Two years ago today my father lost his battle to cancer. I can’t believe it’s been two entire years. I often hear from others who have lost a loved one that it can often feel like it just happened, and it’s true. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Despite the personal health challenges I have faced in my life, he was in fact my true motivation for going back to school to become a holistic nutritionist.
In memory of him, here is a little post I wrote about things we can do every day to help prevent this terrible disease. Cancer is a multifaceted illness with no singular direct cause, but perhaps by following some of the tips below we can help protect ourselves from this deadly illness.
According to statistics, only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetics. In the remaining 90–95% of cases, the underlying cause can be related to environment and lifestyle factors. These include environmental toxins, long-term chemical exposure, infections, cigarette smoking, an inflammatory diet, chronic stress, obesity and physical inactivity.
By implementing some of the tips below, not only will you be well on your way to preventing one of the most common killers worldwide, but you will also be protecting yourself from other degenerative and fatal conditions like cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Increase Your Fiber
A well-balanced, cancer-fighting diet should focus on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, raw nuts, seeds and legumes. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower, as well as foods high in beta carotene like carrots, orange and yellow peppers, squash, sweet potatoes and yams offer amazing antioxidant protection that helps fight against cancer. Eat vegetables raw or lightly steamed to preserve the nutrient content, as heating food at high temperatures (above 118° F) destroys precious vitamins and health enhancing enzymes.
Avoid Processed and Refined Grains
Eat grains in their whole form, avoiding refined flours like white bread, white rice and white pasta which are made with bleached, polished grains that have been stripped of their fiber, protein and vitamin content.
The way the body metabolizes white flour, bread and pasta is not too different from eating sugar. Stripping a grain of the fiber and protein and processing it into white bread, rice, pasta, pizza dough, pastry, cookies, donuts, cakes and other processed foods reduces grains to a simple carbohydrate. These foods are known to quickly spike blood sugar. Increased amounts of sugar in the blood has been well established to be a primary fuel that cancer cells use to grow and multiply.
Researchers conclude that the correlation between the consumption of refined carbohydrates and cancer growth can be related to elevated levels of insulin, a result of increased blood sugar levels. It has been found that cancer tumors are encouraged and supported by high levels of insulin in the body.
Eat a Large Variety of Different Food
Nutritional deficiencies result in a weakened immune system, which gives cancer cells the perfect breeding ground for survival. Our immune system is continuously fighting off cancerous cells throughout our entire lives, killing them as they develop. We have specialized cells called Natural Killer cells, and their job is to kill cancer cells and viruses.
For cancer cells to develop and multiply, the immune system must be in a weakened state, unable to kill cancerous cells as fast as they normally develop. Cancer risk also increases when we are exposed to cancer causing toxins or radiation, which increase the rate that cancer cells develop to an abnormally high level that the immune system can’t handle.
Therefore, by increasing the variety of whole foods in your diet, you can avoid nutritional deficiencies and strengthen your immune system so that all the intricate systems we were designed with to naturally fight off cancer remain optimized.
Choose from a variety of whole grains such as millet, amaranth, quinoa and kamut. Variety in the diet provides the body with amino acids, enzymes, minerals and phytonutrients, which might be lacking if the diet is limited. Take a look at your grocery shopping list. Are you buying the same foods all the time? Expand your variety and try new foods in the produce section that you’ve never had before.
Avoid Pesticides and GMOs
Research shows that genetically modified foods along with pesticides use have been linked to liver damage, digestive problems and tumour growth.
By law, food bearing a certified organic logo guarantees that food is 100% organic and has not been genetically modified.
Avoid Processed Meat Products
Studies have shown that a high intake of processed meat such as bacon, sausage, ham and lunch meat have been linked to increased risk of cancer.
Limit Your Intake of Charred or Grilled Foods
Food that has been charred or grilled have been linked to increased cancer risk. If grilling, marinate and spice foods with antioxidant rich herbs like rosemary, cloves, turmeric and oregano to reduce or prevent the formation of HCAs (Heterocyclic amines) that are formed when cooking meat at high temperatures.
Know the Facts, Eat Your Flax
Lignins are a class of phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) found abundantly in flax seeds and have been known to reduce the risk of breast and other hormone related cancers. The lignins in flax seeds have the amazing ability to bind to excess estrogen in the body and sweep it away, along with other harmful substances like toxins and LDL cholesterol. Other sources of lignans include sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grains, berries, broccoli, sprouts and nuts.
Limit Your Exposure to Xenoestrogens
Xenoestrogens are a class of endocrine disrupting synthetic compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. They are widely used in industrial compounds such as PCBs, BPA and phthalates. Xenoestrogens disrupt hormonal function, contributing to estrogen dominance and increased risk of cancer.
Tips to Avoid Xenoestrogens:
• BPA (Bisphenol A) is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. To cut back on your exposure to BPA, limit or avoid the use of canned food and plastics and look for prodcuts labeled as BPA-free.
• Do not heat food or water in plastic in the microwave.
• Don’t drink hot liquids in foam styrofoam cups.
• Avoid storing warm food in plastic bags.
• Use glass or ceramic whenever possible to store food and water.
• Do not use anything on the skin that contains parabens or phenoxyethanol. This includes shampoo, soap, makeup, hand lotion, body lotion, and toothpaste. Studies have found that our bodies can absorb up to 60% of what is applied to the skin directly into the bloodstream.
• Avoid commercially-raised, non-organic meats such as beef, chicken, and pork that has been grown with hormones.
Eat Onions and Garlic on a Daily Basis
Foods of the allium family which includes onions, garlic, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots have been shown to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, cancer fighting qualities. Studies show that although some of the anticancer benefits of garlic are retained during cooking, raw garlic appears to have the most benefits.
Drink Purified Water
Drink water that has been steamed distilled or purified with a reverse osmosis filtering system. Although tap water has been treated to kill viruses and bacteria, the very chemicals used can react with other organic chemicals to produce chlorinated hydrocarbons, a probable carcinogen.
Over the past decade, researchers have been detecting trace amounts of pharmaceutical products in lakes, rivers, streams and tap water. Other chemical ingredients from cosmetics, toiletries, food additives and veterinary drugs, have also been found in the water supply. As a group, these chemicals have been dubbed “PPCPs” (pharmaceuticals and personal care products). Even though the amounts detected are minute, scientists and policy makers have begun to worry about possible harm to human health and the environment.