Cancer Prevention: Nutrition, Supplements, & Exercise
The statistics for cancer are staggering. With 1/3 of women and 1/2 of men expected to get a form of cancer in their lifetime! So, let's get right into what you can do to prevent cancer today.
First off, what is a cancer cell and what makes it grow? It's an abnormal cell that's overactive and proliferates (read: grows new cells) rapidly. Cancer cells are a perfect storm of genetic mutations and the way the body interacts with that mutation. This means that the environment within the body makes a huge difference in the life or death of the cell. Cancer cells enter into a state of immortality in which they no longer undergo healthy apoptosis (read: natural cell death). Only 5-10% of cancers are due to purely genetic mutations. The vast majority, 90-95%, are due to your environment: Diet (30-35%), Smoking (25-30%), Infection (15-20%), Obesity (10-20%).
Nutrition for Cancer Prevention
1. A Mediterranean Diet is a great preventative approach. Not only is a plant-based diet shown to reduce cancer risk but the individual components with the Mediterranean Diet have their own cancer reducing effects. Whole grains provide fiber that decreases estrogen dominance, an independent risk factor. Polyphenols from plants, legumes, fish, nuts and their essential fatty acids decrease cancer cell growth. Resveratrol from grapes, berries, and wine induce apoptosis. Olive oil is shown to be apoptotic. Flavonoids from vegetables, tea, and wine decrease oxidative damage within the body.
2. Minimal processed carbohydrates can be helpful because cancer cells feed off of glucose. Carbohydrates promote insulin secretion in the body, which leads to an overabundance of insulin receptors on cells. When cancer cells have greater ability to pull glucose into their cells they can reproduce faster. Decreasing carbohydrates by 10% daily (1 slice of bread per day) can decrease cancer recurrence.
3. Fasting overnight can reduce elevated blood sugar markers like HgA1C. Every increase of 3 hours can decrease this marker by 20%. Fasting can improve oxidative stress as well because metabolizing food is oxidative in nature. So, minimizing the burden of metabolism through fasting improves oxidation levels, leaving your body's antioxidation tools for cancer prevention: cell recovery, neurotransmitters, hormone regulation, and decreasing inflammation.
Exercise for Cancer Prevention
Exercise is the largest reduction practice you can implement, especially when combined with 6 servings of vegetables per day! It improves circulating insulin levels, inflammation, immunity, and insulin/glucose receptors (read: cancer cells feeding tubes). It has immense protective effects before diagnosis and massive death reduction after diagnosis.
How? Moderate intensity for 2.5 hours per week. That would be a brisk walk for 30 minutes for 5 days a week. Increasing intensity has even better protective effects. So, 2-3 times per week include intervals where you become breathless. A sedentary lifestyle is a huge risk factor for cancer! Even with moderate exercise it is important to not sit static the rest of the day. Think: movement every hour for several minutes.
Risk Factors for Cancer
1. Alcohol- 3 drinks per day increases your risk of cancer by ~30%. In some studies 3 drinks per day is as high a risk factor as smoking 1 pack per day. Postmenopausal women are especially at risk with alcohol consumption. A multivitamin with methylfolate and stress management can help mitigate the risks of alcohol.
2. Smoking- there are NO safe levels, when an estimated 200 carcinogens are in 1 puff! These change your metabolic capacity by decreasing your genes involved in detoxification and increasing the genes involved in estrogen dominance.
3. Stress- elevates adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol that create a microenvironment for tumor growth. Depression and pessimism contribute to this environment as well. Perceived stress provokes the same effect in your body and brain that actual stress does. This means, anxiety about job, children, or World War 3 tells your body the same information as if a real bear is chasing you! High stress jobs and sleep deprivation add stress to the body and have shown to shorten telomeres (read: the biological age of your genes). Practice stress reduction daily to reverse the "fight/flight" system that stress activates!
4. Obesity is its own risk factor through the body's additional fat cells that act as reservoirs for toxins. Obesity leads to metabolic disturbances, hormones imbalances (namely insulin and leptin), inflammation, oxidative stress, and other factors that lead to tumor growth and carcinogenesis. Nutritional support for this can be found in compounds like berberine, vitamin E, nuts, cinnamon, and curcumin/turmeric.
Supplements for Cancer Prevention
1. Vitamin D- optimal level of vitamin D3 is correlated with healthy BMI and improved cancer prognosis.
2. B vitamins- required for healthy hormones, methylation, and DNA health adequate b vitamins decrease new cancer cells.
3. Melatonin- has been shown to improve remission and survival in all cancers with no noted side effects. It is an antioxidant, regulates circadian rhythm which promotes better sleep, improves estrogen levels in the body, minimizing estrogen dominance.
4. Medicinal mushroom- astralagus has been shown to have direct cancer cell destruction abilities along with improving innate immunity.
That was a dense one! Cancer is a tricky topic and is in no way perfectly predictable. That's why it's such a M*&H*$ F*&K^$!
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