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Tag Archives: prevention
Not many medical conditions strike an emotional response or fear more than cancer. How do we prevent the onset of chronic disease? I sell prescription medications and I know that none of them really have anything to do with preventing either of these conditions. Very expensive medications are used to treat them however. If an individual was given the opportunity to pay to prevent or pay to treat, most would pay to prevent. Most; however, are paying to treat.
With billions of dollars spent on research over the last four decades, we still are faced with the shadow of cancer striking at any time. All of us have cancer cells, it’s how well our body deals with these cells that determine our chance of having a diagnosis. How is it that those persons that we determine as “completely unhealthy” live a long life and escape this disease, while those that are young and eat healthy and exercise regularly can be afflicted? Things ultimately happen at the DNA level in the cell. This is where cell division happens. Epigenetics, the science of how factors external to the nucleus of the cell greatly influence the life of that cell and ultimately, the life of that organism, is the one big argument to the feeling that cancer is determined by a genetic test. Genetics can more easily predispose you to something happening, but epigenetics is the way out of that pathway. What can you do to influence your genes to avoid duplicating wrong and developing to cancer?
1) Hypocortisolism – If you live in North America today, you have chronic stress knocking on your door. Bills, relationships, jobs, money, family, illness, travel, bereavement, … If you don’t experience stress then you have a gift. Even those with seemingly normal lives can become used to chronic stress and go years without an outward sign to others from abnormal cortisol. Low cortisol has many reasons. Acute stress has benefits in an evolutionary way, but chronic stress can result in someone going from high to low cortisol in a chronic way. Colorectal, Breast and ovarian cancer have shown a correlation to hypocortisol states as are the outcomes of these diseases. I rarely see “normal” cortisol levels when we test; a sign how long people wait to get help. Adrenal supplementation is consistently one of the most successful OTC therapies I see used.
2)Diet & Exercise – In the end, your health comes down to how you eat and how much you move. There has been quite a debate as of late concerning whether you should eat wheat, how much carbs you should eat (if any) or whatever. Any recommendation is open to debate. Mine is avoid processed food as much as possible and avoid as many contaminants as possible (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, heavy metals, etc.) – to me this means organic as much as possible; avoid any foods that are known to cause sensitivity in an individual and therefore decrease systemic inflammation; fill 1/2 your plate with vegetables; chew your food; consume healthy fats (don’t cook with olive oil at high heat); eat variety; increase fiber.
3)Sleep – There is an association between melatonin and various cancer types, most recently in the news is prostate cancer. The higher the level, the lower the risk. Melatonin aside, the effect sleep has on cancer incidence is well studied. Night shift workers often show higher breast cancer rates than women who sleep normal hours. These people have less melatonin than non shift workers. Not only is the incidence of breast cancer higher, but the death rate is typically higher from cancer in these women. It is thought that people with sleep problems have issues with the above mentioned cortisol during the night that contributes to cancer incidence.
4) Supplements – contrary to recent reports in the media, supplements are valuable to your health. A healthy body can stay healthy for the most part by getting nutrients from food. A body that is damaged or in a negative situation will find it difficult to get back to normal just from food alone. Preventative medicine uses doses of nutrients that are difficult to get from food alone. Vitamin D has shown anti-tumor effects in vitro and higher vitamin D intake has been correlated with a lower incidence of many cancers. It also helps with pain relief and disease progression. Vitamin E is a supplement that has received bad press for years. Most likely your supplement has only alpha-tocopherol. To be healthy and effective, all forms of vitamin E must be taken in one supplement (alpha, beta, gamma and delta-tocopherol). Prostate cancer has been shown to be reduced with this supplement. Vitamin C has been repeatedly tested and shown to help prevent cancer and lead to more favorable outcomes in patients with existing cancer. These doses are often IV and deal with 10 or more grams daily. Some have dealt with doses of 100 g daily. Selenium is also helpful by enhancing the immune system function and acts as an antioxidant. Doses used were in the 200 microgram per day range. Melatonin has shown to increase the survival times and demonstrated anticancer effects. Doses used are 10-50 mg/day in the evening).
Granted, these are not complicated steps for the most part. DNA’s resilience has a good side in that it can lead the cell to replicate countless times without error. Unfortunately this is the downfall of the organism when errors occur in cell duplication and the mistake becomes engrained in the DNA. Without proper immune system function to clear a faulty cell or cells from the organism, then everyone hangs onto these cells. Maintain your immune system and keep the environment surrounding your DNA supportive to the next cell duplication.
A patient comes into my pharmacy and asks what they can do to beat breast cancer. They aren’t particularly interested in me quoting a list of studies proving what I am telling them, or getting a sworn statement that this is a guarantee that this will enable them to live to be 100. There is a reason they have this disease and their neighbour doesn’t (yet) have it. Everything comes down to the nucleus of the cell. The nucleus that contains the genes and chromosomes that act like the king on the throne dictating everything that will happen to that cell. Sometimes the king is attacked by another party, sometimes the king unzips mentally and goes amok – running things in ways that make sense only to them and ultimately results in the kingdom falling.
While we can do very little to change the genetic makeup in an individual that result in the path to cancer so easily compared to other individuals, we can act on this part of the cell head on to protect the rest of the cell from a wrong decision by the nucleus. What is it an individual can do to protect themselves at such a microscopic level to grab control over the nucleus and cells of the body.
What type of breast cancer is this? This helps me understand what is feeding the tumor. Does it grow in response to estrogen? Progesterone? Overproduction of HER2 protein? Or perhaps none of the above. The hormone didn’t necessarily cause the tumour to occur in the first place, it just caused the tumour to grow faster. Treatment by your physician is particularly important. Following the medication plan outlined is the foundation of the treatment. What can you do on top of this treatment to make it more successful? Here are some of my recommendations based on literature:
Vitamin D supplementation. You cannot go very far in searching in this topic before you come across vitamin D levels and cancer prevention. If you are serious about it check your blood levels and supplement accordingly. If you don’t take vitamin D or take only 800 IU per day or less you are most likely in need of bringing your levels up. vitamin D toxicity is rare even at doses of 10,000 IU per day. Still, check your levels.
Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) or Diindole Methane (DIM) help to funnel estrogen down into favorable metabolites. Research abounds on these supplements that are found in nature through cruciferous vegetables.
Omega 3 consumption. Here’s another bucketful of discussion that lies at your fingertips. Bottom line for me is that this does help to prevent, if it turns out to be false, at least we know we are healthier taking it.
Ketosis – before you slam the idea of consuming healthy fats, low carbs and low calories and eat a restricted amount of protein per day (1mg/kg of protein per kg of lean body weight), keep in mind that the idea that cancer cells are damaged enough to keep them from burning fat is an advantage to the rest of your cells. Starving your cancer cells by keeping glucose from them and getting your energy via ketosis makes sense. Eating a well balanced diet with everything in it may sound wholesome, but killing off cancer and preventing its metastasis is serious business. Calorie restriction may sound crazy at a time when you are fighting cancer, but trying to build up your body while fighting a tumor is like climbing a greased rope. Deal with the tumor first. Branched chain fatty acids, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, and other sources of healthy fat are easy to obtain. Too much protein is only converted to glucose.
ALKALINE DIET – There are lots of arguments as to the resilience of the human body to buffer itself against acid or base conditions. Again though, the idea that an acid environment promotes cancer and an alkali environment does not is attractive. You can wait for further studies if you have time but there seems to be little harm in adopting this eating style.
Cleanse – Another topic that divides many. What harm do you bring yourself in a cleanse program that clears toxins from the colon, liver and kidney? Therapeutic drainage of the lymphatic system is worth investigating as well. Start off with as little resistance as possible in your body, especially if you are taking a chemotherapeutic agent.
Previous blogs ad to these suggestions. whether or not you feel they sound hoaky or not, antioxidants, curcumin, green tea, resveratrol, quercetin, fiber, stress reduction, sleep and probiotics can benefit. Keep clean from contaminants in the environment. And remember hormone therapy can protect you when used properly – as long as they are not from a horse or have a similar structure to your own hormone and claim to be the same thing. Most importantly, complimentary therapy means going along with your doctor and helping it along a bit further.
Cancer prevention is just as important as cancer treatment. Perhaps you have a family history, maybe you have a long term exposure to a known carcinogen, or you’ve done genetic testing to determine risk, maybe you are just wondering if you will randomly be diagnosed with this terrible disease next year, or the year after that. We are not destined to get cancer. We can drastically increase the odds of getting cancer based on nutrition and lifestyle choices.
What do I recommend? Although the exact details depend on the patient and the type of cancer, many recommendations are similar.
1) VITAMIN D. What can’t I say about this vitamin? Recent studies have shown a 50% decrease in certain cancers (like breast cancer) when a blood level of 50 ng/ml were maintained. It is impossible to guess your level of vitamin D so get it checked! How much should be taken, for most people in my area of the world in Canada I recommend a minimum of 2000 iu per day. To get to where they need to be, they may need 4000 or 10,000 or more. Some feel this is overdosing but sunbathing for 30 minutes gives you more than this.
2)FISH OIL. Just as above, high quality fish oil (EPA / DHA) that gives you omega-3 daily not only helps to prevent cancer but has been shown to increase weight gain in cancer patients and improve outcomes. Patients typically take 4-12g daily.
3)METABOLIC CLEANSE. Whether or not you agree with the concept of a cleanse, your body needs all of the ability it can muster to fight off or prevent cancer. GI/liver/kidney detox will open up your body to operating at fuller capacity. There are various cleanses available. Some gear towards the stress and damage of the mitochondria that produce the energy in your cells. Feeding the body the right energy from sources like Coconut oil can benefit. Along the mitochondrial lines, glutathione is a key supplement for energy production although its oral absorption is poor; IV is better but it still needs to be broken down into its constituents and reassembled in the cell. Eating Cysteine rich foods, taking SAMe, N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), whey protein, alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle and melatonin can all replenish glutathione levels and are all good supplements especially in the cancer patient experiencing side effects from their chemotherapy. L-Carnitine and acetyl-L-Carnitine help the mitochondria transport fatty acids like the ones in Coconut oil.
4)Vitamin E. Although I often recommend supplements for various conditions, I tend to lean towards dietary sources of this vitamin. Because of the different isomers vitamin E comes in, it gives a better spread when eaten unless your supplement contains them all. It also have the effect of reducing tumor growth.
5)Green Tea/EGCG-This is another supplement that shows promise in various types of cancer and cancer prevention and has a good safety profile.
6)Overall Diet- Most of us would not be surprised with the following suggestions. Obesity increased inflammation and increases the risk of several types of cancer. Maintaining a proper BMI and a fat percent under 25% are recommended. As studies emerge, the consumption of red meat (especially well cooked at high temps) appears to be associated with increased rates of some cancers. Processed meat consumption is also not great for cancer prognosis. Increased fiber decreases the risk of several cancers. Whole food consumption from fruits and vegetables is shown to reduce the risk of cancer. We understand that eating this is difficult for many people big and small, so recently we began recommending Juice Plus+ brand of whole food supplements to ensure our patients were getting their intake of fruits and vegetables.
There are many other recommendations, involving vitamin C, zinc, selenium, probiotics, vitamin A, magnesium and others that we like to tailor to each individual and their prevention and complimentary treatment regimens.
Gaby, Alan,R MD, Nutritional Medicine., Fritz Perlberg Publishing 2011