- Question from Elayne: What type of diet should a breast cancer patient follow, according to Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine may not always be scientific. It has its own idiosyncrasies based on culture that dictates what is an appropriate diet. The diet needs to be individualized, so it's not the same menu for everybody because in Chinese medicine people are divided into various types.
For example, let's take hot and cold. The idea is the "hot" person [someone whose personality is assertive or angry] should not eat hot food. The Chinese concept of temperature in food has nothing to do with how hot or cold the food is but what the quality of the food is. Certain foods are considered warm, certain foods are cold, certain foods are hot. For example, lamb is "warm" and it doesn't have anything to do with how it's cooked.
It depends on that patient's constitution. Treatments can be hot and cold, too. If the patient is undergoing a "hot" treatment like radiation, you don't add hot food to a hot treatment for someone who has a basic hot constitution on top of that. It can get fairly complicated, depending on what that individual is doing treatment-wise.
It can even relate to the season—during a colder season you can have warmer food to counteract the weather. I would not advise somebody living in the tropics who's undergoing radiation who has a hot constitution to eat too much food that is considered very hot. They should be on more of a cooling diet. But it would be different for someone living in Alberta in the winter time. There are individualized recommendations, depending on the situation.
There are certain things in the diet that are considered "inflammatory" that should be avoided by cancer patients because they promote swelling or growth. If you have an infection, abscess, or tumor you should not take things or eat things that promote growth or further inflammation. Again, this is based on culture; it's not scientific.
For example, shellfish. Recently, they found that crab, lobster, and shrimp blood contain a lot of copper. Copper promotes inflammation or growth—and there has been a long-standing belief in the Chinese dietary system that shellfish promotes inflammation.
We now know that copper is a very powerful angiogenic, and that antiangiogenesis is a cancer therapy. There's actually now a copper chelating drug that is in clinical trials in Michigan for cancer as an antiangiogenic. Shellfish use copper to carry oxygen like we mammals use oxygen in our blood. It is fascinating that some of these old cultural Chinese beliefs are finding scientific basis after such a long time.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Traditional Chinese Medicine featured Raymond Chang, M.D. and moderator Beth Baughman Dupree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions about how to discuss Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with your cancer doctor.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in September 2005.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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