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Adopt an Anti-Cancer Diet

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Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
  Ted Escobedo   14 min read 7 years ago

Adopt an Anti-Cancer Diet

A cancer experience will often change a patient’s outlook on food and nutrition for the rest of their life. Adopting an ‘anti-cancer’ diet and supplement regimen has become much easier in recent years as the consumer demand for all natural foods has increased. Now, choices abound in your local supermarket. Here are some tips to living beyond cancer –naturally.

An anti-cancer diet is one that is as close to nature as possible, without additives and undue processing.

  • Eat 5 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables daily, unless you have advanced cancer; in which case, veer towards 5 portions of vegetables and low fruit. (The fruit sugar can feed the cancer).
  • Do not fry food. Grill or steam.
  • Avoid red meat, and meat in general if possible, unless game, or organic.
  • New research from Harvard has looked at meat consumption and cancer risk.
    These two studies are impressive, and they don’t stand alone. A meta-analysis of 29 studies of meat consumption and colon cancer concluded that a high consumption of red meat increases risk by 28%, and a high consumption of processed meat increases risk by 20%.
    Although the results vary, studies from around the world have suggested that a high consumption of meat is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. In all cases the worry is confined to red meat, not chicken.
    The best evidence comes from a pair of large 2005 studies, one from Europe, the other from the United States. The European research tracked 478,000 men and women who were free of cancer when the study began. The people who ate the most red meat (about 5 ounces a day or more) were about a third more likely to develop colon cancer than those who ate the least red meat (less than an ounce a day on average). Their consumption of chicken did not influence risk one way or the other, but a high consumption of fish appeared to reduce the risk of colon cancer by about a third.
  • Eat fish, oily in particular, such as mackerel, herring, wild salmon and tuna and sardines. Avoid smoked foods.
  • Eat dairy foods in moderation.
  • Do not exceed 40 grams of protein a day. More than this will severely tax the liver's detoxification systems, and promote conditions favourable to cancer.This is concentrated sources of protein, meat, fish eggs, cheese, tofu, nuts.
    The best guide is the Barry Sears formula: your plate, at every meal, should contain a piece of concentrated protein about the size and thickness of the palm of your hand, and the other 3 quarters be full of complex carbohydrates ie, veggies and some fruit, plus about a teaspoonful of a good fat such as mono-saturated olive oil, or omega-3 rich flax.
  • However, if you are suffering from a hormonal cancer, such as Breast or Prostate Cancer, you would be very strongly advised to give up all dairy produce altogether, including beef, with the possible exception of organic eggs. A very compelling case for a direct causal link between milk and its products, and breast and prostate cancer, has been made, after a scientific review of all the evidence to date, by Professor Jane Plant, herself a remarkable survivor of 5 recurrences of advanced breast cancer (see Bibliography. Professor Plant's book also tells you how to make the dietary changes necessary.)
  • Keep the total percentage of fat in the diet below 25%, if possible, (do not exceed 30%). There are good fats and bad fats. The only oils you should use in cooking are cold-pressed olive oil, canola oil and a little butter, and for salads, olive oil, sesame, flax, pumpkin, walnut and hazelnut oils. Discard all other oils, and margarines. Avoid hydrogenated fats in biscuits, cakes, crisps etc. These fats actually block the keys which enable your body to utilise essential fatty acids, or good fats. (95% of the population are deficient in essential fatty acids). You can improve your good fat intake by supplementing with 3000mg or more - up to 5000mg daily of fish oil, or 2/3 tablespoons of flax. These contain Omega-3 fatty acids which have been demonstrated to retard the progress of cancer quite significantly and help prevent cachexia, the wasting associated with cancer. A good fish oil supplement, which also includes omega-6 fatty acids, is Eye-q, manufactured by Equazen. It comes in capsules or liquid. Website:
  • Add soy products to your diet, on a daily basis. These include soy sauce, miso soup/paste, tofu, tempeh, soya milk and yoghurt; the latter two, and tofu, are excellent dairy substitutes. However, it is strongly advisable to avoid soy in over-processed forms, such as TVP, "mince", burgers, sausages etc. The processing involved actually adds high levels of carcinogens – nitrosamines – and toxic metals to such soy products. Apart from lowering cholesterol and being an excellent source of protein, soy contains isoflavones. Isoflavones are anti-angiogenic, that is they can interfere with the process by which tumours establish a life-line and grow.
  • Drink Miso broth, or make miso soup daily (see recipes), particularly if you are undergoing radiotherapy. According to Japanese research, miso contains a chelating agent which can remove heavy metals and radioactive matter from the body. Miso is said to have protected doctors working at Ground Zero in Nagasaki from radiation sickness. For further protection from the side effects of radiation, post-therapy, make frequent use of seaweed in soups, salads, casseroles, dips etc. Good seaweeds to try are Icelandic Kelp, Nori, Arame, Hiziki, Dulse, Wakame. Juicing, if you can do it, is a wonderful way of really concentrating good nutrition in an easy format. But if you are losing weight rapidly, purée instead. The best kind of juicer, if you can afford it, is one such as Vitamix, which does not strain out essential fiber from fruit and vegetables
  • Wherever possible, eat organic produce.
  • Do not add sugar or salt to food.
  • Avoid coffee.
  • Drink plenty of water, mineral, or filtered, green tea without milk, (to avoid inactivating the therapeutic ingredients) - a November 1999 letter to Nature Medicine suggests that drinking about 4/5 cups of green tea daily may slow metastatic tumour growth by up to 50% - ; herb teas, such as Pau D'Arco, Essiac, Cats Claw, Dandelion etc, and diluted fresh fruit juices, or better still concentrated fresh vegetable juices.
The best complete nutritional supplement to take an immune boosting vitamin mix, and high dose vitamin C powder, throughout the day in water or juice, 10 grams or more, to tolerance.


Supplements help during and after cancer treatment

The complicated relationship between immune system functioning and cancer is often misunderstood, according to Tim Birdsall, ND, the vice president of integrative medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America and a member of the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for the National Institutes of Health.

Your immune system is designed to recognize and destroy abnormal cells. But in many instances, especially in early stage cancers, the surface markers on cancerous cells are identical to those on normal cells, making it impossible for your immune system to recognize them as a threat.

Although boosting your immune system isn’t an actual treatment for cancer, it’s incredibly important as you fight cancer. Cancer patients are susceptible to infection from the disease, as well as from treatments that destroy white blood cells.

“Infection is a huge issue to cancer patients,” Birdsall says. “It is important to do things to boost the immune system and reduce the likelihood of infection.”

Here are supplements, vitamins, and extracts you may hear about to help boost the immune system.

Supplements for Cancer: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the most studied supplements for cancer prevention and treatment right now.

Vitamin D is of interest not so much because of results of clinical trials, but because of our evolving understanding of the key role it plays in cell [development] and the fact that so many people are really deficient in vitamin D,” says Tim Byers, MD, deputy director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

Epidemiological studies have found that people with cancer often have lower circulating levels of vitamin D in their blood. However, the research is mixed.

In a study presented at the 2008 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, researchers found that vitamin D deficiency was more common among women diagnosed with breast cancer. The study also found that vitamin D deficiency may raise the risk of breast cancer spreading, and raise the risk of death from breast cancer.

But in a large National Cancer Institute study, researchers found no association between blood levels of vitamin D and cancer death, with the possible exception of colorectal cancer. People with high levels of vitamin D were 72% less likely than those with low levels to die of colorectal cancer.

Also, some studies have found that vitamin D may protect against prostate cancer, while other studies have found that it doesn’t help.

There continues to be a flurry of research looking at vitamin D’s role in cancer. More research is needed to truly understand the relationship.

Supplements for Cancer: Garlic

Many studies have found that people who eat a lot of garlic are less likely to develop certain common cancers.

That garlic research has led scientists to wonder whether garlic may have cancer-treating properties as well as cancer-prevention capabilities. Although studies are not yet conclusive, there is some evidence that garlic may be useful for cancer in conjunction with medical treatments.

For starters, garlic may be beneficial for cancer patients owing to its immune-boosting abilities, which vary depending on how the garlic has been processed. Additionally, certain substances found in garlic have been shown to suppress growth and fight certain cancerous cells in the lab, including forms of breast and lung cancer.

Early studies have shown that eating garlic can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer and stomach cancer. The same benefit was not found with garlic supplements. However, preliminary prostate cancer research on men in China has shown that both eating garlic and garlic supplements may decrease the risk of prostate cancer.

Supplements for Cancer: Green Tea

Green tea contains substances called polyphenols that are believed to have powerful anti-cancer abilities.

Cancerous tumors rely on fast-growing networks of blood vessels to sustain their rapid growth rate. Green tea compounds may possess the ability to help slow or prevent this rapid growth. “Green tea seems to inhibit the development of new blood vessels in tumors, and provides one more approach that can be used to strangle tumors,” Birdsall tells WebMD.

Because it would take the equivalent of drinking 10 to 12 cups of green tea each day to obtain the cancer-fighting levels of green tea compounds, Birdsall recommends that his patients take green tea in extract form. Be aware, there are some concerns about green tea extracts and liver toxicity. Also, a recommendation of 10 to 12 cups of green tea per day would be for cancer treatment, not cancer prevention.

Drinking green tea may increase the survival rates of some cancer patients. One study of women with ovarian cancer found that women who drank green tea were more likely to survive three years after ovarian cancer diagnosis than women who did not drink green tea. The survival rates increased with higher consumption levels of green tea.

Drinking green tea may also help prevent certain cancers. Preliminary research suggests a possible protective effect against bladder, esophageal, pancreatic, ovarian, and possibly cervical cancer, even with as little as 3-5 cups a day. Evidence for breast, stomach, and lung cancer is mixed: studies have conflicting findings.

Supplements for Cancer: Mushroom Products

Extracts from mushrooms have been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years. More recent scientific studies are beginning to determine reasons for their potential health-promoting actions.

For example, polysaccharides (phytochemicals) from the Ganoderma lucidum mushroom have been shown to inhibit the growth and invasiveness of some cancer cells in the laboratory, including certain forms of breast cancer.

Other fungal varieties that may exhibit anti-cancer activity include reishi, shiitake, maitake and coriolus or turkey tail, mushrooms.

Lentinan, a substance found in shiitake mushrooms, has been shown in the lab to inhibit the growth of human colon cancer cells in mice. This may result from lentinan’s ability to inhibit some enzymes that promote the activity of cancer-causing substances called carcinogens. Beta-glucan, a compound found in maitake mushrooms, is also thought to have tumor-fighting properties, though data on these abilities is still quite limited.

Keep in mind that the studies so far have looked at how these mushroom extracts affect cancer cells in the lab, with only a few documenting the effects in the human body. More research is needed.

Supplements for Cancer: Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances found in abundance in fruits and vegetables – and in lesser amounts in nuts, grains, and meat. These phytochemicals fight certain oxygen molecules in your body known as free radicals, which can damage DNA and contribute to the development and proliferation of cancerous cells.

Common antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E, selenium, certain compounds in green tea and melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain.

The use of antioxidants for cancer prevention and treatment is a controversial and confusing topic. Although experts once believed that megadoses of certain antioxidants, including vitamins A and E, might be beneficial, clinical studies have raised questions about the safety of this practice. Studies have shown that high doses of certain antioxidants can increase cancer occurrence in some populations. For instance, smokers who take high doses of beta carotene are at increased risk for lung cancer.

Some experts worry that the use of antioxidants during radiation therapy and chemotherapy might serve to protect the very cancer cells that are being targeted. A 2008 study in Cancer Research showed that vitamin C supplements blunted the effectiveness of chemotherapy by 30% to 70%.

Although more research needs to be done, there is data to suggest that antioxidant supplements may improve quality of life for some cancer patients. For example, the combined use of antioxidants in green tea, melatonin, and multivitamins containing high doses of vitamins C and E was shown to reduce pain and fatigue in patients being treated for pancreatic cancer.

In the meantime, there’s no doubt that a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, has numerous health benefits.

Be sure to talk with your cancer treatment team before taking antioxidant supplements when you have cancer.

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