Nutritional Guide Explains Subsistence Diet for Alaska Native Cancer Survivors
The Anchorage Daily News on Monday examined a new subsistence diet guide targeting Alaska Natives that includes nutritional and cultural food options for cancer survivors that modern medicine providers have a "hard time endorsing." The 142-page guide, "Traditional Food Guide for Alaska Native Cancer Survivors," is a part of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium's Cancer Project and was funded in large part by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Alaska Natives are more likely than whites to die of cancer, and it is the leading cause of death for Alaska Natives and Alaska residents as a whole, the Daily News reports. A healthy diet is considered a key component of cancer management, and many Alaska Natives find that "traditional foods offer a significant source of comfort during and after treatment," according to the Daily News. However, some modern medical providers are confused by or have "a hard time endorsing" traditional Alaska Native foods, which are typically hunted and gathered, the Daily News reports.
The guide uses nutritional analyses from previous studies on subsistence foods and translates them into a simplified format that includes stories from Alaska Natives about the cultural significance of the food items. According to the guide, following a healthy diet while undergoing cancer treatment can help reduce fatigue, manage side effects and strengthen the immune system. The guide includes 30 native recipes, such as caribou stew, baked moose bones and beaver pot roast. The guide also includes the nutritional information and caloric value of native food items such as musk ox and muskrat.
Nora Nagaruk, an Alaska Native physician and cancer survivor, said she expects the guide to improve patient-physician relationships in the Alaska Native community. "The more knowledge health care providers have about the nutritional and cultural value of native foods, the more likely it will be encouraged and promoted, which in turn makes a patient who eats these foods feel culturally respected and may give the patient more trust in their provider" (McKinney, Anchorage Daily News, 4/28).