Anti-Cancer by David Servan-Schreiber
The cancer patient’s bible. Servan Schreiber was a doctor who got cancer and, rather than just accepting it, decided to try and learn everything he could to prevent his cancer from spreading. He concentrates on diet, lifestyle and attitude and synthesises medical research to come up with his blueprint. I found it put a lot of what I do every day into a good and helpful perspective, while contextualising the scientific background – lots of mice and rat experiments I’m afraid – with some good case studies.
The main take-aways are:
|Inhibits immune response||Activates immune response|
|Traditional western diet||Mediterranean diet, Indian, Asian cuisine|
|Stress, anger, depression (unmanaged)||Serenity, joy, laughter|
|Social isolation||Support from family and friends|
|Denial of one’s true identity||Acceptance of self with one’s values and past history|
|Sedentary lifestyle||Regular physical activity (at least 20 mins per day)|
|Domestic pollutants||Clean environment|
The big change in the diet argument goes something like this: our consumption of sugar and foods with high glycaemic index (e.g. white flour) stimulate not only the growth of cancer cells but their capacity to invade other cells. I won’t go into the science here, you can read it for yourselves, but for instance those who eat low-sugar Asian diets tend to have 5-10 times fewer hormonally-driven cancers than those with diets high in sugar and refined food. Green tea is a well-known suppressor of growth of the new blood vessels required by cancer cells to grow and explains why in Japan the incidence of aggressive breast and prostate tumours is so much lower than in the West. On the other hand they do have a higher incidence of stomach cancers, possibly due to the large amounts of MSG in their diet and mercury in the fish they eat. So cut down on tuna and buy MSG-free soy sauce (Kikkoman has no MSG)
Then there’s the recent imbalance of the Omega 3s (which we had in abundance until after the 2nd World War; in those days we relied on grass- and naturally-fed cattle, pigs and chickens) with the prevalence of Omega 6 in our diet. This is largely fuelled by the feeding of livestock on corn, soya and wheat, all of which transform our food chain from being Omega 3-rich to being Omega 6-high. This imbalance, along with the enormous increase in trans fats found in biscuits, cakes and processed foods – all of which can cause more inflammation than Omega 6 in its natural state – are also linked to the development of cancer. Not only does the destruction of swathes of forest and other agricultural land for livestock feed destroy the planet, it is also aiding our own demise simultaneously. So go organic and, as I am now, avoid all meat and dairy products. A bit extreme I know, but as I need to re-build my immune system it is probably worth it until I have some good news.
Given that I have always lived and eaten like an Asian (no carbs, no trans fats or processed foods, although I have not been 100% organic) and kept very fit, it is obvious to me that both Ross’s prostate cancer of two years ago, and my current sarcoma have been brought on by the numerous stresses in our lives, paramount being that of losing Louise, but in my case both my parents as well. Too much for any body in three short years, and certainly for our bodies.Servan-Schreiber describes both experiments and case studies where the feelings of helplessness induced by depression and despair have contributed to cancer, and how steps taken to alleviate such feelings can lead to longer life and health. He also stresses that it’s good to be realistic without being negative; something I feel I do. ‘I’ve found that realistic attitude in almost all of the people who have survived their cancer well beyond the statistics they were given.’
The China Study by T Colin Campbell (I downloaded this on kindle)
Campbell is a researcher on food and nutrition at the highest level in the USA, in particular the role of protein in the development of cancer. In this exhaustive study, which covers not only cancer, but also many other modern illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, he comes to the conclusion that ‘people who ate the most animal-based protein foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based foods were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.’ He contextualises the results of his extensive China Study on the nutrition of several thousand Chinese with other research results on obesity, heart disease and diet from all over the world and still comes up with the same conclusion.
I found the book extremely long and repetitive, and it didn’t really address the issue of fish, which seems to lumped in with ‘animal protein’, and therefore does not acknowledge the extremely healthy state of the traditional Japanese diet, which is largely fish and soy/tofu based. Similarly, the world’s healthiest diet is now deemed to be from Iceland where they eat masses of fish, a little meat, and dairy, but what they do eat is organically grown and grass-fed and, to my mind, most importantly, they have NO PROCESSED FOOD.
Nevertheless I am convinced that cow’s milk is for calves and not for humans (those arguments are pretty well-made in this research) and have therefore, because of my cancer, decided to give that and red meat a miss until I am cancer free.
Worth getting on kindle and skipping through to the bits that interest you.
Yoga for Cancer: Esoteric, Yogic & Dietary Remedies by Bijoyalaxmi Hota (Rupa Publications, New Delhi)
Clearly written and with good diagrams, this little books offers a wide variety of poses and programmes for different sorts of cancer; plus it has a little section of Ayurvedic recipes to supplement the exercise routine.
Vietnamese Bible by Jackie Passmore (DK)
This is a very handy little book for when you want to knock something up with good but simple ingredients – there are similar bibles for most cuisines published by DK. It’s a little less authentic than some of the cookery books I adore – Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey and Curry (both listed here) and all of the Ottolenghis, but time is money and some of the others require more planning. I have adapted several Vietnamese recipes from this book.
Curry by multiple writers (DK)
One of my favourite books, not least because my great friend Judy Bastyra is a contributor. The Thai section is written by David Thompson of Nahm fame and the Myanmar one by Sri Owen. All our family swear by it! It’s particularly good on South Indian, Sri Lankan and Keralan recipes. However, it assumes that you can get most of the ingredients so you have to be prepared to substitute, which I do.
Awakening the Appetite: simple and essential recipes for Asian cancer patients by Vivian Pei (Parkway Cancer Centre)
This book was given to me by a dear friend in Singapore, Anna, shortly after my diagnosis. It adheres to the tenets Traditional Chinese Medicine and each recipe is aimed at different sorts of health and cancer problems. Some of the ingredients can only be bought from TCM shops, but there are many in London and I’m sure in other big cities the world over. Sadly, for me, it concentrates on lots of ingredients I can’t eat – tomatoes and aubergines, but those recipes are delicious (I tried them before I got my final Cold Yang diagnosis!)
The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar (Lotus Press)
My lovely yoga teacher and friend, Priti Mehta, gave me this book. She is a great cook and, although this is totally vegetarian, I find the dhals and pulse recipes particularly comforting. Some of the Indian vegetable recipes are great too. It is especially good at explaining the principle of Ayurveda and will help you diagnose your Pitta, Kapha or Vata category.
Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey (BBC Books)
Ah, the master! This is a bible, but many of the recipes and curry pastes/dipping sauces are quite complicated to make, from an ingredients perspective (most of them you just whizz together in a small blender). However, the time invested pays dividends as the flavours are truly outstanding. I have adapted some of the recipes and made them a bit simpler, and will continue to experiment with them and add good ones to the web-site
Raw Food – French Style by Delphine de Montalier (Francis Lincoln)
Another dear friend, Lucille, gave me this book – everything is raw so no cooking! You cant get simpler than that! Lots of salads, juices, ceviches but quite a lot of meat for those who avoid it like me. Nevertheless its a source of inspiration when you want simple, pure food and an escape from too much Orientalism!
The Complete Book of Juicing by Michael T Murray (Potter)
A truly comprehensive guide to juicing just about anything for just about everything (ie physical condition). Gives plenty of ideas on combinations, and then you can just branch out on your own!