Pancreatic Cancer Diet
What are the obvious risk factors?

Pancreatic Cancer Diet: The pancreas is a little known but highly important organ of the digestive system located behind the stomach. Its role is a significant one. Responsible for producing and secreting enzymes and hormones essential for normal digestion and metabolism, these enzymes break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates in order to absorb the nutrients in food effectively.

When affected by cancer the release of pancreatic fluids and insulin production are often affected, therefore the role of correct nutrition when faced with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is significant. Malnutrition due to malabsorption is common, further compounding complications and patients should work with their doctor to develop a healthy diet and nutritional plan.

Like most cancers the cause of pancreatic cancer is yet unknown, despite extensive research focused on identifying possible risk factors. Pancreatic cancer is a particularly aggressive form of cancer which is why researchers are committed to finding ways to lower the overall risk of development.

While uncommon in individuals under the age of 40, the incidence has been noted as higher in individuals who smoke, are overweight and have diabetes. There is some evidence too that a diet containing high levels of sugar, red meat, saturated fats and processed meat such as bacon, ham and sausage may increase the risks.

Of particular interest are chemicals called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are known to be carcinogenic and are created in the stomach by reactions between nitrites and other proteins. Sodium nitrite is added to meat and fish as a preservative to prevent toxin production; it is also used to colour and flavour meats. Ground beef and processed meats such as bacon and ham in particular contain abundant amounts of amines due to their high protein content.

Nitrosamines are also easily generated under strong acid conditions such as in the stomach, or at high temperatures associated with frying or flame broiling.

A pancreatic cancer diet low in any form of
processed foods is recommended

Choosing a healthy balanced diet high in plant based foods, especially folate containing leafy greens and avoiding excessive amounts of red meat or processed foods, is perhaps the best defence against pancreatic cancer. For cancer survivors dietary needs are often quite specific and must be closely monitored by a healthcare professional. It is recommended that smaller frequent meals are eaten throughout the day (five to six meals/snacks total), with each having a rich source of protein, such as beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.

Doctors sometimes prescribe digestive enzymes that help improve digestion and absorption of food. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, whole wheat breads, and pastas and an extensive variety of colourful fruits and vegetables are recommended to make up the majority of the diet.

A typical daily pancreatic cancer diet might look something like this: 

  • a poached egg on whole grain toast
  • whole fresh fruit such as paw-paw (paw-paw contains naturally occurring enzymes that aid in digestion) or banana which also has many health benefits
  • bowl of fresh baby spinach salad with walnuts, Spanish onion, pear and quinoa, with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing
  • a slice of fresh wholemeal banana bread
  • a freshly grilled fillet of fish with steamed beans, broccoli and carrots, and a fresh apple crumble with custard for dessert

Avoiding processed foods is the single most reoccurring recommendation for many health conditions. Not only is it beneficial for weight control but limits our exposure to many harmful preservatives and additives. A plant based whole food diet need not be expensive or time consuming - with correct planning and gradual incorporation, you can start eating your way to better heath.

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