Today is World Cancer Day, a day about what is a very personal subject for so many people, myself included and at what, for me, is a very personal time of year. Cancer is personal, sadly because it affects pretty much all of us in one way or another throughout our lives. Cancer is also public, big, booming, depressing, shouting headlines and adverts and campaigns and news and scare stories and sad stories. The campaign behind cancer spreads as quickly as the horrible disease itself. It is in our daily lives and as much as cancer is a modern disease, the fight against it is a modern campaign. This is good, in many ways because it encourages the fighting spirit in all of us, something that I believe is very important.
I wrote about this last year and I am following up with this year with a very similar and hopefully reinforcing blog. What I like about the messages behind World Cancer Day is that they include a lot about prevention and education and healthy environments. Having watched someone I love die, very quickly from cancer I choose, without exception to focus on prevention and creating as healthy an environment as possible for our bodies. As a Nutritional Therapist this is the message that I strive to pass on to my clients every day.
This can be a tough one. As I have said, this is a very personal subject for most people and not everyone likes the message that cancer can be preventable because it makes the losses we have experienced seem all the more futile and painful. There is nothing easy about this disease though and so the essence of it will always be exactly that. Tough and exhausting. The things worth fighting (for) often are. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but doing all you can has got to be better than not doing much at all.
Prevention is the strongest message for me and one that I think could be pushed further. Let’s face it, in this country, we are spoon fed (almost literally) healthy eating advice. Whether it is professional guidelines or the wave of fashionable, healthy foodie blogs, they all promote a version of the same message. It can be confusing, I will admit. If I had a pound for every client who has told me that they are so confused by reading conflicting advice, I would be retiring to a remote beach paradise tomorrow. Unfortunately, I don’t, so I’ll stick around and try and debunk some of the myths.
This isn’t about drinking green juices and sprinkling spirulina on dishes so angelic they radiate their own holy aura. This is about a sensible, achievable diet. Eat 7 portions of fruit and veg a day and keep it to more veg than fruit. Get plenty of fibre, preferably in the form of fruit, veg and wholegrains. Keep your bowels moving regularly (I refer you back to my first two points), so that your body cleanses, flushes and detoxes. It has never been more acceptable to discuss your poo (still not at the dinner table though). If it's not normal, talk to a health professional.
Eat less sugar. I’m not pulling any punches on this one, sugar is bad for you, refined sugar in large amounts is very bad for you, cancer feeds on sugar. There are more sugar-free and alternative baking recipes out there nowadays than there ever have been; don’t tell me you can’t find something you like. My husband now eats cauliflower pizza: anything is possible.
It’s not just about your diet. We all know exercise is important so who are you kidding? Your cells need your body to move and breathe and your modern life does all it can to prevent you doing this. Install a pedometer app and count your steps (10,000 a day and you get a green smoothie as a reward), stop taking the lift, play football with your kids, dance. Whatever works for you, do it, because the rising rates of obesity in this country are not unrelated with this horrible disease.
Finally, if you do want to drink green smoothies and get spirulina, chia seeds and raw foods into your diet, great. There are so many options out there for people who want to clean up even further, but get some professional advice and some sensible tips. If you’d rather leave all that to us Nutrition weirdoes (and our long-suffering partners) then that’s fine, so long as you are taking care of the basics. Have your own take on this personal, positive fight.