
The good news is this: by making long-lasting dietary and lifestyle changes, you can dramatically reduce your cancer risk, improve cancer treatment outcomes, and prevent cancer recurrence. You’ll simultaneously reduce your risk of other chronic diseases as well, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Five Lifestyle Changes You Can Make Today for Improved Health
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Holistic Cancer Practitioner, adopting an anti-cancer diet is the first thing I recommend when clients are faced with a cancer diagnosis or working to restore their health after treatment. So without further ado, here are five lifestyle changes you can start making today for improved physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Adopt an anti-cancer diet. Studies show that nutrient-rich, anti-cancer diets support a healthy weight during and after treatment, reduce treatment-related side effects, improve quality of life, and prevent recurrence. Download my free Cancer-Fighting Foods Guide to discover some of the foods you can start incorporating into your diet today (like onions, cruciferous veggies, and gut-friendly foods).
- Avoid environmental toxins. A long list of environmental toxins are known or probable carcinogens, meaning they’ve been shown or thought to cause cancer. And while some of these carcinogens are easier to avoid than others, a good place to start is with the products you use each day. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an incredible resource for choosing non-toxic products during and after cancer treatment.
- Limit sugar. In the study linked under my first intervention, researchers found that consuming just two servings of sugar-sweetened beverages daily increased the risk of colon cancer recurrence and mortality — especially among overweight and sedentary patients. I recommend avoiding all refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, and instead using coconut sugar and fruit when sweeteners are needed! Now this brings me to my next lifestyle intervention...
- Exercise regularly. During and after cancer treatment, exercise is important for so many reasons! Aerobic, flexibility, and resistance exercises reduce treatment-related side effects (such as cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, pain, and poor sleep) — and improve physical health and quality of life. Physical activity has also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and mortality.
- Manage stress. Certain types of exercise (such as yoga) and other mindfulness activities (like diaphragmatic breathing and guided imagery) are vital for managing stress during and after cancer treatment. Check out Insight Timer to find free guided meditations, nature sounds, breathwork techniques, yoga poses, and more.
So, are dietary and lifestyle changes really necessary during and after cancer treatment? Absolutely! Adopting an anti-cancer diet and lifestyle is truly non-negotiable during and after treatment.
Where Nutritional Therapy Comes In
I know firsthand how overwhelming it is to not only receive a cancer diagnosis, but also weed through the heap of information on diet and nutrition during treatment. This is why I’m committed to sharing my evidence-based approach to diet and nutrition with others who have been touched by cancer.
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer or you’ve already completed treatment, my holistic approach to wellness will help you make lasting lifestyle changes that support your body’s ability to heal — and improve your physical, mental, and emotional health for years to come. Contact me today to book a free consultation!
- Greger, M. (2015). How not to die. Flatiron Books.