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Cancer And Diet: Some Notes From An Oncologist
Name of book: Food Matters
Author: Dr Shubham Pant
Publisher: Harper Collins
Food Matters is just 200 pages long. If you’ve known a family that has dealt with cancer – which of us has not? – this is a book you could buy it as a New Year gift. Dr Shubham Pant, who works as an oncologist in the US, has a long list of simple recipes in the book. Chutneys, salads, soup, raita, halwa … dishes one could try out, while also taking care of the health of one’s family even if there is no patient in the family in need of a special diet.
Dr Pant describes the ways in which patients have coped with cancer – women who have met while under treatment, and gone on to form deep bonds that linger beyond the course of treatment; men who had no inkling that they too could get a breast cancer diagnosis.
This book informs readers with no specialized training in medicine or science about the disease and ways in which it can be prevented; and once a diagnosis is made, ways in which lifestyle adjustments might make for swifter recovery.
There is much now that is common knowledge about diet – the importance of fibre, for instance. But did you know that the risk of colorectal cancer is lesser among those who produce more abundant stools? Fibre serves to increase stool bulk and thus reduce the risk of that variety of cancer. That was news to at least one reader, yours truly.
One’s diet also determines the quality of the bacteria that live in our guts – so changes to this could be effected over very short spells of time. Dr Pant quotes another doctor in the book: “In just two weeks a change in diet from a Westernized composition to a traditional African high-fibre, low-fat diet reduced these bio-markers of cancer risk…”
Dr Pant recommends that we eat home-cooked meals; also that we return to whole grains: “Reduce the use of refined grains and head back in time to our roots, and experiment with traditional whole grains like jowar, ragi and amaranth…”
Chemotherapy and radiation to the neck may interfere with the function of the salivary glands, so patients may experience dryness in the mouth. Mouth sores could result. Dr Pant also recommends some alternative medicine methods that could prove useful, acupuncture, for instance, which he observed benefits patients experiencing dryness in the mouth.
He also describes how ginger might help in curbing nausea, accepting that the reason it does so is not scientifically established yet. “Various laboratory-based and clinical studies have also shown ginger to possess anti-vomiting effects; however the exact mechanism for anti-emetic effect is not known.”
Long after you’ve read this book, you will want to preserve it to go back and try out all the recipes.
-- Rosamma Thomas
(The writer is a freelance journalist)