March 4, 2015

National Nutrition Month: Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle (and Avoid Cancer)

It's National Nutrition Month again and this year's theme is "Bite Into A Healthy Lifestyle". I like this theme because it goes beyond just eating healthy to incorporate lifestyle factors. As a dietitian, I always address fitness, supplements including vitamins and minerals and will also assess sleep, stress/emotional concerns, and smoking during my consults. 

This month I'm also studying for my "CSO" or Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition.  To qualify to sit for this board, you have to have been a practicing dietitian for at least two years and have documentation of 2000 hours in oncology nutrition experience. I've been studying a lot and I hope I pass. Mostly, this test is designed for dietitians who work in the oncology field and so most of it is things I see everyday. That being said, I do work in an outpatient setting and a lot of the information is hospital-based so I'm also having flashbacks to my days as a dietetic intern at my awesome oncology rotation at Edward Hines VA Hospital. 

During my studying, the texts and current research highlight again and again the importance of dietary and lifestyle factors for cancer prevention, during cancer treatment and for survivors to prevent recurrence and improve general quality of life. Too many of my patients end up at the Block Center because their other doctors (including oncologists!!) told them: "what you eat doesn't matter - it won't make a difference so eat whatever you want". So many oncology centers serve soda, donuts, or push corn syrup/corn oil "nutritional shakes". My patients know it's wrong and it IS according to current research. What you eat DOES matter - it matters a lot. 

Updated September 2014, the American Institute on Cancer Research provides the following recommendations for preventing cancer:

Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

  1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
  2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. Limit sedentary habits.
  3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods.
  4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
  5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
  6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
  7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
  8. Don't use supplements to protect against cancer.
  9. It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods.
  10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.
  11. And don't' smoke or use tobacco products.
I also recently wrote a piece for called 11 Changes You Can Make Today to Reduce Your Cancer Risk and it's 100% diet and lifestyle factors. During treatment, good nutrition is critical - even when someone isn't feeling well. Dr. Block and I wrote a piece for the Global Advances In Medicine Journal about how even when a person has no appetite, we still need to try to find the healthiest items available for them. The last thing we would ever want to do is fuel cancer with inflammatory oils or simple sugars. Finally, check out the American Cancer Society FAQ for nutrition and physical activity during treatment. They have some very clear recommendations on how to eat healthfully during cancer treatment and really highlight how what you eat does matter. 

I'll let you know if I pass the test - fingers crossed, I'm studying a lot! I guess you'll know if I add some more credentials to my name :) In good health...Happy National Nutrition Month!

1 comment:

  1. I have tried forever to be as healthy as I can be. This year I really want to try and mix it up as far as my diet goes. Being that it is national healthy lifestyle month I want to start as soon as possible. I will take all of your tips on how to eat right, and avoid cancer. Hopefully by the end of this year I can run the half marathon I've always wanted to.