In an attempt to keep anyone from wasting their time reading an article that does not apply to them we need to clearly define the subject of this article. If you are comfortable with waiting for a miracle drug to cure cancer, expecting that early detection through any number of exams at your physicians’ office followed by chemotherapy in an attempt to kill the now detectable cancer cells, then this article is not for you. If however, you would prefer to avoid cancer totally by preventing it before it starts, then please read on.
When addressing nutrition and the prevention of cancer one of the hottest topics in this arena at this time are antioxidants. The primary reason that antioxidants have received increasing attention is based on the very nature of cancer cells themselves, how they are started and more importantly how they can be eliminated before becoming detectable. For most forms of cancer, they get their start when your cell’s DNA becomes damage in some form. Keep in mind that your body is generating new cells on a daily basis and that these new cells are being created based on the blue print of how they should be constructed. That blue print is your DNA. When your DNA has become damaged or during the creation process of these new cells they come in contact with free radicals they are damaged. Unchecked that damage begins going through an uncontrolled growth and at some point this once damaged cells has now become a tumor.
While there is a lot of talk about antioxidants we really need to define what they are. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from the damage caused by molecules known as free radicals. Antioxidants are capable of stabilizing free radicals and therefore prevent some of the damage free radicals otherwise might cause. Free radicals are unstable molecules caused by incomplete electron shells which make them more chemically reactive than those with complete electron shells. There are a number of environmental factors, including tobacco smoke, over exposure to the sun, pollution, toxins in our water, pesticides used in the growing of our vegetables and various other factors can also lead to free radical formation. The most common form of free radicals is oxygen – that’s correct the simple act of breathing that is required to keep us alive is the most common cause of free radical production in our bodies. When oxygen molecules become electrically charged or “radicalized” it tries to steal electrons from other molecules, causing damage to the DNA and other molecules. Over time, such damage may become irreversible and lead to various diseases including cancer. Antioxidants are often described as “mopping up” free radicals, meaning they neutralize the electrical charge and prevent the free radical from taking electrons from other molecules. Some examples of common antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C, E, and A, just to name a few. While not an antioxidant another very important mineral is Selenium, which is actually a component of antioxidant enzymes.
While diet and nutrition are beginning to get more attention we still have a long way to go, based on a number of statistics surrounding the average diet of more Americans. A simple search of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition will provide clinical research based on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer. While that may not be a big shock to you, you may be surprised to find that this particular entry has a copyright date from 1976. As a leading cause of death in the United States, one that is very preventable, one would expect to hear more about the impact of Diet, Nutrition and Exercise as it relates to the prevention of cancer. More often than not, if you pick up a newspaper or catch the news you are going to hear about the latest advances in chemotherapy, the newest drug for the treatment of cancer, the latest technology for improved mammograms and the list goes on. If you truly want to do something about the prevention of cancer you can’t wait on the news media and unfortunately not even your family physician to educate you on adopting a healthy lifestyle. Please don’t misunderstand that last comment as being a slam on doctors, because it is not. Every doctor that I know works extremely hard and puts in some very long hours.
Unfortunately, the way that our healthcare system is structured they do not get paid to educate you on a healthy lifestyle, nutrition, exercise or any of the things that you need to adopt as a comprehensive wellness program. The sad truth is that our healthcare system is setup to fix you after you’re broke, not to prevent you from getting to that point. It is truly up to YOU to take a proactive approach to learning what you need to know in order to adopt a overall healthy lifestyle/wellness program. It is important to note that a comprehensive wellness program leading to an overall healthy lifestyle is not something that you get to do for a week, a month or even just over the next year and then you’re done. This is a life long endeavor.
For those of you that are more of the do it yourself type people there are a large number of resources available to help you. From the internet to a staggering number of books that are published each year on the subject of healthy living, diet, nutrition, anti-aging. A very comprehensive guide to an overall healthy lifestyle that is very practical, pack with references to clinical research and an overall easy read is “The Metabolic Plan”, by Stephen Cherniske. The good news is that there is something for everyone. If you would prefer not to wade through mountains of information there are an increasing number of centers dedicated to Wellness, Healthy Lifestyles, and many of these facilities provide life coaches to help keep their clients accountable and on track. Even for the most dedicated person having an accountability partner of some type is a good idea to help during those stages of life where the motivation level just is not where it should be. Lastly, there are an increasing number of physicians that take a holistic approach to healing that includes a balanced approach which is one of the best approaches. In a perfect world our health would always be controllable through a balanced diet, good supplementation and exercise. However, the stark reality is that there are times that even our best efforts are not enough and we are forced to turn to a pharmaceutical to keep us in the game of life. In short all forms of healing have their place – there is not a one shoe fits all solution that will work for everyone, all the time.
Lastly, there are some well documented things that we can do to help prevent cancer.
– If you smoke – STOP
– Eating foods prepared with HIGH heat especially fried foods should be eliminated or reduced as much as possible.
– Increase the number of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Ideally 70% or more of your daily caloric intake should come from fruits and vegetables. If possible organically grown.
– Find a reputable supplements company grounded in science with products proven through strict clinical trials such as Univera LifeSciences. Even the best diet in the world is going to short on the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we need in a comprehensive wellness/anti-aging program.
– Exercise – We were built by our maker to move. Keep moving and stay active. Does the term use it or loose it mean anything to you? The American Cancer Society has a great section on their website titled “The Complete Guide to Nutrition and Physical Activity”
– Reduce your exposure to chemicals and toxins. Use biodegradable products when cleaning as they are much less harmful to you and the environment.
– Reduce the fat in your diets, but increase the essential fatty acids that are required by each of us – especially your brain and your joints.
– If you are overweight and/or obese reduce your weight as this is a very well documented cause of accelerated free-radical activity.
1) Diet, nutrition, and cancer: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 29, 1035-1047, Copyright © 1976 by The American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Inc, EN Alcantara and EW Speckmann
2) Nutrition and Cancer Prevention: New Insights into the Role of Phytochemicals: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76, No. 1, 259, July 2002 © 2002 American Society for Clinical Nutrition
3) Nutrition and Activity Quiz: Are you living smart?: American Cancer Society
4) The Complete Guide– Nutrition and Physical Activity, American Cancer Society
5) Stephen Cherniske, M.S., The Metabolic Plan, The Random House Publishing Company, 2003, ISBN: 0-345-44102-8