Ayurveda says that the unwanted accumulation of toxins (Ama) is the primary cause of any disorder, especially cancer.
Proper food choices are essential to normalize digestion and prevent the formation of Ama. Additional treatments usually include detoxification therapies, herbal supplements, life-style modifications, yoga/ meditation, etc.
Ayurvedic extensive knowledge about diet describes a healthy diet as one which is appropriate to an individual’s constitution and nature (Prakruti and Vikruti.)
Ayurveda recommends the following, as principles and practices for healthy eating
- Express gratitude (ie, say grace) before eating
- Avoid too much water with meals
- Chew food properly
- Combine foods appropriately
- Rest a while after eating
- Drink plenty of pure/ purified water through the day
Calibrating An Appropriate Diet For Cancer
The exact diet prescription for a cancer patient will depends upon their Prakruti, Vikruti, Agni, Ojas and the state of Ama. Taking all these into account, the practitioner will decide, based upon sound reasoning, while allowing room for intuition, which is an important component!
What To Avoid
Ayurveda recommends that a person with cancer should avoid
- Foods that can cause acidity (particularly spicy, oily, pickled foods, etc.)
- Highly processed foods like refined flour (maida, white sugar, polished rice, etc.)
- Stale foods (re-frigerated, re-cooked, re-fried, etc.)
- Animal protein (fish in limited quantities is OK)
- Foods containing additives and preservatives or which are genetically engineered
According to Ayurveda, these foods are tamasic in nature, so they clog the energy channels and upset normal bodily functions.
What To Include
To prevent or to reduce the incidence of cancer, the Ayurvedic recommendation is remarkably similar to what scientific experts widely prescribe i.e. a diet which includes large amounts of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain a wide range of phyto-chemicals which reduce the incidence of many cancers. Some of these phyto-chemicals and the foods they are found in include:
- Sulforaphane (cauliflower)
- P. Coumaric Acid (tomatoes)
- Genistein (soy beans)
- Capsaicin (chili peppers)
- Flavanoids (citrus fruits)
Healing Cancer with Herbs
Ayurvedic practitioners know that healing requires more than taking a pill. Herbs offer great potential to stimulate the healing process in 2 ways
- To destroy cancer cells (cytotoxic effect)
- To prevent tumour activity/ growth (anti-neoplastic effect)
Unfortunately, there is not enough scientific documentation about their exact effect. Historical references state simply, that herbs are beneficial in a general sense, but do not specify which types of cancer they are effective for, or at what stage. However, there are listings of complex herb formulations to treat of various types of malignancies (Arbuda).
Many such herbs that are credited with the potential to detoxify, purify and rid the system of excess Dosha and Ama. Most herbs are bitter in taste. Notable examples are: red clover, burdock root, dandelion root, guggul, turmeric and chaparral.
Other specific herbs have been well studied, include:
- Green tea (Camellia sinensis), has been shown to be effective against a variety of cancers, including pancreatic, stomach, colon, breast and lung cancer. A study in China showed that as green tea consumption increased, cancer rates sharply decreased. Another study in Japan showed green tea consumptionto reducing the likelihood of metastasis and an overall improved prognosis.in patients with breast cancer Still, the main action of green tea appears to be preventative and its verifiable effect on patients with cancer is largely unknown.
- Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) has been shown to actually reduce cancerous growth, in studies performed on leukemic cell lines in 1998.
- Madagascan Periwinkle (Vinca Roseus) is a herb from which anti-cancer drugs have been produced. The young leaves contain two phytochemicals used to produce the drugs Vinblastine and Vincristine. These drugs help to treat leukemia, lymphoma and some types of breast cancer.
- Manjishta (Rubia cordifolia) has been shown to have mild anti-neoplastic activity and is often used as a part of uterine and ovarian cancer formulas.
- Shatavari (Asparagus racemonus) and Brahmi (Bacopa Monniera ) have also have been found to be anti-carcinogenic. Both herbs have been shown to be effective in reducing epidermal carcinoma of the nasopharynx.
Ayurvedic treatment for cancer
Cancer is one of the greatest threats to the human race irrespective of race, geography, religion or indeed socio-economic status. Alternative medical systems like Ayurveda recommend more ways to prevent and successfully manage cancer. It is the right time to educate ourselves to learn and live positively!
- Have you ever tried an Ayurvedic diet or other traditional Indian approaches? What were your experiences?
- How can you complement your mainstream cancer treatment with Ayurveda for a more holistic healing?
Written by a first-year Communications student of Mount Carmel College Bangalore, who wishes to remain anonymous.