I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at the age of 43. I have seen firsthand what cancer can do to a family and everyone around them. I am also sure that nearly everyone has been touched somehow by the big “C” in their family or with a close friend. Research has shown that 90 to 95% of all diagnosed cancer is due to lifestyle and environmental factors that are within our control. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), one-third of cancers could be prevented if we all maintained a healthy weight, got regular exercise and ate a “cancer-protective diet” rich in antioxidant-loaded fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and detoxifying fiber. If everyone quit smoking, another third of cancers would disappear. Meanwhile, mounting research suggests that certain herbs and supplements may actually help fend off the abnormal cell proliferation we know as cancer—and others are believed to activate genetic pathways involved in mopping up cancer-fueling toxins and boosting immunity.
The diagnosis changed my life in many ways and in some for the good. I want to help cancer survivors keep the cancer away and help those who haven’t experienced it never to have to. Here are 5 simple things you can add to your diet, and when coupled with exercise and stress management you may just avoid going through what I did.
1. Curcumin — This yellow spice, the principal ingredient in turmeric that’s used in curry, is the rock star of cancer studies today, with researchers from the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston calling it “one of the most powerful and promising chemo preventive and anti-cancer agents.” In addition to being a potent antioxidant, it has been shown in laboratory studies to reactivate sleeping tumor suppressor genes (TSGs), killing off proliferating cells before they become cancerous. You can buy turmeric as a spice and add it to food but only 6% is generally absorbed. I take the capsule form of turmeric every morning. recommended Dose: 250 milligrams to 1 gram daily, or 2 grams to 4 grams if you are at high risk.
2. Green Tea — Since decreasing my coffee intake I have really developed a taste for tea and love it! ECGC, a compound abundant in green tea, has also been shown to wake up sleeping TSGs, and kill off budding cancer cells. One massive study of Asian-American women found that those who drank green tea regularly had a lower risk of breast cancer. Another recent clinical trial of men showing early signs of prostate cancer found that those who took 200 milligrams of green tea supplements daily were less likely to have developed full-blown cancer after one year. Try replacing your coffee or soda with green tea each day for a week and see how good you feel. Dose: 4 to 6 cups daily; be sure it’s decaffeinated so you aren’t up all night. Don’t worry if you can’t get that much in you each day, a few cups a day is better than none or you can take the supplement pill form.
3. Vitamin D — Until I was diagnosed with cancer, I knew nothing of Vitamin D other than you could get it from the sun. Within minutes of meeting my Medical Oncologist I was being poked with a needle (yuck…my biggest fear) and tested for numerous things including Vitamin D levels. When the results came back my Doctor wasn’t shocked but I was as she told me that my Vitamin D level was “in the toilet”. Studies have long shown that people living in cloudy climates, where they have less chance to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight, are more prone to cancer. And, research suggests that supplementing with D can fend it off. One four-year trial of 1,179 postmenopausal women found that those who took 1,100 IUs of vitamin D3 plus calcium daily “significantly” reduced their all-cancer risk. Not only does D promote “apoptosis,” or programmed cell death, it also appears to keep cancer from breaking apart and spreading once it forms. People with low D levels have more cancer, and it metastasizes more quickly. I had to take 50,000 IUs of Vitamin D a week for 17 months to get my levels to where they should be and I continue to take this amount daily. You may be able to prevent the big “C” just by taking a simple supplement over the counter. Also, try to get 20 minutes a day of sunshine. Go ahead, say the Doctor ordered it and go outside and soak it up each day at lunch. Make sure you don’t block it with sunscreen (unless you will be longer than 20 min) the 20 minutes won’t cause skin cancer but may prevent breast, prostate, pancreatic or other cancers.
4. Sulforaphane — This compound, found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli sprouts and cabbage, is believed to be particularly helpful in fending off hormone-fueled cancers like those of the breast and prostate. It stimulates production of enzymes in the liver that help you break down chemicals and excess hormones. Studies from the University of Illinois suggest that as little as three to five servings of steamed broccoli per week can have an anti-cancer effect. The bottom line on this one is Eat More Veggies…. especially cruciferous ones!
5. Turkey Tail Mushrooms — Also known as Trametes versicolor, turkey tail mushrooms contain compounds called beta-glucans, which stimulate anti-tumor messengers in the body and supercharge your body’s immune response. They also have few side effects (though watch for mushroom allergy). Multiple clinical trials from Asia have shown that gastrointestinal and breast cancer patients given turkey tail extracts alongside chemotherapy have better cancer-free survival rates than those who undergo chemotherapy alone. In Japan, where it is widely accepted among oncologists, 25 percent of cancer care costs go to turkey tail cancer therapy. Many mushrooms have health benefits but, if you’re not a big mushroom fan like me, you can take supplements.
Give these easy changes a try to help keep the Big “C” at bay