Shefaly Ravula, PA-C Explains How Nutrition & Diet Can Help Heal Cancer Patients
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Welcome to the Armor Men’s Health Hour with Dr. Mistry and Donna Lee. Many thanks to KLBJ news radio and all of our wonderful staff here for helping us put on this show. This is a men’s health show. I’m a board-certified urologist. That is a doctor or a surgeon who treats genitourinary conditions of the prostate, kidney, kidney stones, low testosterone, hormones, wellness. We do so much great stuff here.
One of the big reasons that we’ve decided to bring this show to the community is to really highlight a different way of thinking about your health. One of the great things about our practice is how incredibly diverse it is—you would rarely find as intensive of a nutrition program in a medical practice, let alone a surgical practice. We strive to achieve a whole-body approach to different medical conditions.
Shefaly Ravula, PA-C
Today, we are joined by Shefaly Ravula. She is a physician assistant and she is our functional nutrition provider here at our practice. Not only was she a food writer for the Austin American Statesman, she also does cooking shows, and is a trained medical provider. She really understands the connection between nutrition and health and wellness.
It is very easy to talk to people and for them to accept on a superficial level, that what we put in our body can affect our health. That’s easy for people to believe. Somehow, it’s hard for people to believe that if they change what they’re putting in their body, that it can affect their body system.
Triggers for Diet and Nutrition Changes
What are some of the triggers that really inspire somebody to change the way they’re eating or their lifestyle? Often, in the medical world, it’s a new diagnosis. A new diagnosis is like a pain point. It’s a new pain point, especially if it’s a chronic illness. If you don’t have a pain point, then you’re going to have a really hard time being motivated and coached by anybody, including yourself, to make those changes.
Transition points like these are really an opportunity for you to re-examine what you’ve done. You know, smokers often don’t stop smoking until they get a bad illness. People who are overweight often will wait until they have some kind of chronic illness, which is really a shame, because sometimes you’ve waited too long.
Another example is when my fatty liver patients are told they have fatty liver or even cirrhosis, that’s actually when they first hear about alcohol reduction. Or they’ve heard all along, but that’s when they actually do it. It is a real struggle to get people to make lifestyle changes when they’re not having a specific pain point, unless you’re particularly motivated that way. As a medical professional, I have to give out pain points every day. I’ve got to tell people they have low testosterone. I’ve got to tell people that they have interstitial cystitis. And then, of course, cancer diagnoses are a big part of our everyday here.
Drawbacks to Band-Aid Medicine
Band-Aid medicine is, you know, it’s not what I want to call what we do in the medical field. I mean, we need this Western approach, this evidence-based medicine, and we have a role of course, for this kind of medical care. That said, I’d like us to see in this country a better approach to chronic disease and chronic illness, which takes a lot of work. It’s a work on a provider and more work for the patient.
I’m a big believer in philosophy guiding practices. If you were just to kind of generalize the nutritional approach to cancer diagnosis. And nobody here is talking about not doing traditional therapy. You know, if you have prostate cancer, take your doctor’s advice. But every single one of my patients, literally the second I diagnose them, the first question they ask is what should I eat? It’s on the very forefront of their minds.
The Cancer Nutrition Philosophy
How would you explain kind of your philosophy or your approach to cancer nutrition? There’s a lot. There’s a lot there and you can generalize diets for the masses. It would be hard. Everybody knows to eat clean and eat vegetables for the most part. If you look at all the diets out there, Paleo vegetarian, vegan, Keto…I mean, most of them don’t disagree on vegetables. And clean foods, we’re really talking about things that are minimally processed. So whole foods. Not like, a broccoli chip, but just broccoli please. All those kinds of things out there.
The reason your patients are going to ask you first and foremost, “What can I eat?” is because patients need to feel empowered. They’ve been given a diagnosis by somebody else, it’s totally out of their control. This goes for everything, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, whatnot. They are going to ask their doctor because who else can they ask? They don’t, you don’t go to a nutritionist for a well-check. You go to your doctor. So, they’re going to ask you.
Luckily now, you know, incorporate culinary, cooking classes, culinary medicine, into their programs, more and more, but certainly when you and I went, when I went to PA school, or when you went to med school, nutrition was like two hours of your, you know, education…nothing.
Importance of Patient Follow-Through
There’s a lot of reasons for it. How much can we really try to turn the patient’s viewpoint? When somebody comes to me with an enlarged prostate, I know that I can recommend, 10 times out of 10 prostate surgery is going to help you pee better. I’m going to feel very confident that’s going to work. But I’m not as confident that if I send somebody for weight-loss counseling since I don’t know if they’re going to follow through. And I think it’s people being disappointed with our patients follow through that, discourages us to keep going, but that’s never been my philosophy. I’m always a big fan of the one person that decides to go through the therapy.
When it comes to cancer eating, a lot of them are very motivated to lose weight prior to surgery, but it’s the maintenance of some kind of lifestyle. And if it’s too drastic, they, a lot of people can’t stick with it.
Nutrition Principles for a Cancer Diet
What are some guiding nutrition principles that people can easily kind of think about when they approach a cancer diet?
I think the first thing I would say, you can say this the moment you see them in the office is to start eating cruciferous vegetables every single day. They’re a part of the brassica family and, they just all cruciferous vegetables–so this is kale, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, arugala, I’m missing a big one here, couple other ones in that class–if you can eat that every day, you know, a good handful or two servings, just put that…We should all be doing this, this is preventative anti-cancer therapy, truly.
Really, I would tell your patients, “You want to do something, you want some empowerment? Do you want to take charge, be in control a little bit? Start eating blueberries and broccoli every single day.”
The idea is that you’re reducing inflammation, so an anti-inflammatory diet is huge. If I had to really encapsulate what approach is to so many disease processes, it’s this idea that inflammation is a central core component of many things: cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, weight. And by reducing the inflammatory response in our body, I think that we can reduce rashes, irritable bowel, cancer diagnosis and progression, and so I’m really proud of the approach that we’re taking together when it comes to nutrition.
If you’re out there and you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, whether it be prostate cancer, kidney cancer, or another type of cancer, and you haven’t been given nutrition guidance on what to put in your body, we would highly encourage you to come in and visit with us. What we put in our body has to have some impact in what’s going on with us in terms of our health, even if it’s cancer.
You don’t have to have a urologic condition per se, to be able to visit with Shefaly or our team. And she can see you directly. She’s a physician assistant. She has incredible medical training, worked in oncology, worked in GI medicine, and we are now very happy to have her here in urology.
If you have questions for Dr. Mistry, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the original episode on The Armor Men’s Health Hour podcast.
To make an appointment, call us at 512-238-0762, or visit our website.