Cancer Support II - Prevention

Last time I wrote about some general guidelines to help with the side effects of chemotherapy. I can not stress enough how helpful those supplements can be because even a slight improvement in quality of life will mean a great deal to someone going through the process of chemotherapy. This month, I will discuss what to do after the chemo. There is plenty that you can do to help prevent any type of cancer from recurring. Basically, it comes down to a two step plan: optimization of diet and lifestyle and proper preventive supplementation.

In terms of diet and lifestyle, it is a relatively simple plan, although it may be a far cry from what the person is used to (especially around here). First and foremost is the reduction, or total elimination of saturated fat. For most people, this will mean eliminating red meat from the diet, a major source of saturated fat and carcinogens (cancer-promoting substances). The carcinogens mostly come from the cooking of the meat - any type of charring or BBQ process significantly raises the level of carcinogens on the meat. Another major source of saturated fat for most people are dairy products. These foods should also be avoided as much as possible.

Also important is to limit one’s intake of refined grains and sugars. These evil foods severely suppress the immune system and put a terrible strain of the body’s blood-sugar regulating mechanisms. When the fossil record is examined, cancer seems to be a very rare event in human populations until the introduction of sugar into the diet. Keeping blood glucose low is a fantastic way to help prevent cancer from forming or returning. Out of control (or even slightly high) blood glucose will over time damage the immune system and make it more likely that cancerous cells will not be eliminated by the body.

Speaking of cells, you can do nothing better to promote the formation of healthy cells than to have good amounts of Essential Fatty Acids in your diet, i.e. fish oils. Fish oil is the preferred building block of cellular membranes. When we have a deficiency of fish oils, the body is forced to use less desirable building block such as monounsaturated and trans-fatty acids. This results in a sluggish and poorly functioning membrane and cell in general. Cells which can not function optimally are more likely to suffer the damage that allows for cancerous growth. Because of the questionable quality and cleanliness of our fish supply I normally recommend that people get their fish oil through supplements. Also, it would be hard to eat enough fish to achieve the oil levels that I like for people to be on (about 3 grams/day in this case).

Aside from a good, clean diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and low fat protein sources, additional fiber is the other dietary supplement I would consider. Fiber is the number one preventive supplement in terms of colon cancer, but it can help to prevent all types of cancer. FIber serves to bind up and carry out a lot of toxins from the body. It also helps ensure a smooth and consistent flow through the large intestine. Any sort of constipation will allow for excess toxin build up, and that must be avoided when trying to prevent cancer recurrence. Again, for many of us, getting the optimal amounts of fiber (20-30 grams per day) would be difficult to do through diet alone, although it is possible.

As far as lifestyle changes go, the two most important things to address are losing excess weight and stopping smoking if you smoke. Excessive weight carries many health risks, most of which can help promote cancer. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space to go into that in more detail. Smoking, besides introducing numerous carcinogens into the body, significantly raises one's oxidant load. Oxidants have a huge potential of damaging DNA and causing mutations that allow for cancer growth. Other lifestyle advice would be to ensure the addition of moderate exercise at least three times per week.

In addition to a basic, good high potency multivitamin/mineral, there are some supplements that are very specific when it comes to cancer protection.

  • • Selenium - reduces incidence and severity of many cancers
    • Green tea Polyphenols - an antioxidant; increases cancer cell death rates
    • Quercetin - antioxidant; can inhibit tumor growth and act in a number of ways to down-regulate the processes that allow for cancerous growths
    • Phytic Acid (IP6) - potently down-regualtes the genes which cause cancerous growths
    • Curcumin - Inhibits the formation of cancer-promoting substances
    • CoQ10 - antioxidant; commonly deficient in many cancerous growths
    • Vitamin D - anti-growth and anti-metastatic (spreading) properties
    • Folic Acid - required for normal DNA replication and cell division
    • Lycopene - Shown to reduce DNA damage in human lymph tissue
    • Vitamin A - Well known to inhibit normal cells becoming cancer cells

As always, it is vitally important to work with a health care practitioner who understands these supplements and knows the optimal amounts to use for your particular case. By following the above plan, you will be giving yourself the the greatest possible chance of remaining cancer free for the rest of your now long and healthy life. Think good thoughts, eat good food, live a good lifestyle, and supplement wisely and you will live long and prosper. Good Luck!

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