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Diet and Cancer
I want you to have the best information you can on diet and cancer. I’ve been compiling lists of these wonderful foods for a very long time. Every time I encounter a new and interesting bit of research I write it down and I am pleased to be able to share this information with you. It is a continually evolving and growing list. I hope it helps you THRIVE. – Marnie Clark, Breast Cancer Coach
From the website www.cancernutrition.com: “The National Cancer Institute estimates that at least 35% of all cancers have a nutritional connection. When lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise are included the associated risk becomes much stronger and may be as high as 85%. What we eat makes a big difference in our energy levels, our mood and even our self esteem. When we choose foods rich in protective factors such as fruits and vegetables we are also doing something positive for our health and well-being.”
We are very fortunate to live in an age where so much scientific research has been done, so much information is available on the Internet, all of which explains exactly why an apple a day actually does keep the doctor away! There are multitudes of reasons why we should be eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, not the least of which is because so many of them are cancer fighting foods.
Whenever possible, cancer patients should be eating organic produce because if your immune system is already under attack, it does not need any more toxins to drag it down. There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there, we keep hearing about various people doing “taste tests” on organic produce vs. regular produce. They are TOTALLY missing the point. People aren’t eating organic produce because it tastes better, but because it’s free of all the pesticides and herbicides that regular produce gets sprayed on it at various stages!
If you live in an area where organic produce just isn’t available, get the freshest produce that you can and just make sure you wash everything extremely well – fill the kitchen sink with clean water and a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice and soak any non-organic produce for 15-20 minutes, rinse well. It may seem like just another task, but it is well worth it, especially considering how much some fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides.
THINGS TO AVOID
No discussion of Diet and Cancer would be complete without a list of things to avoid. Some of them might seem obvious but I have compiled this list for the novice who knows nothing of nutrition.
Alcohol. For one thing, it is made with carcinogens, it is metabolized into carcinogens by the body, it suppresses your immunity. If you are dealing with breast cancer, alcohol is known to increase estrogen levels and may interfere with the ability of the liver to remove estrogen from the bloodstream. Having said all of that, there is research that shows that a glass of red wine now and again is actually good for you, but if you are actively battling cancer it is recommended that you give alcohol a big miss.
Processed Meats. Bacon, sausage, hot dogs and ham all contain chemicals known as nitrates (used for preserving the meat). An excess of nitrates in the body is linked to the development of many different types of cancer, including stomach, colorectal and brain tumors. Avoid these meats whenever possible, unless you can buy organic, nitrate free varieties and increasingly these are becoming more readily available.
Sugar. This is a bit more difficult for some people, but sugar also suppresses the immune system. It raises triglyceride levels and blood pressure, lowers your production of antibodies, inactivates macrophages (immune system cells), and increases candida albicans (a fungus) in your body. Research shows that only a modest intake of glucose (sugar) can cause a measurable decline in cell-mediated immunity in healthy people. It is thought that the mechanism by which this occurs is probably elevated insulin levels competing with mitogens (communication substances in the immune system) for binding sites on lymphocytes. Simple sugars seem to cause this effect, while starch ingestion does not. Researchers have hypothesized that a high sugar intake is a major risk factor toward breast cancer. See my article Avoid Sugar Help Your Immune System
Margarine. Margarine is like spreadable edible plastic. It will not rot and bugs won’t touch it. Stop eating it immediately. Also get rid of any food product containing hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils. I could say a lot about this subject, but you can Google it and find out for yourself. Hydrogenated oils have trans fats which are toxic, adulterated fatty acids which contribute to disease. They can actually make you sick and fat.
Non-Organic Dairy Products. There are 3 problems with dairy products:
1. A common source of food allergies – If you are lactose intolerant and fighting cancer you would be well advised to avoid all varieties of dairy products. This is because if your body is continually losing energy from the foods you eat, you don’t have the energy to combat cancer cells.
2. Casein – Phil Richards, a nutritionist, writes that “the connection between casein and cancer was so profound in rat experiments that the scientists could literally turn cancer growth on and off in the laboratory animals, like a light switch, simply by altering the level of casein protein in their diets.” Specifically, “consuming dairy products is linked to an increased risk for breast cancer as dairy products are high in fat, animal protein, and hormones, each of which increases cancer risk. Since the 1980’s, study after study has linked dairy consumption to a high incidence of breast and other cancers.”
3. Antibiotics and Growth Hormones – Another problem with dairy products are the antibiotics and growth hormones that are given to our dairy cattle – they eventually find their way into the milk supply and into our bodies. Some countries like New Zealand and Australia and most of the EU do not use growth hormones in their cattle.
If you must have dairy products (including butter), do so sparingly. Ensure they are all organic.
Non-Organic Meat. This is such a topic of controversy — meat eating when you have cancer is a huge topic. Some research indicates that beyond a shadow of a doubt eating red meat is a serious risk factor for breast cancer. Other research will tell you that there is no correlation. My suggestion is this. If you are fighting an active cancer in your body right at this moment, don’t eat meat. It’s too hard to digest and you can get your protein from other, better sources. If you are well you should be able to eat organic and non-processed meat several times per week. Please stay away from the meat in all fast food chains unless it is advertised as being organic. Here’s why I say that. Non-organic red meat (especially in the USA) contains concentrated amounts of toxins including pesticides, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers, hormones and growth stimulators. In countries where cattle are injected with rBGH (a bovine growth hormone to make then grow larger faster), these cattle produce large amounts of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) – this becomes a very potent stimulator of breast cancer, and some scientists believe that it is the most potent stimulator of breast cancer known to us. If that isn’t enough to sway you, the pesticides and fertilizers used in cattle production can also trigger breast cancer due to their estrogen-like effects.
One last note on things to avoid:
Obesity. Research indicates that overeating suppresses the immune system. Also, people who have already fought a battle with cancer and are overweight have a higher chance of suffering a recurrence. Simple weight gain should not be worried about, but being obese carries with it a higher risk of cancer.
HEALING FOODS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR DIET
Okay, here’s the good stuff, the best cancer fighting foods that nature has to offer. I’ve broken it down into Fiber, Fruits, Vegetables, and then other healing nutrients.
Some of the research on breast cancer shows that higher than normal estrogen levels increase your risk of contracting this disease. Interestingly, something as simple as 1/2 oz of bran per day can significantly decrease estrogen levels. If bran isn’t digested well, seeds and whole grains are transformed in the gut to lignans which, once absorbed, interfere with estrogenic activity (like a natural Tamoxifen). The best source is freshly ground flaxseed (see below under Other Cancer Fighting Vitamins & Nutrients). 2 tsp per day is suggested as higher amounts can interfere with Vitamin B6.
Fiber also hastens elimination and protects the bowel. A diet high in fiber also helps to control weight and lowers cholesterol levels. Good sources of fiber are fruit, vegetables, brown rice, rye crackers, oats, sesame seeds, whole wheat, and bran.
Oats also contain melatonin which helps you sleep better. Melatonin also increases apoptosis and reduces proliferation of HER2 + breast cancer cells.
The darker the color, the higher the level of antioxidants and phytonutrients (“phyto” means plant). A good thing to remember – if it stains your fingers, it’s an extremely good cancer blaster!
Acai (Euterpe oleracea) Pronounced ah-SIGH-ee. Acai berries originate in South America and are known to be a super food due to their very high level of antioxidants. Available in a variety of juice products or as a freeze-dried powder in capsule form, acai is marketed as a dietary supplement for weight loss, to decrease cholesterol and boost energy, and to fight cancer. In addition to antioxidants, acai also contains plenty of anthocyanins, and two essential fatty acids known as Omega 6 (linoleic acid) and Omega 9 (oleic acid). Research has found that Omega 9 fatty acids keep cancer causing oncogenes, found in many breast cancer patients, from being induced into action. Anthocyanins have also exhibited a therapeutic effect in the treatment of fibrocystic breast disease. Anthocyanins may also offer protection from radiation, they are good for the cardiovascular system and anti-inflammatory properties.
Apples. Apples are a very beneficial cancer fighting food – much more than you might think. Please buy them organically grown wherever possible because apples top the list of the most contaminated foods. Also, red apples are often injected with a dye to make them look better! Organic apples have a large amount of caffeic acid which research shows may prevent many forms of cancer. They also contain ellagic acid which is known to be a potent cancer inhibitor, it is an antioxidant, and also an anti-mutagen. Studies have shown the anti-cancer activity of ellagic acid on cancer cells of the breast, esophagus, skin, colon, prostate and pancreas. More specifically, ellagic acid prevents the destruction of P53 gene by cancer cells. Ellagic acid can bind with cancer causing molecules, rendering them inactive. Ellagic acid also showed a chemoprotective effect against various chemically induced cancers – it works by preventing polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (mainly found in cigarettes) and a carcinogen known as benzopyrene (created as a result of food processing involving heat as in frying, barbecuing or smoking) from converting normal, healthy cells into cancerous cells. Apples also contain chlorogenic acid which helps to prevent the sort of cell mutations that are seen in cancer. And we’re not done yet! Apple pulp contains pectin and pectic acids which travel through your intestines, absorbing water and expanding into a sticky mass which will help to soften hard stools, it binds to toxins in the stomach and intestinal tract and that helps to guard you against stomach and colon cancer. Apples also contain high amounts of Vitamins E, A and C (all antioxidants), biotin and folic acid.
Apricots. Apricots contain beta-carotene which is a great antioxidant, inhibiting early stages of tumor development and improving immune function.
Bananas. Bananas are wonderful! Rich in pectin (see Apples), potassium and magnesium. Potassium helps to remove poisonous wastes from the kidneys. Bananas also contain plenty of Vitamins A, C and E. They even have some B vitamins that help calm the nervous system. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, go eat a banana. Bananas contain 3 natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose, and give an instant, sustained and noticeable boost of energy. They also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that the body converts into serotonin, which can improve your mood and make you feel a little happier!
Berries: Bilberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Dewberries, Cranberries, Raspberries. These berries are all rich in Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, silicon and iron. They also contain anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants and bacteria inhibitors. Many also contain ellagic acid (see Apples). Blueberries have been studied recently by the City of Hope cancer center which found that they may help halt the growth and spread of triple negative breast cancer. In City of Hope labs, blueberry juice held back the migration of cancer cells, while blueberry extract shrank tumors, stopped cancer cells from multiplying and even triggered their destruction.
Cherries. Cherries are also a great cancer fighting food – they contain something that encourages the death of tumor cells, so very beneficial to cancer patients. Cherries are a tonic for the blood, they promote healthy blood and protect the body against the harmful effects of stress and our polluted cities. They are rich in Vitamins A and C, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. Cherries also contain melatonin which helps you sleep better. Melatonin also increases apoptosis and reduces proliferation of HER2 + breast cancer cells.
Citrus Fruit (except grapefruit). Again, buy organic whenever possible as citrus fruit is highly sprayed and can also be irradiated to protect the fruit from insects. Food irradiation creates many toxic effects on the body which can promote cancer development.
- Citrus fruits are high in fiber, rich in Vitamins A and C, so they are potent antioxidants.
- Lemons, oranges, mandarins and limes contain a substance known as limonene (also found in the essential oils produced from these fruits) which is a strong cancer fighter that stimulates the liver to produce a cancer-inhibiting enzyme known as glutathione S-transferase (GST) . Limonene seems to promote the GST system in the liver and small bowel, thereby decreasing the damaging effects of carcinogens. Animal studies demonstrated that dietary limonene reduced mammary tumor growth (so get out those essential oils of lemon, orange, and tangerine and spread them on your body!).
- Lemons are high in phosphorus which aids in brain repair, increasing memory and creativity.
- Lemons help waste elimination, are a natural antiseptic, cleanse the lymphatic system, and prevent hardening of arteries. If you think that lemons are acidic, think again – once they enter the stomach they are alkaline and promote a healthy body pH.
Durian. A little known fruit from Asia that has an extremely pungent smell, but an amazingly sweet taste. The smell of the durian fruit is so bad that many hotels in the areas where durian grows will not allow their guests to have the fruit in their rooms! But it appears to have some wonderful health benefits. People in the local villages of Southeast Asia where the durian is most common, call it “The King of Fruits”. Many nutritionists claim that the durian fruit can help lower cholesterol and cleanse the blood as well as cure jaundice and alleviate fevers. Some regard it as being good for yeast infections such as thrush because of the durian’s high iron content which helps white blood cells kill off the infection. Here’s what we do know: durian is packed with amino acids such as tryptophan which is essential for making and maintaining serotonin levels in the body – serotonin is the hormone in the body that regulates happiness and people with low serotonin levels tend to have short tempers, are moody and suffer from depression. This means that not only will eating durian fruit help keep your body running smoothly but it will also increase your general happiness and well being. It also has Vitamins B, C and E and high levels of antioxidants and the antioxidants are what make it a super food and powerful cancer blaster. When you are traveling in Asia, seek it out.
Figs. Research on humans demonstrated that figs are capable of shrinking tumors by an average of 39% and could induce remissions in 55% of cancer sufferers. It is thought that figs can counteract some of the side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatment, such as fatigue, damage to the mucosal lining of the mouth, throat and digestive tract. Figs contain demulcents, substances that sooth irritated mucous membranes in the mouth, throat and respiratory system. They are rich in potassium, iron, copper, calcium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium and B complex vitamins. Try to find organic figs, as they will be the most beneficial cancer fighter.
Goji berries aka Wolfberries. The Chinese have been taking these berries for thousands of years and they call them the “Red Treasure”. They are full of health-promoting substances called polysaccharides – LBP1, LBP2, LBP3, LBP4 – and these are found in no other fruit on earth. The juice of the goji berry is the easiest to take and much more nutrient dense. If you want specific research on how wolfberry/goji is being used for cancer patients, go to the pubmed.gov website and put in the search field “lycium barbarum and cancer” (the botanic name of wolfberry/goji). You will be rewarded with LOTS of research.
Grapes. Red and purple grapes are fantastic cancer fighting foods because they have the highest level of plant nutrients. Again, buy them organically grown (including raisins and sultanas) because they are near the top of the list of the most sprayed fruits and you don’t want all those chemicals in your body.
- Research shows that eating plenty of grapes and their juice may put small tumors into remission, enhance the activity of natural killer (NK) cells (part of your immune system), contain potent antioxidants, unclog your arteries, reduce cholesterol, fight allergies, and are anti-inflammatory.
- Grapes contain ellagic acid which may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and promote longevity.
- Grapes are full of polyphenols, and research shows that polyphenols inhibit tumor formation, activate cancer cell death in breast cancer and leukemia, and they may have antioxidant characteristics with potential health benefits; they may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
- Grapes also contain ferulic acid which may help to prevent many forms of cancer.
- Grapes also contain bioflavonoids which help protect the health of small blood vessels and capillaries and prevent inflammation and these factors mean that it can help reduce the spread of cancer, a very important thing to know.
Kiwi fruit. Rich in enzymes, Vitamin C, and potassium, these little fuzzy fruits are considered by many to be potent cancer fighting foods due to their proteolytic (protein eating) enzymes.
Mangoes. High in enzymes and bioflavonoids (see Grapes). Mangoes are very good for the immune system because they contain beta-carotene.
Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia that has long been noted for its medicinal and health promoting properties. An abundant source of a class of polyphenols known as xanthones which have a variety of health promoting properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-cancer activity. Mangosteen has been found to significantly inhibit the proliferation of certain human breast cancer cell lines. For scientific evidence of the marvelous anti-cancer properties of mangosteen, click this link.
Maqui berries (Aristotelia chilensis). Native to South America, specifically Chile and Argentina, maqui berries are currently available to us in the form of powdered berries. Studies show that maqui berries contain 138 mg of anthocyanins per 100 grams of raw fruit, they are a good source of natural vitamin C, and score a remarkable 27,600 units per 100 grams on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) test, which is a scale that measures the effectiveness of antioxidants in foods. This makes maqui berries the most antioxidant-dense fruits in the world and packed full of anti-cancer activity.
Papaya (papaw). Papayas and their seeds contain betacarotene, lycopene, isothiocyanates, plant chemicals that fight inflammation, support the immune system, stop the growth of breast cancer cells, halt metastasis (spread), and normalize the cell cycle. Papaya also contains contain the protein digesting enzymes papain and chymopapain which facilitate chemical reactions in the body. Known as proteolytic enzymes, papain and chymopapain promote digestion by helping to break down proteins from food into amino acids. Proteolytic enzymes also protect the body from inflammation, help to destroy intestinal parasites, and are able to digest and destroy the defense shields of tumors, viruses, allergens, yeasts, and fungi.
Pineapple. Contains enzymes which help to break down foods in the body, pineapple also contains lots of antioxidants and peroxidase, a substance that researchers think inhibits the growth of tumor cells. It also contains bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down protein, is anti-inflammatory and is believed to assist cancer cell death. So pineapple is another great cancer fighting food, assisting the immune system and aiding digestive function.
Pomegranate. A rich source of antioxidants, scientists are discovering many other health benefits. Recently, researchers at the City of Hope identified six chemicals in the pomegranate that suppress aromatase — a substance in the body that helps produce estrogen. About 70% of breast cancers need estrogen to grow, so pomegranate is a prime candidate as a breast-cancer-blocking super food. Other scientists have detected two substances in the fruit with potential to fight both colon cancer and diabetes. For more info, see my article: The 10 Ways Pomegranates Help You Beat Breast Cancer
Strawberries. Since strawberries are highly sprayed with pesticides, it’s best to buy them organic or grow them yourself, but if this is impossible, just ensure you wash them thoroughly as described above. Strawberries contain ellagic acid and bioflavonoids (see discussion in Grapes and Apples). They also inhibit the conversion of nitrates to nitrites to nitrosamine, which is a carcinogenic substance (see discussion above at “processed meats”).
Tomatoes. Yes, they are considered a fruit, not a vegetable. They contain a compound known as lycopene, a very important carotenoid that protects the body from oxidation (which is what happens when rust forms on bare metal). Lycopene improves cell-to-cell communication, helps to prevent scarring and, taken 3 weeks before radiation treatment, can act to speed up the actions of radiotherapy and guards against its toxic effects. Lycopene helps to protect against breast and prostate cancer. The lycopene content of tomatoes is enhanced when they are lightly cooked or taken with a little oil. Tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato puree are good sources of lycopene. Tomatoes also contain p-coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, potent phytochemicals which prevent the formation of nitrosamines (see Strawberries and Processed Meats). Tomatoes stimulate the growth or regeneration of liver tissue and are a VERY potent cancer fighting food. Tomatoes also contain melatonin which helps you sleep better. Melatonin also increases apoptosis and reduces proliferation of HER2 + breast cancer cells.
The most important vegetables to purchase organically grown are potatoes, carrots, lettuce, green beans, and peanuts because they top the list of the most heavily sprayed produce.
Avocado. Avocados contain good fats, potassium, chromium, and a lot of glutathione, a powerful generator of immune cells and powerful detoxifier which eliminates carcinogens. Avocados have gotten a bad rap for years for being supposedly “fattening” but they are NOT. The fats within avocados are really healthy for you and avocados are great cancer fighters.
Beets. One of the best cancer blasters. Talk about staining your fingers! It must be fresh, though, and organic is best since it is a root vegetable and comes into contact with the earth. Beets stimulate lymphatic function, enhance liver function, are good for constipation, fluid retention, anxiety, memory problems, gallstones, bladder and kidney problems, anemia. Scientific research mentions a Hungarian doctor who used beets to totally clear lung cancer from a 50-year old male in 6 weeks. It is recommended to drink 100 ml of fresh organic beet juice daily during cancer treatment. Beets contain iron, potassium, niacin, copper, vitamin C, folic acid, zinc, calcium, manganese, magnesium.
Bell peppers (a/k/a capsicum). Rich in phytochemicals, vitamin C and bioflavonoids (see Grapes), eating lots of bell peppers actually helps you absorb more vitamin C. They also contain a flavone known as apigenin which fights against HER2 + cancers.
Carrots. Carrots contain retinol which inhibits tumor promotion, Vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is an important antioxidant that inhibits the early stages of tumor development and improves immune function. Carrots also contain lots of good fiber. Juice organic carrots with beet, a little green apple and ginger for a great tasting cancer blaster.
Celery. Celery contains a flavone known as apigenin which has been found to increase HER2 + cell death.
Cruciferous vegetables. So called because they come from plants in the family known to botanists as Cruciferae or alternately, Brassicaceae. Cruciferous vegetables are unique in that they are rich sources of sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates that are responsible for their pungent aromas and spicy (some say bitter) taste. The breakdown of glucosinolates by a class of plant enzymes called myrosinase results in the formation of biologically active compounds, such as indoles, which inactivate estrogens that cause tumor promotion so they are effective in fighting and preventing breast cancer, and isothiocyanates, which stimulate the breakdown of carcinogens. Scientists are currently interested in the potential for high intakes of cruciferous vegetables as well as several glucosinolate-breakdown products to prevent cancer.
Even the American Institute of Cancer Research has lots of information on its website “aicr.org” on the importance of cruciferous vegetables as cancer fighting foods. To take advantage of what they can do for you, eat broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, collard greens, rutabaga, kale, daikon, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnips, Brussel sprouts, watercress, wasabi, horseradish and radishes. They help reduce the absorption of carcinogens, stimulate certain enzymes to deactivate cancer cells and help activate helper T cells (a class of immune cells). Don’t boil these vegetables as that reduces their effectiveness – either eat them raw or lightly steamed.
- In particular, broccoli contains Vitamin A, beta-carotene, and dithiolthiones, which stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer on its own. In addition, broccoli contains sulforaphane which kills breast cancer stem cells and prevents new tumors from growing in laboratory mice.
- Brussel sprouts are loaded with beta-carotene, chlorophyll, Vitamins A and C, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and protein. The August 2013 issue of “O” (Oprah’s magazine) listed Brussel sprouts as the best cancer fighting veggie, saying: “One cup of each of these veggies (meaning Brussels sprouts and broccoli) contains your full recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamins C and K, but the sprouts blow broccoli out of the water with significantly more glucosinolates. When glucosinolates break down in the body, they produce compounds that have been found to inhibit the growth of some cancer cells. Cooking veggies lowers their glucosinolate content, but if you can’t stomach them raw, try steaming: A 2009 study found that it retains more of these anticancer compounds than boiling.“
- Cabbage helps to protect against radiation, stimulates removal of toxic drugs and carcinogens, retards tumor growth. People who eat cabbage only once a week may decrease their odds of developing colon cancer by a very large percentage. Cabbage also contains a substance known as Vitamin U, believed to heal and assist peptic ulcers, and it contains chlorine and sulphur which work hand in hand to expel wastes from the body and clean the blood. Chinese cabbage contains a flavone known as apigenin which is potent against HER2 + breast cancer.
- Kale is a rich source of beta-carotene and chlorophyll, two very potent cancer-fighting substances.
- Watercress is high in Vitamin A, C and B complex, iodine, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium. Watercress helps the immune system and has many health promoting properties.
Eggplant. Contains gallic acid which prevents carcinogens from causing cell damage. Also contains anthocyanins (discussed above).
Ginger. Besides being great for motion sickness and morning sickness associated with pregnancy, laboratory studies on ginger have demonstrated that it has some potent anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-stimulating and blood-sugar regulating properties! If you don’t like the way it tastes, you can try powdered ginger capsules. But it’s best fresh – look for a somewhat shiny root with plump “arms” or “knobs” – if it’s overly wrinkled or cracked, it is not all that fresh.
Green beans. A rich source of phytochemicals that are cancer fighters, also Vitamins A, E and C, some B vitamins, iron, magnesium, calcium, and manganese. Good for the heart, good source of fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates. Eat them lightly steamed or raw.
Medicinal Mushrooms. Many varieties of mushrooms have been used for centuries in Asia for their health promoting properties. In particular they have two anti-cancer activities:
(1) they have antigen binding lectins which inhibit the growth of cancer cells; and
(2) they are angiogenesis inhibitors – tumors rely on the formation of new blood vessels to keep them growing and mushroom extracts have been shown to inhibit this growth.
Here are the best medicinal mushrooms:
- Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) used as a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European traditional medicine. Chaga has been studied as a potential anti-cancer agent, it contains betulin, a precursor to betulinic acid, which has been shown to inhibit cancer-promoting enzymes. It also promotes apoptosis, or the natural progression of programmed cell death.
- Common White Button Mushrooms – besides having the two anti-cancer activities listed above, they are also being studied for their natural ability to act as aromatase inhibitors. See my article: Researchers Discover Mushrooms Could Be Potent Natural Aromatase Inhibitors
- Cordyceps Sinensis (also known as Ophiocordyceps sinensis or Chinese Caterpillar fungus), this little delight acts as an immune stimulant by increasing T-Cells and Natural Killer Cells (useful for both cancer and AIDS patients). It also prolongs the life of white blood cells, important for healing infections. It has anti-tumor effects and also protects the kidneys from the side effects of chemotherapy. It is one of the most widely used tonics in anti-cancer formulas in Chinese Medicine.
- Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa) – another immune stimulator, it is widely used in Japanese cooking. Studies have shown that it is a powerful immune stimulant. Maitake also protects cells with its antioxidant properties and decreases the inflammatory factor COX2 enzyme which is common in cancer physiology. Studies have also shown that Maitake has potential anti-metastatic properties inhibiting the proliferation and spread of cancer.
- Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) – a potent antioxidant, oyster mushrooms also have antibacterial and immune boosting abilities.
- Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) – Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors have long used this variety as a tonic, it improves vitality, strength and stamina and prolongs life. It is important in cancer treatment because it enhances immune response, alleviates chemotherapy side effects such as nausea and kidney damage, and protects cellular DNA by raising antioxidant capacity. Its name means “supernatural mushroom”!
- Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes) – this mushroom is found in many Asian cuisines. It is considered both a delicacy and a medicinal mushroom. Shiitake is widely used in alternative and complementary treatment of cancer in Japan due to its immune-enhancing functions. Lentinan, a compound found in Shiitake, is used as an intravenous anti-cancer drug with anti-tumor properties. Clinical studies have associated lentinan with a higher survival rate, higher quality of life and lower recurrence of cancer.
- Turkey Tail Mushroom (Coriolus versicolor and Trametes versicolor) – found in many parts of the world, it is one of the most studied medicinal mushrooms. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a tonic for centuries. Studies indicate that it improves survival rates and acts as an immune modulator with immune stimulating and anti-tumor properties. Some studies show that it can enhance the effects of chemotherapy and reduce the side effects of radiation treatments.
Nuts and Seeds. Nuts contain vitamin E, selenium, and they all contain fiber, which helps to reduce the absorption of carcinogens. Better to avoid peanuts, unless they are organic because they grow in the ground. Eating seeds sounds boring, but they can add a lot of flavor to a meal and research shows that a high seed intake can decrease the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer. Fenugreek seeds, flaxseed and sesame seeds contain antioxidants. Flaxseed and sesame seeds also contain lignans, a phytoestrogen which is protective against breast and colon cancer. Pumpkin seeds have a high concentration of zinc and are helpful for male prostate problems. Chia seeds are relatively new to the realm of super foods but are wonderful for their omega-3 content which promotes healthy cells. Almonds and walnuts contain melatonin which help you sleep better. Melatonin also increases apoptosis and reduces proliferation of HER2 + breast cancer cells.
Parsley. Parsley contains a flavone known as apigenin which has been found to increase HER2 + cell death.
Potatoes. Surprisingly, potatoes contain chlorogenic acid (see Apples) and eating potatoes regularly (not french fries!) is believed to help guard against several forms of cancer. Steam them with the skins on to keep the potassium content high. Potato juice is an age-old treatment for liver cancer. They are also a good source of magnesium, sulphur, silicon, iodine and chlorine and are good for increasing your energy levels. Just be cautious not to eat potatoes too frequently as they are also a carbohydrate and high carbohydrate diets are linked to obesity, diabetes and cancer. Everything in moderation!
Pumpkin. High in fiber and beta-carotene, which inhibits the early stages of tumor development and improves immune function.
Seaweeds and Sea Vegetables. Containing abundant vitamins, minerals, polysaccharides and iodine, kelp is a great health promoting substance. Iodine is a necessary part of a healthy thyroid gland. The thyroid is responsible for good metabolism. Japanese studies have shown there to be a direct link between kelp consumption and the prevention of breast cancer.
- Kelp also contains algin which enhances the immune system by stimulating T-cells, and it contains fucoidan, which is a mucopolysaccharide that stimulates the immune system and prevents cancer by retarding the growth of tumors and inhibiting chemical carcinogens. Alginate dilutes potential carcinogens in the intestine and binds to bile acids in the small intestine – this enhances their elimination and decreases the risk of colon cancer.
- Wakame is a sea plant known to counteract the toxic effects of nicotine, so may help to prevent lung cancer. It is also a strong stimulant to the immune system. It also contains fucoidan.
- Laminara is a type of kelp, and it also contains enormous quantities of vitamins and minerals, especially iodine. It has been used in the treatment of obesity, poor digestion, constipation, flatulence, and to protect against the effects of radiation. It is very beneficial in maintaining the function of the spinal cord, sensory nerves, brain tissue, and the membrane surrounding the brain. Some studies indicate it may play a large role in the prevention of breast cancer.
- Dunaliella salina is a type of pink micro-algae found in sea salt fields – it grows very well in Western Australia. It is a wonderful antioxidant and studies show that it may inhibit breast cancer due to its high beta-carotene and antioxidant content.
Spinach. Research shows that people who consume spinach have a much lower risk of developing lung cancer. Spinach blocks the formation of nitrosamines, a carcinogen found in processed meats (see discussion above). Spinach also contains ferulic acid, an enzyme inhibitor that may assist in cancer prevention. It also has betacarotene and histidine and these help to eliminate toxins from the body and build the blood. Spinach also contains lutein, which protects the macula of the eye from degeneration. Popeye knew something great was in spinach after all.
Sweet potatoes. Full of fiber and high in beta-carotene, which inhibits the early stages of tumor development and improves immune function. Just be cautious not to eat too many as they are also rather high in carbohydrates which turn into glucose (sugar) in the body.
Wheat or Barley Grass – Fresh wheat or barley grass juice is a very potent blood purifier and helps transport oxygen to our cells. It also helps to detoxify the liver, and that makes it a superb overall cancer fighter. If you drink a lot of it, beware, because it can act as a natural laxative. People with wheat allergies have nothing to fear from this – although the grass is grown from grain, it morphs completely into a vegetable with none of the allergenic proteins common to the grain.
When going through cancer treatment, juicing is one of the very best things you can do for yourself. While you are actively fighting cancer, many naturopaths advise that consuming 4-6 juices throughout the day helps to prevent the growth of tumors and provides your body with a huge quantity of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, it requires minimal digestion and your body utilizes the nutrients very easily. Juices can help you detoxify and cleanse your body of unwanted chemicals, wastes and toxins and supply you with the badly needed nutrients you require to fight cancer. If they taste too strong for you, dilute them 50-50 with filtered water.
It is important to drink the juice within about 15-20 minutes after you make it (unless you have one of the juicers that do not damage the living enzymes in the juice). Use organic produce, wherever possible – you do not need to add to the toxic load your body is already undergoing from the cancer therapy. Add 1-2 tbsp flax seed oil to your juice to enhance its benefits.
“When raw juices are unlocked from plants, pure and vital liquids of great healing power are released and their infinitely gentle action can coax our bodies back to normality. Raw juices have none of the dangerous side effects associated with potent medical drugs, yet they can eliminate health problems arising from many of the deficiencies created from the hustle and bustle of today’s fast-paced world and nutrient deficient foods. Commercial fruit juices are less therapeutic than freshly squeezed juices, as many brands contain sugar, preservatives and other undesirable ingredients.” Katrina Ellis, Shattering the Cancer Myth, 2003.
The best kind of juicer to get is a masticating juicer. For more information on juicers, see my article: The Benefits of Juicing For Breast Cancer – Which Juicer Or Blender To Use? Making smoothies is a great idea too – using something like a NutriBullet incorporates all of the pulp from the vegetable or fruit. Pulp is good for slowing the assimilation of natural sugars from whatever you are juicing, and it adds bulk to the stool.
Cancer Fighting Vitamins & Nutrients
Cinnamon – City of Hope research scientists found that a cinnamon extract interfered with a protein that helps tumors establish a blood supply, which is critical to keep them growing. They are continuing their research but it is clear that cinnamon has some very beneficial anti-cancer benefits. See this article for more information about how herbs and spices can help to prevent cancer.
Coenzyme Q10. This is an important one. A fat-soluble antioxidant, it improves aerobic metabolism, heart function, immune function and preserves immune cells. It minimizes the effects of chemotherapy-induced toxicity and research shows that doses over 300mg per day inhibits breast cancer tumor growth.
Curcumin (see Turmeric, below).
Healthy Fats and Oils. With 60 trillion cells in our body, the importance of getting the “good fats” into your body can’t be stressed enough. Here are the 5 best things they do for us:
1. Healthy fats and oils improve cell membranes;
2. They increase prostaglandins 1 and 3, which enhance your immunity, reduce cell stickiness – thus reducing the spread of cancer cells, improved blood flow, reduction of inflammation;
3. They alter bile acid metabolism (which may be important for colon cancer sufferers);
4. They make cells more slippery, altering membrane fluidity;
5. They can change the response of tumor cells to growth factors, hormones and antibodies.
In the book “Beating Cancer With Nutrition”, Dr Pat Quillin states, “EPA improves the response to tumor cells to hyperthermia and chemotherapeutic agents by altering the properties of the tumor cell membrane. EPA increases the adriamycin kill rate on cultured human leukemia cells.”
Dr Quillin also mentioned research that demonstrated EPA and GLA separately were able to selectively kill cultured human tumor cells. EPA and GLA enhanced the tumor-killing ability of anti-cancer agents in vitro. EPA modulates estrogen metabolism for reduced risk in breast cancer. EPA rich diets can slow tumor growth through modulation of both tumor protein synthesis and breakdown. Dr Quillin states: “Without proper use of fat soluble antioxidants, tumor cells may find the highly unsaturated fatty acids of EPA to be like an internal “hand grenade”.
Vitamin E warning – Watch your EPA intake as it can induce a Vit E deficiency. It’s suggested you take 400 iu of natural vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) for every 2500 mg of EPA.
Pre-surgery warning – EPA reduces platelet aggregation so slows normal blood clotting. Don’t take it prior to surgery.
Fish Oil Warning – See my article: The Ugly Truth About Fish Oil.
Coconut Oil – This is an amazingly healing oil. Coconuts are rich in lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid that is anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial. The highest concentration of lauric acid and medium chain fatty acids is found in two places: coconut oil and human breast milk. It has been shown to prevent colon cancer and breast cancer in laboratory tests. Coconut oil has also been shown to prevent and/or reverse Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Use it in cooking, eat it raw, add organic coconut milk to your smoothies, use coconut oil as a base for salad dressings, it tastes great, and you will love it. For more info, see this web article.
Flaxseed Oil (ALA). This oil has been much studied for many decades and is a wonderful cancer fighter! Flaxseeds are extremely rich in both alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, potassium and fiber. They also contain lignans, a phytoestrogen which is protective against breast and colon cancer. Flaxseeds are believed to be very potent in inhibiting the side effects of cancer treatment, as well as inhibiting the further development of many forms of cancer. Adding flaxseed to the diet helps many functions of the body – liver function, protects against heart disease, relieves depression, accelerates healing, maintains flexibility of red blood cells, prevents fatty degeneration in the liver, lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels and helps the brain work better. Combined with cottage cheese (make sure it’s organic!), flaxseed stimulates the oxygenation processes in the body which spells DEATH to cancer cells.
TIP: You can buy flaxseed oil in capsules or bottles but it tends to grow rancid too quickly. Also it doesn’t contain the lignans. It is best to grind your own seeds with a little coffee grinder or a NutriBullet (use the milling blade) and sprinkle freshly ground flaxseed into cereals, onto salads and sandwiches and even mixed with your vegetable juices and smoothies. If buying it in bottles is the only way you’ll take it, do that but make sure it is refrigerated and just keep in mind that freshly ground flaxseed is the best and freshest way to obtain its anti-cancer nutrients.
Glutathione. Also an amino acid, it’s also a potent antioxidant and a regenerator of immune cells, especially T-cells. It’s a valuable detoxifying agent of heavy metals, alcohol, toxins, x-rays, pesticides and herbicides, it is produced by the body if there are sufficient quantities of selenium, magnesium and Vitamin C. It’s required for DNA synthesis and repair, protein and prostaglandin synthesis, amino acid transport, enzyme activation and even controls the action of insulin. Prescription drugs can deplete glutathione levels. To obtain it naturally, eat grapefruit, garlic, collard greens, onions, leeks, shallots, chives, broccoli, cabbage, kale, spinach, eggplant, lettuce, mustard greens, peppers, cauliflower, green beans.
Grapeseed Extract. City of Hope researchers have discovered that grapeseed extract inhibits aromatase (the enzyme involved with the synthesis of estrogen) and it does its hormone-suppressing work without affecting healthy tissue and without side effects! Grape seed extract also blocks the action of a protein that helps cancer grow and spread. It has the potential to starve tumors by suppressing their blood supply.
Green & White Tea. We now have plenty of research that states the polyphenols in green tea and white tea are potent against cancer cells. The tea catechins (tannins) are potent inhibitors of platelet aggregation, and if you understand how cancer cells work, you’ll know that “platelet aggregation” is something to avoid. Green tea is a potent free radical scavenger and has anti-carcinogenic polyphenols such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a plant chemical much studied for its anti-cancer benefits. White tea contains even more EGCG than green tea, especially if you buy the loose leaf white tea and let it steep for at least 5 minutes. Make sure to buy organic tea.
MSM. Short for methylsulfonylmethane, MSM is a sulfur-containing compound readily available in health food stores. The South Koreans have done an extensive study which indicates MSM shows a potent anti-breast cancer activity, here is the link to that study. The research indicates that MSM is beneficial for all types of breast cancer, even the notorious triple negative breast cancer. Here’s my article for more information: South Korean Study on MSM Indicates Potent Anti-Breast Cancer Activity.
Probiotics. Known to enhance immune function, probiotics (the good bacteria) can halt the conversion of nitrates (see Processed Meats above) to carcinogenic nitrosamines in the gut, they can deactivate carcinogenic enzymes. Taken over several months, acidophilus can increase gamma-interferon and reduce inflammation in the gut. Lactobacillus bulgaricus (another probiotic) can enhance IgE (an immunoglobulin). Probiotics can also help the liver metabolize excess estrogen and eliminate it from the body.
Resveratrol. A recent Spanish study (here’s the link to it) shows that resveratrol, derived from the common grape, is capable of decreasing cell proliferation and increasing apoptosis (planned cell death) which is so crucial in fighting cancer.
Selenium. Shown in multiple studies to be an effective tool in warding off various types of cancer, including breast, esophageal, stomach, prostate, liver and bladder cancers. We rarely get the recommended dose of 200 mcg per day. Most only get between 60-100 micrograms of selenium daily from dietary sources, according to Life Extension Foundation’s Disease Prevention and Treatment. In addition, selenium has also been shown to aid in slowing cancer’s progression in patients that already have it. According to Life Extension Foundation, the use of selenium during chemotherapy in combination with vitamin A and vitamin E can reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy drugs. The mineral also helps “enhance the effectiveness of chemo, radiation, and hyperthermia while minimizing damage to the patient’s normal cells” according to nutrition expert Patrick Quillin in Beating Cancer with Nutrition.
Turmeric. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, and it has been linked to a range of health benefits. Ongoing studies at Leicester University in the UK are investigating whether curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy. Earlier studies have already shown that it can beat cancer cells grown in a laboratory. In this German study published in Feb 2013, it was found that curcumin enhanced the effect of 5-FU chemotherapy against colorectal cancer cells. In this Jan 2013 Chinese study, it was reported that curcumin helped to reverse chemo-resistance and sensitized cancer cells to chemotherapy. In addition, curcumin and piperine (derived from black pepper), separately and in combination, have been found to inhibit breast cancer stem cell self-renewal but are not toxic to healthy cells.
The combination of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, found in fatty fish) and curcumin (the main active ingredient of turmeric), has been shown to be quite effective in increasing apoptosis of HER2+ breast cancer cells than either compound used separately.
For those going through radiotherapy, curcumin has been shown to provide protection from radiotherapy and to enhance its action. Its effects are mainly due to its ability to reduce oxidative and inflammatory stress, as well as inhibiting transcription of genes related to oxidative stress and inflammation. Researchers postulated that its ability to enhance radiotherapy may be due to the up-regulation of genes responsible for cell death (apoptosis).
Turmeric is not a spice that is often used in Western culture, but I would strongly suggest adding this in to your cooking – it is wonderful in curries – and you can also take it in a supplement. According to Ian Gawler’s blog: “It is one of the top ten anti-cancer foods we have recommended for years. The best way to take it from what we know so far is to use the fresh herb (use the dried powder if you cannot obtain this) and add it to meals. Around 5 gms per day seems to be the recommended amount, and happily, you can easily eat this in a normal meal. Adding black pepper at the same time is reported to enhance the effect considerably. Turmeric can also be added to juices.”
Vitamin D3. Known as the sunshine vitamin because certain amounts of it come from sunshine in an interesting chemical reaction that happens in the skin. While soaking in the sun may seem like a great idea for getting the vitamin D we need, as you are probably aware, it can create problems for us by giving us wrinkly skin and increasing our risk of skin cancer. Hence, supplementation is recommended.
As we know, many breast cancers seem to be fueled by estrogen and for those whose tumor cells have estrogen receptors (known as ER+, meaning that this sort of tumor appears to depend on estrogen to grow) there is some really great news about vitamin D3. In a recent study done on mice, researchers reported that calcitriol (the hormonally active form of vitamin D) inhibits the growth of many cancerous cells, including breast cancer cells, by arresting the cancer cells’ replication cycles. Researchers also found that vitamin D suppressed aromatase, the enzyme that assists with estrogen synthesis in breast cancer cells, making it a good natural aromatase inhibitor. Most foods do not contain sufficient amounts of vitamin D, so supplementation is advisable, especially during wintertime. It’s good to have your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor – the test to ask for from your doctor is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which is the better marker of overall D status. This is the marker that is most strongly associated with overall health.
I hope this helped you, and be sure to check back frequently as I am continually updating this information.