A Healthy Woman standing in front of Vegetables

The Guide to a Vegan Diet for Cancer Survivors

Cancer survivors have a lot to gain from adopting a vegan diet, which provides the nutrients you'll need to heal and protect the body.

From reducing body inflammation to combating obesity, and improving overall health, a vegan diet for cancer survivors can help improve their quality of life. Studies suggest that those who continue with a vegan diet find that they can fight the disease with fewer side effects and with a better prognosis.

Now, a vegan diet is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, all excellent sources of antioxidants and other nutrients that can help fight cancer. It’s perhaps why vegetarians or low-meat eaters have lower risks of cancers developing their whole lives. [1]. A vegan diet for cancer survivors can help alleviate the risks and fears of developing another form of cancer.

Cancer And Vegan Diet: Can Controlling Diet Alone Reduce The Risk Of Cancer?

Despite the advances in medical technology, cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US. A significant contributor to cancer is uncontrolled cell growth, which can be linked to diet. More specifically, it has been shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help control cell growth to manageable levels.

For example, studies suggest that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. [2] Another popular study, for instance, found that a diet high in fiber may reduce the risk of breast cancer. [3]

It’s why exercising and other healthy aspects of living should go hand-in-hand with your diet. Diet plays a pivotal role and is usually the easiest change you can make in your life. It requires a certain modicum of willpower. But with your health and life on the line, switching to healthier foods should make the transition easier.

How does a vegan diet help fight or prevent cancer?

We touched on how certain foods have properties that help fight cancer, but what exactly happens inside your body to ensure this happens? Here's why a vegan diet is considered to be a great cancer recovery diet:

1.   Allows you to maintain a healthy weight (or reduce weight if necessary)

Excess body weight is a recognized risk factor for various cancers. The way this extra weight raises cancer risk is complex. In general, the fatter the tissue someone has, the more estrogen their bodies make; and estrogen can help some cancer cells grow. Fat tissue also produces other hormones and growth factors that can raise the risk of cancer.

An American Cancer Society study shows that excess weight is one of the leading causes of cancer. The study found that men who are overweight are more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, and colon. Women who are overweight are more likely to develop cancer of the breast, uterus, ovaries, and gallbladder.

If you need to reduce weight, try out a vegan diet. It can help cut out the bad foods that you were used to consuming before. Instead, you can eat only healthy nutritious plant-based foods. Also, diet is the main contributing factor to weight loss; and not exercise as many people believe.

2.   A vegan diet has plenty of fiber

Collection of fruits and vegetables


Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can't digest. Food high in fiber helps to fight cancer since it eliminates toxins and other cancer-causing materials from the body. Additionally, fiber helps keep the digestive system healthy by moving food through the intestines and keeping the colon clean, which reduces the risk of colon cancer.

Soluble fiber, in particular, has been shown to bind to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon and prevent them from being absorbed into the body.

Fiber may help reduce the amount of time that potential carcinogens spend in contact with colonic mucosa, or it may bind to carcinogens and help eliminate them in the stool. Also, fiber may help regulate glucose and insulin levels, to stabilize blood sugar levels and support your immune system.

Plant-based foods are high in fiber, and if you switch to a vegan diet, your diet should automatically give you enough nutrients to take full advantage of these benefits.

3.   It improves your weakened immune system

A healthy immune system is critical for fighting cancer. The immune system can recognize cancer cells as abnormal and kill them. However, cancer can weaken the immune system. This may happen when the cancer cells produce substances that suppress the immune system or when the cancer cells remove immune cells from the tumor site.

A weakened immune system may make it more difficult for the body to fight off cancer cells. Certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can also further weaken the immune system.

A vegan diet for cancer survivors has been shown to improve the immune system in a variety of ways. One such way is by providing essential nutrients that the body cannot produce on its own. By replacing animal-based products with plant-based equivalents, you are ensuring that you are getting all of the important nutrients your body needs.

4.   It helps combat inflammation

Inflammation is a process in the body that helps protect us from infection, but can also cause damage if it's uncontrolled. This damage can lead to cancer. It occurs when the body's cells become irritated and start to produce chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines activate cancer-causing genes, and inflammation can also damage healthy cells.

Plant-based diets can help reduce inflammation by providing a variety of essential nutrients, including antioxidants and polyphenols, which can help scavenge and destroy harmful molecules. A good vegan diet for cancer survivors helps reduce inflammation by promoting healthy gut bacteria through a high-fiber diet.

Finding the Right Cancer Recovery Diet? Try Going Vegan

 

As a cancer survivor, a good cancer recovery diet has the potential to help you lead a long, full life, more than following an omnivorous diet. And as an additional benefit, you are also helping save your environment by switching to being vegan.

Sources:

  1. New Study finds lower risks of cancer for vegetarians, pescatarians and low meat-eaters. Nuffield Department of Population Health. (2022)

  2. Vogtmann (2013, November). Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of colorectal cancer: Results from the Shanghai Men's Health Study.

  3. High-fiber diet linked with reduced breast cancer risk. News. (2020, May 15)
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