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Whether you're in remission or you've recently been diagnosed with cancer, maintaining a healthy diet is critical to your recovery and well-being. For some aggressive cancers, like mesothelioma, the treatment is equally as aggressive and alleviating symptoms from such treatments is paramount to help a patient feel well. Vegetarian, vegan and low-carbohydrate diets have long been very popular ways to do this. However, studies are now showing that a gluten-free diet may also help in the fight against cancer.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. It is also frequently a source of allergen cross-contamination in many foods. Current statistics show that only five to ten percent of Americans suffer from some form of intolerance to gluten. In spite of those numbers, though, many researchers believe that the vast majority of Americans have trouble with gluten, whether or not they have any obvious symptoms.
Even for people with uncompromised immune systems, gluten has been found to have many negative effects on health, digestion and nutrient absorption. Inside the digestive system, gluten forms a thick, paste-like substance that smothers the lining of the intestines. It is believed that this can significantly hinder the availability of nutrients from food. This one fact alone makes a strong case for avoiding gluten during and after cancer. Adequate nutrition is considered an essential part of cancer therapy and recovery.
In individuals with sensitivity to gluten, it can cause serious immune dysfunction. The body interprets the protein as an invader or foreign substance and reacts accordingly. When this happens, the immune system unwittingly attacks the body because there is no real pathogen to fight off. Theoretically, this can increase cancer susceptibility. When the immune system is occupied with one task, the body is left vulnerable to other illnesses.
In order for a gluten-free diet to be truly effective, it is necessary to avoid all traces of it. This can be more difficult than it seems. Here are some tips that can help.
Read Labels Carefully
Most food manufacturers clearly mark wheat and gluten in their ingredients lists. If there is a potential for cross-contamination, there is also likely to be a warning beneath the ingredients. Furthermore, some products labeled as gluten-free are subject to contamination and carry warning stating so.
Beware of Hidden Sources
Foods like oats, brown rice syrup, MSG, malt and some flavorings are often hidden sources of gluten.
Avoid Dining Out
Choosing from a restaurant's gluten-free menu doesn't guarantee safety from gluten. You never know how the ingredients were manufactured. It also doesn't ensure that the staff will use the appropriate caution against cross-contamination.
There are many gluten-free alternative recipes to satisfy your every craving. Below is an easy gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe from the Food Network.
What you'll need:
- 8 ounces unsalted butter
- 11 ounces brown rice flour, approximately 2 cups
- 1 ¼ ounces cornstarch, approximately ¼ cup
- ½ ounce tapioca flour, approximately 2 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 ounces sugar, approximately 1 ¼ cups
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Once melted, pour into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, xantham gum, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
- Add both of the sugars to the bowl with the butter and using the paddle attachment, cream together on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the whole egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.
- Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm, approximately 1 hour. Shape the dough into 2-ounce balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating the pans after 7 minutes for even baking. Remove from the over and cool the cookies on the pans for 2 minutes. Move the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely. Store cooked cookies in an airtight container.
These cookies make an absolutely delicious gluten-free treat for any occasion!
Resources for Mesothelioma Patients and their Families
- Request a Free Mesothelioma Treatment Guide
- Connect with Top Mesothelioma Doctors
- Locate the Nearest Comprehensive Cancer Center