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Alternative Diets

A variety of alternative diets are offered for treating cancer, cardiovascular disease, and food allergies. Virtually all these interventions focus on eating more fresh and freshly prepared vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Allergy to food has become a major area of research. Food intolerance is being studied as a causal or contributing factor in rheumatoid arthritis, and there is evidence that food-elimination diets may help many hyperactive children.

Some alternate dietary lifestyles are believed to offer a greater resistance to illness. These include several variations of the vegetarian diet, such as those consumed by Seventh-Day Adventists and proponents of the macrobiotic diet. Studies have found a significant lowering of risk factors for heart disease and certain forms of cancer in these two groups. Recent studies have also reported that certain cultural eating styles, such as the Asian and Mediterranean diets, appear to lower risk factors for heart disease and certain forms of cancer as well. Eskimo diet is another one which has fascinated researchers. In spite of the high fat food they eat, they are found to be very healthy. The latest theory is that it is because of the marine fat rich in Omega-3 three that they eat which offer them such protection.

Throughout history, people have looked at as a source of healing. Some of the myths were found to have no scientific merit. But some other ones have proved their mettle over the period of time. Buttermilk and yogurt were used to treat thrush (oral candidiasis), a fungus infection of the mouth, before the invention of fungicides. Fresh limes were used to treat scurvy in sailors, cod liver oil was used to treat rickets in children, before the "invention" of vitamins. Many generations of people sipped warm milk before bed time to aid in the sleep. Now we know that milk contains an amino acid that causes the brain to release a mildly tranquilizing substance that encourages drowsiness.

Food can be therapeutic in several ways. It provides nutrient that is needed by a sick person in a form he or she can use. It also provides nutrients for persons who are deficient in them. Sometimes food also supplies an agent or chemical that aids in the metabolism of other nutrients. Food such as buttermilk can help stabilize the fungus/bacteria balance in the mouth. Such foods act by changing the ecology within the human body.

Many of the old time remedies stress food avoidance as well as specifying what to eat. For example, the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda, is mainly based on diet control. As you can learn by referring to the section on Ayurveda in HolisticOnLine, foods are classified as either helping or hurting the three doshas, the governing pricnciples under which all living being are classified in Ayurveda. Food is used to stabilize the "doshas" along with other things such as meditation, yoga etc.

Many people are allergic to some foods such as chocolate, lactose etc. Similarly some people get constipation from excessive high intake of fiber. Diabetes patients, especially Type 2 diabetes, need to watch out what they eat especially food containing sugar. People with heart disease need to control the intake of foods containing high amount of fat and cholesterol. These are all common sense diet therapies.

Diet and Cancer

A study conducted by the National Cancer Institute has concluded that as much as 90 percent of all cancer in humans have been attributed to environmental factors, including diet. Dietary modification would have the greatest effect on the incidence of the cancers of the stomach and large bowel and, to a lesser extent, on the cancers of the breast and lung. It may not be possible to specify a diet that will guarantee that cancer can be completely eliminated, as there are other factors involved, certain diet modifications would generally help. Some of these guidelines are:

  1. Reduce the consumption of both saturated and unsaturated fats to 30 percent of total calories. Fat has been linked to a number of cancers. Fat may especially be a causal factor for breast and colon cancer.
  2. Include fruits, vegetables, and whole grain cereal products in the daily diet. Foods rich in Vitamin C and beta carotene are especially recommended. Use our extensive diet data base to look up the nutritional content of foods. Foods such as apricots, peaches, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, citrus fruits, and broccoli, spinach, kale, escarole, Romaine lettuce, parsley, peppers, cabbage, white and sweet potatoes, acorn and butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and carrots fit that bill. Consumption of such vegetables of the mustard family as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts has been linked to a reduced incidence of gastric and colon and rectal cancer.
  3. Keep the consumption of food preserved by salt curing, salt pickling, and smoking to a minimum. It has been found that in countries such as China, Japan, and Iceland where such foods are consumed, there is a higher incidence of the cancer of the esophagus and the stomach. Cut back on sausages, smoked fish and ham, bacon and hot dogs.
  4. Alcoholic beverages should be consumed only on moderation. Heavy drinking, especially in combination with cigarette smoking, has been associated with an increased risk of cancer of the upper gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, as well as other adverse health effects.

Many people also believe that dietary protein is also linked to cancer. Many experts believe that American consume too much protein. There is not a consensus on this matter. Some research indicates that a low cholesterol (especially below 150) may be linked to colon cancer. So, the advise is to use moderate amount of any food and as far as practical, consume a balanced diet rather than eating just one kind of food (for example red meat.)

Refer to the section on Nutrition for appropriate scientific basis for diet therapy. Individual recommendations appropriate for specific illnesses are given under the appropriate title.

See Also:

Nutrition Infocenter in

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