Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Veganism and cancer treatment: One success story

The question: Can you follow a vegan diet if you have cancer?

The answer: Yes – but even the most devoted vegans must be prepared to significantly alter their lifestyle.

The experts: Debbie Farrell is a two-time cancer survivor. As part of her treatment program, she follows a strict vegan diet, one she will remain on for the rest of her life.

Shani Fox, ND, specializes in treating cancer patients. While Fox did not treat Farrell, she believes there are strong benefits to following a plant-based diet during cancer treatment.

Four years ago, Debbie Farrell, 54, was diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer. Surgery was successful, and chemotherapy was recommended. However, Farrell chose not to undergo chemotherapy and instead opted for a vegan diet consisting of carrot juice and a product called Barley Green. This is all Farrell ate for the next six months. After that, she followed the completely vegan Halleluiah diet: 85% raw food, 15% cooked.

Farrell says, “Unfortunately, after a couple of years, we got off track and went back to the standard American diet. I believe this was the cause of the return of my cancer” in April 2010.

While Fox is not aware of any definitive studies proving that a vegan diet prevents certain kinds of cancer, there are studies that show hormonal cancers, like breast and prostate, can be linked to animal-based diets. “Antibiotics can be powerful drivers of hormonal cancers,” she says.

Because vegans avoid animal products, they are less exposed to antibiotics, which may prove beneficial in terms of long-term health. “You can find studies of the harmful effects of animal products. You can derive that avoidance leads to a better position,” Fox adds.

What is true of any cancer treatment: Nutrition is critical. And reducing inflammation is key, Fox says.

“The most important role when fighting cancer is to keep inflammation down.” One cause of inflammation is an animal-based diet that includes meat, dairy, and eggs. Eliminating these foods “is an advantage for a vegan diet,” Fox says.

Farrell’s Cancer Returns

Last spring, following an abnormal blood test, a PET scan revealed a half-dollar sized tumor between Farrell’s spine and rectum. She was told by her oncologist the cancer was “treatable but not curable.” Not willing to accept this diagnosis, Farrell chose a homeopathic doctor in Carson City, Nev. who practices a form of treatment called IPT: Insulin Potentiation Therapy.

Along with IPT, Farrell followed an extremely strict, all-organic vegan diet from the book Healing the Gerson Way.

Her diet, then and now, consists of oatmeal and raisins for breakfast and a salad and soup for lunch and dinner. Farrell prepares the soup with potatoes, tomatoes, leeks, onions, and distilled water.

Juicing is also a main component of the diet. The book identifies this “as being your medicine,” Farrell explains.

Although the book advises 13 8 oz. servings per day, Farrell’s protocol has been modified to eight. She begins with orange juice in the morning, then consumes five servings of a carrot- apple juice combo throughout the day. She also drinks a green juice twice daily. Farrell’s recipe includes raw ingredients such as beet leaves, red leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, red cabbage and one apple.

Farrell once asked her doctor how long she had to follow this diet. His response: “You will never eat like your neighbor again.”

The monotony is worth it to her: Four weeks after beginning treatment for her second bout of cancer, Farrell is again in remission. She is convinced that the IPT, plus the vegan diet, has saved her life.

Cancer and the vegan diet: More than raw vegetables

Fox says the main concern with following a vegan diet during cancer treatment is ensuring the patient is getting enough digestible protein. This is important because many factors in cancer treatment cause the breakdown of tissue. Protein is necessary to tissue repair.

During treatment, “It is possible to be vegan and consume enough protein, but it is more challenging without animal products. There could be a place where a vegan diet is outweighed by the need for protein,” Fox explains, but this would be carefully planned with the patient in order to “stay with their ethical concerns as to why they are vegan in the first place.”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chocolate Chip Chai Spice Shortbread

The flavor of these cookies was great but they did not turn out as well as I had expected. I did not have vegan shortening, so I substituted extra vegan margarine instead. The dough was extremely soft and I had to add extra flour. This caused the dough to taste too much like flour! So, I added more powdered sugar. All in all, they turned out fine. But, my chocolate spread out a lot while baking and the shape of the cookies is not as neat as it should have been.

The recipe is from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. 

Sesame Noodles with Peanut Dip and Veggies

I used a package of precooked soba noodles. They are sauteed in sesame oil. The dressing (delicious!) consists of peanuts, oatmilk, soysauce, tahihi, sesame oil, sake, maple syrup, ginger and garlic, all blended in a blender. We served it with sauteed veggies. The recipe is from Love Bites.

Lentil Daal with Basmati Rice

This recipe is from my new cookbook Love Bites by Heather Mills. It was very easy to prepare and was filling because of the veggies, lentils, and rice.

I soaked the lentils overnight so they cooked very quickly. The sauce consists of coconut oil, cauliflower, tomatoes, onion, lime, cilantro, red pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, cumin, salt and tumeric. It is served over basmati rice.

Carrot, Apple, Ginger Soup

I roasted 4 large carrots and 2 apples with a bit of olive oil and salt. I sauteed 2 pieces of celery and an onion along with about a tablespoon of shredded ginger. This was all added to around 4 cups of veggie broth and cooked for a while. After it cooled for a bit, I put it all in a blender and it turned out really good! On the side is a Gluten free roll that I found in the frozen food section. Four come in a pack and they have a great flavor, lots of seeds, and the texture is not any different from any other frozen roll we have ever bought.

Polenta Stuffing

This is definitely on the menu for Thanksgiving this year! It is from Appetite for Reduction and is really good. Polenta is cooked and cooled flat so that it can be cut into squares. It is then cooked with an onion, celery, garlic, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. It tastes so much like the traditional stuffing my mom used to make!

Salsa Scramble

Tofu sauteed in olive oil with nutitional yeast, oat milk, yellow mustard, salt and pepper.
Potatoes roasted with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.
Roasted veggie and salsa.
Tortilla chips.
A fantastic breakfast!

Herb-Roasted Cauliflower & Bread Crumbs with Salad

Continuing on with our salad kick...The cauliflower is chopped, coated with seasonings and bread crumbs, and then baked. The recipe is from Appetite for Reduction and in the recipe it suggests tossing the cauliflower into a salad. To the lettuce I added red pepper, zucchini, carrot shavings, and pumpkin seeds. The dressing is the following added to a blender and blended until smooth: a shallot, red wine, agave, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. The salad reminded me of  a healthier version of panzanella because of the breadcrumbs on the cauliflower.