The subject of preventing and fighting cancer is of course a vitally important one. Treatment of cancer should be under the direction of your doctor and preferably also a Nutrition Consultant liasing with the doctor. A proper nutritional strategy is required and therefore an individual consultation on the matter is recommended.
The aim of this article is to describe the basic physiology of cancer and provide information about the role of nutrition in cancer prevention and treatment.
What is a carcinogen?
A carcinogen is a chemical or other environmental agent that produces cancers. Such a substance induces cell damage, affecting either the behavior of a cell (DNA damage) or the permeability of the cell membrane - frequently because of the affect of free radicals on double bonds in phospholipids and DNA. This results in a cell which is incapable of utilizing oxygen or nutrients and so it reverts to glycogen metabolism and becomes a lactate fermenting cell, growing and proliferating rapidly in an undifferentiated manner, to form a tumour mass of cancer cells. Metastasis (migration of cancer cells) may be controlled by a strong immune system.
Four major groups of carcinogen are:
- Smoke - benzoprenes from cigarettes and exhaust gases or smoked foods, which damage cells in the lungs. Food heated to high temperatures until burnt (eg fried, grilled or barbecued) contains carcinogens.
- Common food dyes, preservatives and additives. Nitrosamines are formed in the gut from nitrates in fertiliser and meat coloring.
- Metabolic by-products - including peroxides, the by-product of respiratory metabolism.
- Environmental sources - such as pesticides (eg DDT), plastics, detergent, radioactivity (eg X-rays), inhaled free oxygen radicals (FORs) from polluted air, and UV radiation from the sun. Also occupational pollutants (eg asbestos), and water pollutants and added halogens (chorine, fluoride).
What allopathic treatment is available for the cancer sufferer?
Allopathic treatment is the use of a method which is "incompatible with or antagonistic to the condition being treated" (Greek allo = different, as opposed to homeopathy from Greek homeo = same). For the cancer sufferer this includes surgery to remove cancer growth (though this does not prevent a recurrence), radiation therapy to kill off cancer cells (though this also destroys healthy cells and damages the immune system) and chemotherapy using cytotoxic drugs to kill cancer cells (this is also poison to the rest of the body but more discriminate cytotoxins are being developed).
Hormone therapy (not strictly allopathic since it uses natural products of the body, eg steroids) is also used for anti-inflammatory effect, and can be helpful in cancers of organs under hormonal control including breast and prostate. Medical immunotherapy involves reintroducing cultivated killer T-cells to boost natural defenses.
What are the main types of cancer?
The forms of cancer represent different kinds of tumour and respond differently to treatment:
- Carcinoma (90% of adult cancer) - malignant tumours of the epithelial cells lining body cavities and glandular organs, eg lung, colon, breast, uterus, prostate, etc. Melanomas are cancerous growths of melanocytes, skin cells that produce the pigment melanin.
- Sarcoma - very malignant tumours of the connective tissues, muscle, bone and cartilage.
- Leukaemia - a cancer of blood-forming organs affecting growth and development of leukocytes (white blood cells). Lymphoma is a malignant disease of lymphatic tissue, causing excess lymphoid cells. Multiple myeloma occurs in bone marrow causing excess plasma cells.
What are the characteristics of a cancer cell?
The primary characteristic of a cancer cell is that it is starved of oxygen and nutrients, and so it reverts to a non-oxygen requiring (anaerobic) form of metabolism utilizing glycogen, resulting in a build up of lactic acid. This occurs because of an increased or decreased permeability of cell walls or altered behavior due to genetic (DNA) mutation, the effect of free radical damage.
The cells lose the ability to differentiate from one another and form clumps and invade surrounding tissues. As the cancer develops, the tumour obtains its own blood supply for nourishment and elimination, competing with normal tissues for space and nutrients.
Cancer cells have the ability to migrate into the blood or lymph system where a weak immune system may fail to prevent their spread.
They are also able to move directly through surrounding tissues with the aid of pseudopodia. Some cancer cells secrete enzymes that break down collagen, the substance which binds cells and tissues together, allowing easier migration - vitamin C directly counters this process.
Cancer cells also do not produce the enzyme which breaks down essential fatty acids (delta-6-desaturase) and thrive on arachidonic acid (found plentifully in meat and milk). Essential fatty acids such as GLA from Evening Primrose oil counter this imbalance.
What are metastases?
One property of malignant cells is their ability to undergo metastasis - the spread of cancerous cells from the initial (primary) tumour to a body cavity or fluid (blood or lymph) or by migration through tissues,which may result in the development of metastases - secondary tumours.
Why is the disarming of free radicals so important in cancer prevention?
It is important to disarm free radicals because they can damage double bonds in phospholipids of cell walls and of DNA, altering cell permeability and causing genetic mutation affecting cell behavior (including abnormal growth patterns such as proliferation of undifferentiated cells). Damaged mitochondrial membranes (the energy power-houses inside every cell) reduce the ability of cells to utilize oxygen.
The vitamins C, E and A (beta carotene) have an anti-oxidant effect, disarming free radicals. They work closely with the important anti-oxidant enzymes Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) containing zinc, manganese and copper, and Glutathione Peroxidase (GP) containing the mineral selenium.
What nutrients have been shown to be effective in the prevention and/or treatment of different types of cancer?
Nutritional therapy is not a cure for cancer, but certain vitamins and minerals may prevent deterioration and spread of the cancer, and boost the immune system.
The primary anti-oxidants are: vitamins C, A (beta carotene) and E, and the minerals zinc and selenium. Many other natural substances also have powerful anti-oxidant effects, such as Pycnogenol, Lycopene, CoEnzyme-Q10, N-Acetyl Cysteine.
Minerals that support the anti-oxidant enzyme SOD are: manganese, and copper and zinc in 1:15 ratio; and to support the anti-oxidant enzyme GP: selenium.
Immune enhancing vitamins are: B2, B5, B6 and B12; folic acid*; vitamins A, C and E and zinc*. (*Growth enhancing so if malignancy present, use to normalise levels only).
Nutrients to detoxify carcinogens: vitamins C and A, and selenium.
To help restore normal cell membrane development and cell oxidation: Essential Fatty Acids (such as Evening Primrose oil, seed oils and fish oils).
Potassium keeps cells alkaline and is toxic to cancer cells, so keep the diet high in potassium (fruits) and low in sodium (salt).
What diet will help?
By improving the diet towards Optimum Nutrition, all the family will benefit.
Daily eat one salad, 3 pieces of fruit, 5 lightly cooked or raw vegetables (one green leafy for B vitamins and magnesium). Nibble a handful of nuts and seeds daily for zinc and good quality oils. Twice a week eat oily/white fish. Experiment with vegetarian dishes using peas, beans and lentils. Drink plenty of water between meals.
Avoid foods with added salt. Avoid sugar and other foods with concentrated sweetness. Avoid meat and dairy foods - try to have more vegetarian sources of protein. Avoid processed and fast foods with long lists of preservatives and additives. Avoid frying foods and avoid regular consumption of tea or coffee - for alternatives try diluted fruit juices and herb teas. Avoid alcohol and certainly don't smoke.
What supplements should I take?
If cancer has been diagnosed, you should always seek approval from your doctor for a nutritional strategy. Nutrients simply enhance health and only your doctor will know if an allopathic treatment is necessary as an urgent life-saving measure, and some drug prescriptions conflict with normally required nutrients.
However, prevention of cancer is something every responsible adult can take in their own hands, and the principles are clear. First and foremost, Optimum Nutrition is required, and this will help to protect you from environmental carcinogens, and to strengthen all the body systems in case you have an inherited weakness. Secondly, supplementing the diet with nutrients proven to help prevent cancer is a wise step to take.
Vitamin C, taken in generous doses (such as 3g or more over the day), is the primary nutrient to help prevent cancer and, indeed, to promote good health. High levels of vitamin C may cause slight diarrhoea - if this occurs, reduce the amount slightly, then gradually increase back to the original amount, or even more if your gut will tolerate this vital anti-cancer substance. Do not suddenly cease this supplementation, however; to do so may result in deficiency symptoms as the body has got used to high amounts in circulation.
In addition, Proanthenol is a very powerful antioxidant which works synergistically with vitamin C and this combination is the best anti-cancer measure you can take. The product has also been shown to inhibit tumour production in the skin and to protect against the carcinogenic effect of tobacco smoke.
Selenium is a vital element to both prevent and treat cancer. A synergistic mix with other antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E and glutathione, etc (they need each other to work best) is desirable.
A clean and rapid colon is required to prevent colon cancer and supplementation of Acidopholus along with adequate fibre in the diet is of assistance here.
A good resource for alternative cancer treatments is Dr Keith Scott-Mumby's site, The Alternative Doctor. In particular check out his free report....
Further Informative Articles
Healthy Sleep: A Guide to Natural Sleep Remedies
Repeated loss of sleep affects all areas of your life: The physical, the mental, and the emotional. Sleep deprivation can affect your overall daily performance and may even have an effect on your personality. If your sleeplessness is due to a pattern of not sleeping, or because your body and mind find it difficult to settle into a state of relaxation necessary for sleep, this book offers you alternative choices for achieving healthy sleep without the use of prescription drugs. With a free PDF to download.
Baby's First Year: What Every New Parent Needs to Know
Learn what you can expect in the first year of your baby's life. We offer tips and advice on everything from sleep to baby's first cold. This page will help you to make the most out of your baby's first year by giving you some basic guidelines and milestones to measure against. With a free PDF to download.
Creating Confident Kids
Although nobody gets a parenting manual in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible.
Raising Children Who Succeed
It is one of the most powerful things any person alive can do, to choose to raise a child. To have a successful child we need to create a childhood that breeds success. Here's how...
Eating for Success
It might feel like we know a lot about food, but are we using that knowledge? And how can we be sure that what we are putting into our bodies is health, strength and energy?
Free Yourself from Panic Attacks
With all the stresses and strains of modern living, panic attacks are become a common problem for many people. Panic attacks occur when the pressure we are living under starts to creep up and overwhelm us. Thankfully panic attacks are very treatable.
Making Time Work For You
Of course we all have the same amount of time in the day. But some people struggle to get even the simplest of tasks completed while others can work a weeks worth of jobs into one single day. Time can be our worst enemy or our closest friend.
The Power of Gratitude
Having gratitude helps us to enjoy life more. It can break through huge barriers and reduce our stress loads, give us more confidence and help us to meet our goals. But how is it possible to be grateful in times of stress or when suffering from disappointment or sadness?
Reaching Your Full Potential
No matter what innate talents you were born with, what family you were born into, the money you have made or lost, or the times of difficulty or lucky breaks, nothing will get you to where you want to be better than understanding your full potential.
Exploring EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
EFT works to free the user of both physical and emotional pain and relieve chronic conditions by healing the physical responses our bodies make after we've been hurt or experienced pain.
101 'Everyday' Tips for Losing 10 Pounds
This page is dedicated solely to the cause of losing weight - sometimes in the most surprising ways you ever heard of. There is only one thing that you have to bear in mind. Weight loss does not happen by itself. There are only two ways to accomplish it... The first is by watching what you eat and the second is by seeing to it that your body gets the exercise that it needs. As you go through the following topics, you'll be amazed by all the 'everyday' things you can be doing to lose 10 pounds... or more.
101 Ways to Get in Better Shape and Stay That Way!
Here are some tips for both health and fitness that will help you lose weight, discover ways to maintain a better healthy lifestyle, and be in the best shape of your life.
Food is Medicine
In the UK, 10,000 people are killed every year by adverse drug reactions, which happen when the prescription drug that is supposed to be curing them kills or harms them instead. Patrick Holford and Jerome Burne explain why food may be better medicine for your health than the drugs your doctor is likely to prescribe.
The Truth about Atkin's Diet
By following a regime with unlimited low Glycemic Index vegetables and fruit you will avoid completely the risks of ketosis embedded in the Atkin's Diet. Learn how to enjoy all the Atkin's benefits and avoid Atkin's risks!
Nutrition and Cancer
Inadequate nutrition is one of the root causes of cancer, and although under-used by medical doctors, nutritional therapy can play an important part in recovery from cancer. This article gives more details. Recently updated with many links for further information about alternative cancer treatments and prevention.
Guided Imagery and Eating Disorders
This article by Joanna Poppink discusses how guided imagery and other methods that reach under the conscious thinking mind can be useful in helping people recover from eating disorders. People with eating disorders often have secrets from themselves. These are secrets about which they have little or no awareness.
Is there a Cure for Arthritis?
An informative report on the latest osteoarthritis breakthroughs and a dramatic true life story of how one person halted his osteoarthritis pain and reversed the progression of his disease.
Arthritis in Family Pets
Is your beloved pet not as active as before? Important information for anyone who owns a pet including the latest breakthroughs in fighting arthritis in pets, a debilitating disease for 30% of all dogs and cats.
Supplements: Are They Necessary & Are They Safe?
The argument goes that eating a varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables delivers the right amount of vitamins and minerals to the body and that high doses of synthetic supplements are unsafe. So don't bother with supplements. But this is a misleading distortion of the truth - read this article for the real picture.
Mental and physical exhaustion are very common symptoms, linked to the stressful lifestyle, poor diet and lack of exercise that so many people suffer. This article describes just what is going on and what you can do about it, describing the symptoms of stress and touching on the related topics of hypoglycemia, hypertension and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
What does it take to be happy?
Feeling good is not just a luxury, it is a vital necessity for good health and long life. This article tells you how.
5 Effective Tips To Kill Depression
Here are some superb tips to conquer the melancholy mood and get more happiness out of your daily activities.
Nutrition in the Treatment of Depression
This article (extracted from "Alcoholism--The Biochemical Connection" by Joan Larson) was written especially to help alcoholics, who are particularly prone to suffer from depression, but the information it contains will be valuable for every person who frequently feels depressed or unable to sleep through anxiety. Until these nutritional factors are handled no amount of positive thinking or psychotherapy can make much headway. This is the reason that I, as a psychologist, initially became interested in the subject of nutrition.
CFS or Low Level Mercury Poisoning?
We would like to draw your attention to an individual case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS, also known as ME) which was not resolvable by nutritional means alone. This was because the real cause was Mercury poisoning, a form of toxicity which has very similar symptoms to CFS. If you have had a lot of dental fillings with silver/mercury amalgam, and you suffer from chronic fatigue, you may have the answer right there in your mouth!
Return to Nutrition: Medicine of the Future