With the side effects related to cancer treatments, why not try to enhance our body’s ability to “fight”? The use of nutrition-based treatment is NOT to be misunderstood as a standalone treatment, but rather, as an adjunct treatment alongside convention cancer management, varying by the type of cancer. With that said, what are some dietary approaches and nutrients that can help the cancer patient?
Keep in mind that omitting environmental factors, poor food choices, and toxins that are “avoidable” is of utmost importance when managing all forms of cancer treatment. From a dietary standpoint, the Paleo diet (or “caveman diet”) is a GREAT choice as it’s anti-inflammatory, gluten free, and most importantly, it allows one to eat “normal” food so the “diet” becomes a lifestyle change for the long term and NOT a short-term, temporary exception to the old “normal diet.” Another great dietary option is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) approach as it is well-known as being excellent for reducing hypertension, diabetes risk, cholesterol, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Researchers have observed that adhering to the DASH diet results in the equivalence of being 4.5 years “younger” than those equal in chronological age who consume the standard Western diet! Another dietary approach, the Mediterranean diet, has also been shown to reduce the decline in cognitive function, which is similar to the DASH (and Paleo, caveman, or anti-inflammatory diet). The “common thread” that these diets share is the emphasis of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, and a lower intake of total and saturated fat.
Looking strictly at nutritional supplementation as an adjunctive form of treatment, consider the following:
1) Block Estrogen Receptors: Though drugs like tomoxifen and raloxifene clearly reduce breast cancer risk, the side effects are significant. Intake of soy and flaxseed are the best natural source for blocking estrogen receptors. In one study, Chinese women had a 50% lower rate of breast cancer when consuming 55 grams of soy daily with genistein being the active ingredient in soy. However, once breast cancer is present, there is controversy about taking soy (genistein) so PLEASE consult with your doctor about that! Flaxseed binds to estrogen helping the body get rid of it. Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (the “good guy” fat) which helps with many other health problems as well.
2) Consume Omega-3 fats and minimize omega-6 fats: The BEST sources are cold water fish (like salmon, mackerel, and herring) and flaxseed. In two different large scale studies, 50% & 69% of participants had an increased risk of breast cancer occurred when omega-6 fats were increased in the diet! Sources of the “bad fat” / omega-6 include margarine, mayonnaise, many salad dressings, tuna packed in oil (get the one in water), and safflower, corn, peanut, cottonseed, and sesame oils. Add as much as 2-10 grams of EPA / DHA with your omega-3 “good fat” diet. Omega-9 fats such as olive and canola oils are also considered “good fats.”
3) Eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables: Examples include bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, horseradish, kale, mustard seeds, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, and watercress. These foods include a lot of vitamins, antioxidants, and more. This discussion will continue in “Part II.”