Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. But studies suggest that simple lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy diet, could prevent 30–50% of all cancers. According to the World Health Organization, about 33 percent of cancer deaths may be caused by tobacco, alcohol, high body mass index (BMI), low fruit and vegetable consumption, and not getting enough physical activity.
The Standard American Diet characterized by a high intake of red and processed meats, refined carbohydrates and sugars, processed grains, unhealthy fats, processed foods containing artificial ingredients, as well as exposures to toxins and air pollution all contribute to cancer risk over the course of our lifetime.
The foundational reason for this, is that fundamentally cancer is an inflammatory disease, and these modern industrial toxins all increase inflammation in the body and create an environmental milieu that allows cancer cells to take over our own metabolism and body. Chronic inflammation causes oxidative stress that creates a tumor promoting environment by causing DNA mutations and mitochondria damage.
Cancer tumors are also very inflammatory and create an inflammatory perpetuating cycle. We can measure the body’s overall inflammatory burden by certain biomarkers such as IL-6, IL-8 and C-reactive protein (hsCRP).
Dietary Principles-Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food is information. Food “talks” to your DNA telling it which genes to turn on and off. An anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory diet rich in cancer-fighting super foods, herbs, spices, and teas send healthy messages directly to your genes. Managing the cellular environment and modulating inflammation can change a pro-cancer environment to an anti-cancer environment within your body.
Dietary Factors account for at least 35% of all Cancers. If someone is eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) this figure may be much higher as the SAD is inflammatory and cancer is an inflammatory process. An overview of the main dietary principles to adhere to in order to reduce one’s risk for cancer include:
- Eat a fermented food daily: yogurt, kefir, miso, natto, sauerkraut or kim chi for example to support a balanced diverse microbiome.
- High in soluble and insoluble fiber. The minimum recommendation is 25 grams of fiber for women and 35 grams for men per day.
- Plant strong, Organic/Non-GMO, Unprocessed, Whole Fresh Food
- Eat more plant foods and less animal foods. Introduce beans and legumes for some of your protein servings. (See Centenarian Longevity Diets)
- Biodiverse mainly plant based diet with a focus on colorful antioxidant rich vegetables. Half of your plate should be vegetables at every meal. Many colorful plant pigments interact with your genes in a protective manner and each color contains a unique family of antioxidants. Hence, why we should “Eat the Rainbow” daily and chose organic whenever possible.
- “Clean” Protein-Wild Caught Seafood, Free-Range Grass-Fed Animal Proteins
- Limit Dairy-except for small amounts of 100% grass fed organic fermented dairy as mentioned above.
- Adequate Fluid
- Avoid grilled, charred, and blackened meats, fish, and poultry. Instead cook your meats by boiling, baking, steaming, roasting, or cooking very slowly. If grilling meats, a marinade and a light grilling at a lower heat will reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs). When meat is grilled at high temperatures HCAs are formed. HCAs are known carcinogens that are formed when high temperatures cause amino acids in meat to react with the creatine in meat. This only occurs when you cook meat as it is the the only food that contain creatine.
- Liberal use of anti-inflammatory phytonutrient rich herbs/spices (Farmacy)
- Include a variety of organic teas with an emphasis on organic green tea to increase biodiversity and boost anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Store food in glass containers
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than 3 drinks per week if at all. Evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks and the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time, the higher the risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer. Cancers linked to alcohol consumption include:
- Head and neck
- Consume healthy fats and oils such as high quality uncooked extra virgin olive oil, avocados, organic raw nuts/seeds, and omega 3 fatty acid rich wild seafood such as wild Alaskan salmon and sardines. Aim for 2-3 servings per week of an omega rich (a serving is 3/5 ounces).
Omega 3 fatty acids are powerful potent anti-inflammatory compounds. In addition to lowering inflammation in the body, these anti-inflammatory fatty acids also inhibit cell adhesion, thereby preventing cancer cells from sticking and decreasing the ability of a tumor to hold together.
Numerous studies have linked a higher consumption of vegetables with a lower risk of cancer as most vegetables contain cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals. For example, cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage, contain sulforaphane, a substance that has been shown to reduce tumor size in mice by more than 50%. Broccoli Sprouts are a concentrated source of sulforaphane.
Sulforaphanes, support detoxification of environmental toxins and normal metabolism of estrogens that contribute to hormone sensitive cancers such as breast and prostate cancer. Kale is also a rich source of the protective super antioxidant, lutein. Other vegetables, such as tomatoes and carrots, are linked to a decreased risk of prostate, stomach, and lung cancer.
Avoid Foods that spike blood sugar and insulin secretion:
Processed foods that are high in sugar and low in fiber and nutrients have been linked to a higher cancer risk as these foods also cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly (high glycemic index). Researchers have found that a diet that causes blood glucose levels to spike is associated with an increased risk of several cancers, including stomach, breast, and colorectal cancers. Sugar is food for cancer cells and excess insulin is a growth factor for cancer cells.
One study in over 47,000 adults found that those who consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates were almost twice as likely to die from colon cancer than those who ate a diet low in refined carbohydrates. It’s thought that higher levels of blood glucose and insulin are cancer risk factors. Insulin has been shown to stimulate cell division, supporting the growth, and spread of cancer cells and making them more difficult to eliminate.
In addition, higher levels of insulin and blood glucose can contribute to inflammation in your body. In the long term, this can lead to the growth of abnormal cells and possibly contribute to cancer. This may be why people with diabetes have an increased risk of certain types of cancer. For example, your risk of colorectal cancer is 22% higher if you have diabetes. To protect against cancer, limit or avoid foods that boost insulin levels, such as foods high in sugar and refined carbs. In terms of blood glucose regulation, the goals are a fasting glucose of 70-90 mg/dL and a HgA1c 4.8-5.2. HgA1C is a measurement of the average blood glucose for the previous 3 months.
Tumor Growth Suppression
Cancer is a large group of diseases that occur when abnormal cells divide rapidly and can spread to other tissue and organs. These rapidly growing cells may cause tumors. They may also disrupt the body’s regular function. Normal cells in your body grow and divide according to a natural biological rhythm. Each one cell has a life cycle determined by the type of cell. As cells become damaged or die off, new cells take their place (Autophagy).
Cancer disrupts this process and causes cells to grow abnormally. It’s caused by changes or mutations in the cell’s DNA. The DNA in each cell has instructions that tell the cell what to do and how to grow and divide. Mutations occur frequently in DNA, but usually cells correct these mistakes. When a mistake is not corrected, a cell can become cancerous. Mutations can cause cells that should be replaced to survive instead of die, and new cells to form when they’re not needed.
These extra cells can divide uncontrollably, causing tumors to form. Cancer cells are able to evade growth suppression signals. Current research is pointing to the positive influence of intermittent fasting on cancer, as it may make the cancer cells more sensitive to natural growth suppression signals.
In addition, fasting lowers blood sugar and insulin levels that can precipitate cancer growth. Fasting helps the immune system to “see” the cancer cells better as normal cells slow growth during fasting and cancer cells do not. Fasting Reduces the risk of cancer and increases the effectiveness of cancer treatments by the following mechanisms:
- Fasting increases autophagy
- Fasting forces healthy cells to enter a slow division process in order to re-invest energy into maintenance and repair, which is protective against the toxic effects of anticancer drugs.
- Due to mutation in suppressor genes, cancer cells are unable to decrease growth and metabolism; as a result, they are more susceptible to nutrient deprivation particularly glucose.
- Fasting reduces chemotherapy-induced DNA damage
- Fasting improves insulin and glucose regulation
- Fasting assists with healthy weight management (BMI 18.5-24.9)
Additional Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Practices:
- Restorative Sleep
- Nature and Movement
- Stress Management
- Spiritual Connection and Community
Microbiome and Cancer Prevention
As with most disease prevention and health optimization, working to optimize the diversity of the microbiome is essential. Cancer research is focusing on the interrelationships of what is called meta genomics and how we interface with the gut microbiome. Research is showing that increasing certain species such as Akkermansia, Bacteroides, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and decreasing Bacteroidetes help to modulate the immune system in such a manner to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Beneficial gut microbes are crucial for healthy immunity, hormone clearance, inflammation control, as well as protection and repair of the digestive tract. In addition to the fermented foods and healthy colorful plants each day, another way to obtain healthy bacteria is to take a targeted high quality probiotic supplement.
Select Nutraceuticals and Medications:
- Vitamin D: dosage determined by testing serum blood levels. Optimal serum blood level is between 50 nmol/L and 125 nmol/L.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids:2-6 grams per day either from food or supplements.
- Curcumin 2-6 grams per day
- Probiotics and Prebiotics
- Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)
Hope is on the Horizon.
Since the foundational goal in cancer prevention and treatment is to lower all sources of non-purposeful inflammation, we may have a great deal of hope in terms of cancer prevention and treatment as we have a great deal of control over our diet and lifestyle choices.
We are either stoking a fire of inflammation or calming it down with our food and lifestyle choices. By choosing foods, herbs and spices that promote normal inflammatory control and eliminating foods that ramp up inflammation, you can change the environment of your cells. This is a very powerful step in creating an anti-cancer body.
- Diabetes and Cancer: A Consensus Report
- Green Tea Catechins: Nature’s Way of Preventing and Treating Cancer
- Broccoli Sprout Seeds
- Alcohol and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet/National Cancer Institute
- Cancer as a mitochondrial metabolic disease
- Cancer as a metabolic disease: implications for novel therapeutics
- Diabetes and cancer: a consensus report
- Cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle changes
- A low carbohydrate, high protein diet slows tumor growth and prevents cancer initiation
- Prolonged nightly fasting and breast cancer prognosis
- Vitamin D and cancer: a review of molecular mechanisms
- Low Dose Naltrexone: The Potential Benefit Effects for its Use in Patients with Cancer